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Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate.

There seems to be a misconception that when you turn vegan you suddenly stop eating chocolate; this is not the case. There are many brands of chocolate offering dairy free options which don’t have to come from the “free from” section. If you like dark chocolate then you will find the transition easy. If you don’t enjoy dark chocolate it could take a while to make the transition however over time you will get used to the taste and start to love it.

It is possible to get milk and white vegan chocolate however it does have to come from the “free from” section because it isn’t naturally made dairy free. As a result the cost will be a bit higher than your regular chocolate bars.

Things to note:

  • not all dark chocolate is vegan so always double check the label.
  • dairy products are mostly always in bold however “butterfat” is sometimes not highlighted; so again double check the label.

Some facts about chocolate:

Chocolate is made from the cacao plant which in its most natural state is actually a health food. Not to be confused with cocoa, cacao is naturally high in antioxidants and has numerous health benefits. Alongside a healthy diet, cacao has the ability to balance blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque and ultimately reverse heart disease.

Other health benefits:

  • Its high in magnesium which increases energy levels and protects against osteoporosis.
  • Cacao boosts serotonin levels and endorphins which improve mood and balance mood swings.
  • It contains healthy fats which create chemical reactions for growth, immune function and metabolic function.

I have accumulated a section of photos on my trip around Tesco, finding all the vegan chocolate I could. Other supermarkets and health shops have more choice so you’re never short of options. These are mainstream brands, where as health shops have great raw chocolate varieties (and more!) but at a higher cost.

Other alternatives include raw cacao powder (to create your own great vegan desserts/ treats) and cacao nibs (to add to snacks, smoothies and oats).

Find some of your mainstream varieties below.

Green & Black’s

Tesco’s Own

Lindt

Green & Blacks Thins

Tesco Finest

Bournville

Ritter Sport (not their mint variety)

BENDICK’S

 

To find out more about how chocolate is made, go view my post on how I made chocolate in the Amazon!

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

I don’t know if it has happened to you before but I sometimes feel like I am the only vegan in the village. Eating a vegan diet does make you the minority, although the number of us are on the increase, so there are things you need to accept.

  • people don’t always understand you
  • people think you only eat lettuce and carrots
  • you may be weird to some people
  • some people assume you are judging them OR that they’re making you feel uncomfortable eating meat near you
  • some genuinely don’t know how to cater for you
  • don’t expect to be catered for at parties and don’t take offence!!

As a result of this you have to be confident in what you’re doing, happy with what you’re doing and always be prepared.

Here are some quick tips to help you feel comfortable in party situations:

  • eat before you go: you wont offend anyone at the party because chances are there’s not much substantial you will be able to eat there. Eating before hand ensures you wont be hungry there so you wont get “hangry” and want to leave. You want to be happy and comfortable there so make sure you’re well fed before hand.
  • take something with you:  super easy tip. Take food with you! Share you’re food with others, it will make you blend in and people will appreciate the gift 🙂
  • don’t make comments about there being no vegan food available: in a room full of numerous “normal” eating people, you can’t expect that on top of catering for all them people that they’re going to go that extra mile for you. They have spent a lot of time and effort into preparing the party so don’t mention you’re vegan and there’s nothing to eat, simply say you’re not hungry or “no thank you” to non-vegan offerings.
  • find any vegan food you can and take it before it goes: there’s a chance that there will be a cheese board with fresh or dried fruits. Take some and pop them on your plate before they all go. Bread is normally available and if you’re lucky some salads or veggie sticks. More times than none there will be vegan options but get them on your plate at the beginning of the party, just incase they run out by the time you’re hungry.
  • don’t worry about it: at the end of the day you’re not there for the food, you’re there for the party. Enjoy the party and be social. Social environments don’t always have to revolve around food and if they do just make sure you’re prepared.

I hope these few, quick tips help you for when you feel like the only vegan in the village 🙂

 

 

Finding happiness with food

Finding happiness with food

Finding happiness with food.

There have been times in the past year (well, 2016 until now) that I have just sat back and realised how far I have come.

As you all may know, 7 years ago almost to the day, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. The whole ordeal was a nightmare and I really was at rock bottom. Depressed, malnourished and my body giving up on me, I didn’t know what the future had in store for me.

Time passed and although the physical effects of the Anorexia had gone, the mental effects lasted around 5 years. I had to retrain myself to eat normally and not to be afraid of food. Not to be obsessing over what I’m eating or feeling extremely anxious in public environments where food was present; it was painful.

After spending days, months and years researching nutrition to the fullest I could, it wasn’t until I found veganism that I noticed changes. I knew that eating a plant based diet I could eat healthy nutritious food and it was giving my body goodness. I was able to eat and thrive. I could eat food in abundance and not worry if it was going to make me sick, if I was going to binge and purge, along with all the other mental and physical issues it would result in.

