Using It All Up

I am astonished at how much animal based stuff I have in my kitchen. Almost everything has something in it. Dried foods especially are full of dried milk and eggs and cheese and all sorts of stuff. Not to mention the fact that my vitamins are totally not vegan, my toiletries are probably not vegan, I drink wine which probably isn’t vegan (why? I don’t know yet), and although I would consider us a low chemical household we still have our share of toxic stuff lying around (which is a separate issue entirely, but one I’ve kind of moved away from that I used to care a lot about).

Five years ago, when I first started my first ever blog, it was to document my way to a greener, healthier way of life.

Since then, so much water has passed under the bridge. Those feelings, about wanting to be greener, more environmentally friendly, to own less, and be kinder to the earth never leave me. But somewhere along the way they have become less of a priority. Other people do not seem to obsess as much as I do about what we should be eating for better health, and the rampant consumerism that makes us buy, buy, buy all the time. There is a lot about modern life that disagrees with me, but as a mum it is so difficult to keep it at bay. The kids want to be like all their friends. They want to own iPads, visit MacDonalds, watch TV for hours a day. You know how it is. I resist what I can, but I don’t want to force my kids to stand out and suffer for my personal beliefs. I would hope that I will pass on enough for them to make the right choices, if not so much now, then at least as adults.

Making a change

Anyway, I am getting off the point of this post, which is: I have decided to stop buying and cooking meat and fish. So we’re essentially going to be a vegetarian household again, at least initially.

With my previous comments in mind, my children often eat school dinners and get a choice between meat and veg options each day, so they will still have plenty of access to meat if that’s what they want to eat. Just about the only meat/fish they consume in any great quantities at home are sausages and fishfingers, neither of which are the epitome of good food anyway. I will have to find some substitutes for those.

I hate throwing food away, so we’re going to use up what’s left:

Fridge

Meat/fish

Whole, organic chicken (cooked and ate the breast last night, and some leftovers for lunch. 1 pack of leftovers still in fridge)

Dairy

Organic butter
Organic cheddar
Mini Baby Bels
Yoghurts (kids)
Plain yoghurt (me)
Dairy-lea dunkers
Pesto
Milk
Mayonnaise
Salad cream
Organic, free range eggs

Freezer

Meat/fish

2 packs of leftovers from the chicken I roasted
1 organic chicken breast
2 wild caught salmon steaks
Fishfingers
5 hot dogs
1/2 pack organic minced beef

Dairy

None

Constant Snacking

My children could snack for Britain. They always seem to be telling me they are hungry and they always want snack food. They eat fruit and nuts, but I also buy a lot of other things, like dried fruit shapes, granola bars, and so on. Snack food is expensive, and I know these kinds of things are not (that) difficult to make at home, so something else I have been thinking of doing is cooking more snack/sweet stuff so that at least the less nutritious stuff we are all eating is homemade. Also, for me, some GF snacks in the house would be great as I find so much GF cake/biscuit stuff is overly, sickly sweet, full of preservatives and just generally really horrible.

Since I’m now conscious of using dairy I’ve been looking at vegan recipes for snacks.

I wanted a recipe that didn’t need anything I didn’t have at home, so today I made some vegan digestives, which turned out better than I was expecting. I am not a great cook, so what I’m really going to be looking for in snack replacements is recipes that are not too difficult to make at weekends and that taste REALLY good.

biscuits

Now, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly (I used plain GF flour and white caster sugar). And mine aren’t 100% vegan (doh. Yeah, I know), as I only have normal milk in the house until I do the next weekly shop. However, as home made GF biscuits go, they are not too bad. I don’t love the coconut flavour that comes through on a lot of vegan/GF cooking, but it’s not too strong on these, and they are remarkably like a digestive in texture. I ate five in one go with a cup of tea. I’ll take some for the kids when I pick them up as they all have a late day on Thursdays, and I’ll see what they think.

These were really easy to make, but taste-wise I’m not sure if I’ll be adding them to my snack-replacement plan just yet. I need to try out some more recipes I think, so feel free to point me to any favourites!

Vegan Challenge | Day 23 and The End

I gave up. I gave up!!

And I’m SO glad 🙂

At 16:30 on day 23, while preparing the kids tea, my anti-willpower reached critical mass.

I ate a milk chocolate bar (which I stole from the kids’ easter stash). Then I ate two Mini Moo organic cheese sticks and a piece of leftover sausage, and it felt great.

I instantly transformed from grumpy, miserable, and bloated, to bouncy, happy, smiley (and still bloated unfortunately).

My main reason for stopping was the awful stomach aches I was starting to experience every time I ate something. At the end of each day my stomach would be swollen up and hard like a balloon. I was getting pains under my ribs and feeling like I didn’t want to eat even when I was hungry because of how I would feel afterwards. I haven’t eaten such a gluten-heavy diet for probably 2+ years, so it was interesting to see how badly I reacted to it.

Retrospective

First, the numbers – over the 23 days:

I lost 900g (1.9lbs)
My body fat went from 19.1% to 18.4%

I took three measurements – my waist, hips and bust (the three areas most prone to change in my body).
There was no change in the sum of these measurements (i.e. my belly was slightly bigger and my hips were slightly smaller – that’s bloating for you).

My fasting glucose went from 5.6 to 5.3 (good!).

Finally, my resting blood pressure went from 103/53 to 94/52.

So the numbers seem pretty good. Shame about the pain and stomach aches!

Thoughts on the experience:

1. It was interesting to see how dependent I actually was on diary. I was eating a LOT of it, even though I thought I wasn’t.

2. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. If it hadn’t been for how tender and swollen my abdomen became I probably could have continued. In the end, it was the gluten that killed the challenge and I’m just not ready to try being a gluten-free vegan 😉

3. I didn’t supplement over the three weeks as it takes a while for a deficiency to develop, but I wouldn’t be happy about having to supplement my diet for life if that makes sense. I understand the reasons for having to supplement (poor quality soil, less exposure for B12, etc.) but I don’t like the idea of a balanced diet requiring something out of a pot. Omega 3 and B12 is a real concern for me. Our bodies need them and I would rather get them from quality dietary sources than from a lab.

4. I think, overall, veganism is less about health and more about ethics. For me personally, meat and dairy produced organically, locally and from farms that care about their livestock, is a positive addition to my diet.

Going forward

On day 24 I immediately quit gluten and started including small amounts of dairy, meat and fish in my diet. I knew it was the bread and pasta and endless wheat products that were causing the problem and I needed to stop. My vegan challenge has been a really, really positive experience because it has highlighted very clearly how badly my body reacts to gluten. It also gave me a reality check on just how much dairy I was consuming.

I’m going to post about going gluten-free separately, because I’m joining in with Atlanta Mom of Three’s Health and Fitness Challenge in May.

 

Vegan Challenge | Day 21 – 22

This point, three weeks in, has probably been the hardest so far.

I wanted to give up yesterday.

My stomach now seems to ache every time I eat, which is really worrying me. I am so bloated by the end of each day that I actually look pregnant (ha).

The husband doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill-effects (although he is a self-confessed bread junkie, so no real change for him).

I however, am still feeling worse than when I started.

Eczema itching constantly. Endless embarrassing wind and bloating.

Meh.

I also had a decaf cappuccino in Costa yesterday (with soy!), but there must be a fair amount of caffeine in a decaf (or it wasn’t a decaf) because I didn’t sleep until 2am last night. I was so restless I couldn’t stay still. In and out of bed. To and from the bathroom. I dropped off and then woke again at 3:30am with that horrible need to move around. Restless leg syndrome runs in my family, and people sometimes laugh at it as being a made up problem, but when you’re lying awake, exhausted, but your whole body is screaming move! move! move! it is just awful.

Anyway. Enough moaning.

I’ve already worked out what I’m going to do at the end of this challenge, which I’ll post more on soon.

Eight full days to go.

In the meantime, the obligatory food diary:

Day 21

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, bananas, coconut milk. White tea.
Snack
Handful raisins and nuts
Lunch
Ikea chips
Snack
Green smoothie: mango, lettuce, cucumber. Vegan choc bar.
Dinner
Lentil, spinach, chipotle paste, tinned tomatoes, with salad. Two handfuls pistachios, two glasses vegan red wine.
I am now so bloated my abdomen is actually feeling sore 🙁
Depressed, miserable and so fed up of eating the same things. Veg, beans and carbs 🙁
Very restless in night.
Eczema very red and itchy. Getting worse.