18 months into eating a plant based diet I am not only thriving physically and mentally but I am finally at peace with food. I am able to sit in social environments and feel comfortable. I am happy with my body because I know I am healthy. I don’t care that I have fat on me because I know I am healthy.

I enjoy the occasional sweet treat and that is fine. The fact I can eat a cake (albeit vegan) and not feel guilty or binge out because “I’ve blown being good” is something I never thought would ever happen. I can sit in a room of people all eating cake and not stare at it thinking “should I have some or shall I be good?”. These things that some people may think are normal or little things feel like a miracle to me!

For years I spent my time obsessing over the food I put in my mouth. Worrying over what I was eating and constantly questioning what to eat, how much to eat, if I should eat it or not. Now however, these questions are not there. I eat three main meals a day, I eat what I like and all guilt has disappeared. I snack on healthy foods but these foods I enjoy.

I enjoy eating healthy. I don’t miss dairy or meat because they don’t make me happy. When I think of meat and dairy I don’t get the excitement that other people may get. This may be because of my eating disorder background but that’s ok. I do what I do for me because it makes me feel good.

Not everyone understands what I do but that is fine. I am happy and I am content. I’ve finally found peace with food and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Now I just want to share the amazing benefits of a plant based diet and encourage everyone to just try and eat better so that they can find peace too.

Whatever makes you happy is what you should do. No one has the right to tell you otherwise because it’s only you who has the power over your actions.

Thank you for listening to me and I hope this gives you more of an insight into why it is I am so passionate about this subject.

 

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

There are so many restaurants here in the UK that offers vegan options now. When I lived in America the options were extremely limited unless I went to vegan specific restaurants. Lucky for us we do have many chain restaurants now which offer vegan options.

Most restaurants if you call beforehand will offer you a vegan option or you have to alter a dish on their menu to veganise it. For example: veggie pizza without cheese (check base is dairy free), tomato based pastas without meat or cheese. Be careful with veggie burgers as many have egg to combine the patty. You just have to play around with the menu and ask the staff questions.

See below to see which popular UK restaurants offer a vegan option without chopping and changing the ingredients.

Restaurants:

Nando’s.

Offering salads and veggie burgers, you just have to ask for no cheese and no mayo!

Wagamamas.

The only set vegan option on the main menu is the Yasai Itame. The vegetable dumplings to start are vegan as well as vegetables and edamame. If you ask the staff they will accommodate for you on the mains by leaving out fish sauce or swapping your choice of noodles, for example.

Las Iguana’s.

I was happy to see that Las Iguanas offer a separate vegetarian / vegan menu. I’ve had the fajitas before, although they were quite oily. Great to have an array of vegan options though.

Jamie’s Italian.

With vegan options plus the option to veganise a meal, Jamie’s Italian is great. The only thing I’d mention is that the Aubergine main dish is pretty small so just be warned.

Zizzi 

Zizzi has kicked it out of the bag with their new all vegan menu. Started, mains and desserts all deduced to healthy vegan choices. They even have vegan cheese! That is dedication from Zizzi’s; I salute you.

Toby Carvery  

A carvery which offers a vegan nut roast!! This had me really excited. Just be careful to avoid any vegetables cooked in butter.

JD Weatherspoon

With it’s own separate vegan menu you can’t go wrong.

Pizza Express

With their own specific vegan pizza that alone is great. However all their bases are dairy free so hop and change ingredients as you wish, and of course, hold the cheese.

Carluccios

Another fantastic Italian restaurant offering a desperate vegan menu.

Giraffe 

I know they offer a vegan breakfast which is fantastic as you don’t see this often. As for mains they have a couple of options but not a separate menu.

On the go

All supermarkets offer vegan food so when you’re on the go these are an easy option. Opt for the salad isle and get the tubs of quinoa salads, bean salads, couscous, nut salad etc. They have so many options you just need to know where to look. In the “on-the-move” section it has little variety but if you check the salads section you will be fine. For snacks you can always go in and grab some loose fruit too or possibly a raw foods bar.

Check below for some more on the go options so you’re not stuck when you’re on the move.

Cafés:

Pret-a-manger 

Offering an array of vegan options, Pret is a great go to. From salads to sandwiches to dessert!

Starbucks

Limited on choices but do offer a salad option and wrap if you’re lucky!

The West Cornish Pasty Co

A Cornish pasty that’s vegan? The West Cornish Pasty Co offer two pasties: vegetarian and wholemeal. If you like a pasty then it’s great to know this!

Eat. 