Day 22

Breakfast
Banana, muesli, coconut milk. White tea. Stomachache.
Mid-morning
Soy decaf cappuciono. Stomachache.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato lentil vegetable), home made bread and vegan spread. Vegan choc bar. Decaf coffee with sugar and coconut milk. Bloated and stomachache.
Dinner
Tinned tomatoes, pasta, garlic, courgette, sundried tomatoes, whole home-roasted pepper, green olives. Leftover sweetcorn and broccoli from boys tea (they had organic sausages the lucky fellas). Yum!
Plus a lot of extra green olives from the jar while I was cooking.
Large glass red vegan wine.
More olives and pistachios.
Heart skipping a beat distinctly this evening. Olives??
Bizarrely, given how crap I’m feeling, my spots have finally cleared up.

Vegan Challenge | Day 16 – 20

Two thirds of the way through the challenge and still going strong. This has been a better few days physically, but a harder few days psychologically.

CRAVINGS are back in full force.

Watching my children scoff easter chocolate, and eating with other people, has been hard. Not so much for meat, but oh for delicious dairy…

I am really tired of substitute milks now. Coconut is by far the best (and not too coconut-y, would you believe), but just some normal milk with cereal, or some yoghurt with my breakfast, or a lovely creamy decaf mocha, or something else creamy, or buttery, would be SO GOOD.

The problem is (I think) that most of the dairy stuff I would consume also contains sugar, so I think I’m actually craving sugar deep down.

Anyway, that aside, having the husband do this with me has kept us both on track, even though we’ve both admitted to craving all sorts of things over the last few days.

Physically my eczema seems a little less itchy, and the skin on my face is calming down. Thank goodness.

I’ve actually eaten less fruit and vegetables over the last few days. We’ve gotten lazy and repeated a lot of meals, and I haven’t been having my usual green smoothies.

Makes me wonder if what is aggravating my skin is sugar – not just refined, but also in fruit form (although after a fair amount of personal research the jury is still out on whether I believe fruit sugar is bad for you).

I’ve also been sleeping so much better since cutting out the black tea.

So, after today, just 10 more days to go.

Here’s the food diary:

Day 16

Breakfast
Strawberries, banana, almond milk, muesli. White tea. Half slice bread with vegan spread and marmalade.
Snack
White tea. About a million dark choc mint crisps 🙁
Lunch
Green smoothie (pineapple, spinach, cucumber, grape, strawberries). Slice of toast with vegan spread and marmalade. Pistachios. Grapes. Liquorice tea.
Dinner
Tortilla chips with home made guacamole. Pitta bread. Kidney beans, mushrooms, pepper, onion and fajita spice. Lettuce.

Day 17

Breakfast
Home made toasted bread with vegan spread and marmalde. White tea.
Snack
Carrot, cucumber, tomato, water melon, grape. Fruit tea.
Lunch
Two slices home made bread, vegan spread, marmalade. Banana. Pistachios. White tea.
Dinner
Oven chips and shop-bought mexican vegan burgers.
Eczema itching like crazy.

Day 18

Breakfast
Two slices home made bread toasted with marmalade. White tea.
Mid-morning
White tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (roasted tomato), bread with vegan spread. 1.5 vegan chocolate bars.
Dinner
Sundried tomato and spinach risotto with pine nuts. Two glasses vegan red wine.

Day 19

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, coconut milk. White tea.
Mid-morning
White tea.
Lunch
Peanut butter and raisin sandwich on home made bread, banana, grapes, pistachios. Fruit tea.
Dinner
Pitta bread. Rice. Home made guacamole with tortilla chips. Black beans, mushrooms, peppers, onions, fajita spice. Lettuce. 2 glasses vegan red wine.

Day 20

Breakfast
Two slices home made bread, toasted. Marmalade and vegan spread. White tea.
Mid-morning
Green tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (red lentil and tomato), slice home made bread with vegan spread. 3 home made olive oil biscuits (not great). White tea.
Dinner
Home made mushroom massala curry with rice.

Vegan Challenge | Day 11 – 15

Half way!

I have found sticking to vegan to be a pretty straightforward process. Because I eat a mainly vegetarian diet anyway, I don’t miss or crave the meat. Eggs I have missed now and again. Butter has been replaced with vegan spread, and I don’t love either, so that was simple. I have given up yoghurt, which I miss. Soy yoghurt tastes like cardboard to me and the popular brands contain all sorts of weird additional ingredients. Finally there is milk. There is one simple place that I have missed my milk: tea.