I only discovered this over the Summer time but was very pleased to see more than one vegan option. Sandwiches plus hot food! This alongside a nice hot latte is a great on the go stop.

 

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese.

When it comes to transitioning to a vegan diet or simply going dairy free, the main difficulty people find is giving up cheese.

All dairy products contain a protein called Casein and cheese contains the most addictive and concentrated form of Casein, Casomorphins. Casomorphins have an opioid effect (opioids: known as one the world’s oldest drugs)! This addictive formula is what was designed to keep the calf suckling its mother’s milk. Now can you see why cheese is so difficult to give up!?

 As well as being highly addictive, cheese contains no fibre. This means that when consuming it you simply don’t get full. If you were to eat fibre rich foods such as rice or beans however, you’d get full. When you can understand this it makes in mentally easier to make the transition to dairy free alternatives, limiting your intake or cutting out cheese all together!

Ultimately you want to make the transition as smoothly as possible and you don’t want to feel like you are restricting yourself. If you want to reduce/ cut out cheese from your life then you need great alternatives and you need flavourful, texture-rich foods that stop you reaching for the cheese!

Habits are made over a life time so don’t expect to be cheese free in a day, although this is possible! However, realistically it is a change of habit. Habits on average take three weeks to break. Three weeks to break a habit which could last a lifetime, really isn’t that long.

 So how can you break the habit?

1) Cheese alternatives. 

These are a great way of transitioning and sticking to a lifetime without real cheese. There are some great varieties out there now and most supermarkets have an entire array of alternatives.

For cheese on toast, baked potatoes, sandwiches, pizza and more! Try Violife (here in the U.K.). I’ve heard from many people that this is the best on the market and they come in many varieties.

There is a brand in the US called Daiya which is also a great branded alternative, however this is more difficult to find in the U.K.

Vegan cheeses are a fantastic alternative when going dairy free and there is absolutely no casein added. Give them a go and really try to get used to them because they are a much healthier alternative.

2) For a “cheesy flavour”: Nutritional Yeast aka Nooch. 

One of my personal favourites.

  

 Nutritional yeast is de-activated yeast, not to be confused with baking yeast, which gives your meals a cheesy flavour. You can sprinkle it on pasta, toast, baked potatoes and into soups or sauces. It’s a parmesan style addition to a meal and packed with Vitamin B12 (an essential addition to a Vegan diet).

 3) For a creamy, cheesy sauce: Tahini

 

 Used with nutritional yeast or simply on its own, tahini is a fantastic way to create a creamy, cheese like sauce. Used in most of my pasta sauces, tahini is a staple in my kitchen. Simply stir in your desired amount into your pasta sauce (I normal use about 1tbsp) or you can make a dressing with it too.

 Tahini is great combined with soy sauce, lemon and garlic. Add some water for a thinner consistency and it can used on salad or on potatoes (thicker consistency is better here). Another way I like to use tahini is on toast! It’s a staple that you will need in your home. Think of it as a cheese spread replacement.

  4) Get creative in the kitchen.

      

In other words, try making foods other than cheese based foods. There is such an array of foods in the world that meals don’t always have to revolve around cheese. Thai foods, Indian foods, Chinese, Mediterranean and more. The world’s cuisine has so much more to offer than cheese, you just have to experiment more. 

An increase of flavours and textures will have you so satisfied that you won’t need to be reaching for the Cheddar and the grater!

 To summarise: 

 Cheese is an addictive food. To break your cheese habit it can take up to three weeks and it can be done. I know that due to the addictiveness some people may really struggle to give up cheese completely but at least give it a go. If you are trying your hardest to be vegan and cheese is the only component of it that you can’t do then don’t beat yourself up about it! You want something that is manageable long term and if the only food you can’t let go of is cheese then so be it. However, do not give up. Research is clear that a plant-based vegan diet is the healthiest way to live and can eliminate disease and illness.

Take your time in making the transition; the more you reduce your intake the easier it will be to give it up in the long run. As you experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how fantastic you feel, gradually the desire for “real cheese” will go away. Every small step makes a huge difference so stick with it and do your very best!

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas !

As a really young child I remember my Mum always saying to me, “Please Hannah, just eat a piece of fruit at least”. I guess this was engrained into me and now I would never leave the house without eating something.

My breakfasts tend to be sweet, fruity and nutrient packed. Here I share 5 great options which will appeal to everyone and anyone. Whether you have 5 minutes in the morning or 30, there is an option for you. Get creative and really try to introduce a meal to your morning, if you don’t already. For some people I know it is difficult but start off slowly and gradually you will be waking up ready for breakfast!

So why is breakfast so important?