In order to overcome that I’ve switched to drinking white tea, which is pretty nice to drink (it’s not a British cuppa, but it’ll do). And I have the bonus added side effect of less caffeine, which has definitely helped my restless leg syndrome at night.

So all in all, no problemo.

Now I’m half way through, here are some downsides:

I am not sure that I am really eating any healthier. In fact, I think I might be eating less healthily than I was.

This is because the program (which we have loosely followed) relies on lots of shop-bought items, such as oven chips, veggie burgers, all different kinds of breads, and all different kinds of vegan substitutes (fake meat, milk, butter, yoghurt, eggs, etc). I have an intense distrust of fake foods, so have avoided many of them simply because I find them distasteful and would, for example, rather not eat meat at all than have fake meat. The amount of bread and carbs in general that I eat has gone up hugely over the last two weeks, and I am not feeling great about it. Shop-bought tortillas, and other breads, contain many dubious ingredients that I think we should keep out of our bodies. Before eating vegan I would have made salads, or had lots of boiled veg with feta, goats cheese, or sometimes meat, but instead I am eating carb-heavy options such as chips and tortillas with beans. Salads (for me) need something protein-based to make them into a good meal, but beans (which I have never really liked that much) just don’t do it for me 🙁

I am definitely not looking or feeling any better than I was before I started

I’ve had some bad problems with my skin breaking out – which I’ve attributed to vast amounts of dark chocolate. Not only that, but my eczema has been getting progressively worse.

Despite lots of veg and green smoothies, I think the high carb load I’m eating is really affecting me in a negative way. My eczema itches so much at night it is driving me crazy and no amount of cream seems to help. My skin has just been terrible this month too. In fact, my skin is so bad that I haven’t told many people  I’m eating vegan because I’m worried they will look at me and think I am crazy because it is clearly not doing me any good!!

I haven’t weighed in, but I don’t think my weight has changed at all (unlike my husband who has lost almost 5lb since we started).

I am going to try to reduce the carbs over the next two weeks, but in all honesty I think it is carbohydrates that are keeping me full and on-track. Without them maybe I’d be turning to meat, eggs or cheese to fill me up.

So, overall, I’m really not in love with this way of eating.

The nitty-gritty food diary:

Day 11

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
Green smoothie: mango, spinach, grape.
Lunch
Peanut butter sandwich with vegan spread. Grapes. Tea w/oat milk
Dinner
Home made mushroom curry, poppadoms, homemade peshwari nan, mango chutney

Day 12

Breakfast
Muesli, banana, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
Banana. White tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (roasted tomato). Homemade bread with vegan spread. Grapes. Decaf coffee w/coconut cream.
Dinner
Pasta, jar of sauce, chilli powder, spinach, mushrooms, tofu.
Headache all day. Terrible.
Pains in abdomen (back and front of lower ribs). Skin looking slightly better now I’ve stopped dark choc. Eczema really itching.

Day 13

Breakfast
Green smoothie: spinach, cucumber, lime, pineapple, strawberries, water. White tea.
Snack
1.5 bananas, cashews and raisins
Lunch
Chips and pitta and humus at pub, J2O apple mango drink.
Snack
White tea. Large handful raisins.
Dinner
Courgette, mushroom, tofu, pepper, rice noodles, wagamama chilli stir fry sauce.
Headach mild today. Still pain at bottom of ribs all round. Eczema playing up in night, really itching.

Day 14

Slept a bit better last night. Less restless.
Breakfast
Green smoothie: Pineapple, spinach, lime, grapes. Wholemeal home made bread, vegan spread, marmalade. White tea.
Snack
Banana.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato and  roasted pepper), Wholemeal home made bread, vegan spread. Large mango.
Snack
White tea. 2 dark choc mint crisps
Dinner
Mushroom, onion, pepper, black beans. Fajita spice. Pitta bread. Home made guacamole, tortilla chips.

Day 15

Last night best nights sleep in weeks.
Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, banana, almond milk. White tea.
Snack
White tea. 2 x darkchoc mint crisps
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato and roasted red pepper), home made bread and vegan spread. Grapes. Granola bar. Berry tea.
Snack 
Extra large green smoothie: spinach, carrot, cucumber, 1/2 pineapple, water and almond milk. 4 crackers.
Dinner
A lovely sundried tomato and spinach risotto (no cheese or butter!).
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