Breakfast literally means “to break the fast”. Overnight  our bodies work hard to digest the food from the previous night. In the process of this our body uses it’s main source of fuel, carbohydrates. As a result, our glucose levels can be low when we wake. Glucose (also known as our blood sugars) is the fuel our bodies need to power our muscles and brain. When we eat breakfast this restores our glucose levels, kick starts our metabolism and re-fuels us for the morning ahead. Research suggests that skipping breakfast can result in our body tapping into our energy reserve; in extreme cases this includes energy that is stored in our muscles. All of this results in low energy and lack of concentration, commonly leading on to unhealthy food choices later in the day.

Have a look at some of the options below and I hope you start to love breakfasts like I do. If you do already then I hope this gives you a few more ideas!

Breakfast #1

Smoothies and Nicecream.

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Smoothies are fantastic for when you are in a hurry. They are incredibly satisfying, filling, delicious and transportable. Take them in the car with you, into work, on route to school. Whatever it may be, they are a quick and nutritionally packed breakfast. Simply blend together: liquid of choice (plant based milk, water, coconut water), greens (spinach or kale), a high energy fruit (banana or mango), soft sweet fruits (berries of any kind, pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit) and an optional extra (protein powders, nuts and seeds). This combination of fruits, greens and healthy fats are a brilliant way to start the day, replenishing all your glycogen stores and more!

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Nicecream is similar to a smoothie but has the consistency of ice cream. These are amazing if you have more time in the morning as they take longer to consume. Simply blend up some frozen bananas with a little milk of choice, or wait for them to thaw for approx. 15minutes. Add into the blender variations of flavours such as:

  • vanilla
  • peanut butter / almond butter
  • soft fruit of choice: mango, kiwi, berries, papaya, passion fruit
  • healthy extras: super greens, hemp, maca, cacao, baobab

When blended into an ice-cream consistency, spoon into a bowl and top with crunchy topping (granola, chia seeds, goji berries, coconut, etc).

Breakfast #2

Oats.

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Oats are super versatile. What I love about them is that they are packed with fibre and keep you full for such a long period of  time. They are a low GI food meaning they release carbohydrates slowly into the body and help maintain glucose levels. You can make so many different variations so that you never get bored and they can be eaten hot or cold! That is correct, oats are great eaten cold and this means you can eat them on the go if you need to.

Some hot oat combinations could be:

  • banana, almond/ peanut butter, maple syrup, milk of choice
  • grated apple, raisins and cinnamon, milk of choice
  • berries, sweetener of choice, plant based milk

The recipes are endless and I’m sure each individual has their own personal favourites.

Eaten cold, soak oats overnight in plant based milk combined with your choice of extras: fresh berries, nut butter, apple, coconut, chia seeds, dried fruits, cinnamon, etc. For fresh fruits that brown, such as banana and apple, add these in the morning for optimal freshness.

Breakfast #3

Toast.

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Who doesn’t love toast? As long as you are eating a high fibre content bread and choosing healthy toppings, it is a great way to start your day. Opt for Rye, Wholegrain and Brown Sourdough for slow release carbohydrates and easy digestion. Toppings are endless but some easy, delicious ideas would be:

  • banana and nut butter (optional: coconut, chia seeds, cinnamon, berries)
  • avocado and tomato
  • nut butter and berries
  • tofu scramble (tofu cooked with tomatoes, greens, onion, soy sauce or spices)
  • baked beans
  • mushrooms
  • hummus and vegetable of choice: cucumber or tomato

 

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Breakfast #4

Pancakes.

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Slightly controversial as a “health food” but when made vegan these ARE healthy! The ingredients are the same as a bowl of porridge: oats, banana and plant based milk. This is a simple 3 ingredient recipe which can be varied adding in spices (cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg), flavourings (vanilla, almond, cacao, coconut), nuts, etc. But for simple recipe ideas follow: 1 cup oats, 1 banana, 1 cup plant based milk. Blend all in a blender and make into pancakes; its that simple. For a thicker style pancake add in 1 + 1/2 cups of oats instead. Top with fresh fruits, maple syrup, honey, nuts and seeds.

These are definitely a treat I would say, but they are an option for a special day, or weekend winner.

Breakfast #5

Cereals.

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If you are more of a cereal kind of person then cereal is an option. Make sure the cereal is as natural as possible, great ingredients, high in fibre and wholegrains, and as little refined sugar content as you can find. I personally don’t eat cereal but I know that many people do, and for some this is the only option suitable at present.

Shredded Wheat is a popular UK choice and as for ingredients it is pretty good. Try health food shops for natural cereals such as: muesli, popped quinoa, puffed rice etc. When topping your cereals opt for fresh berries, banana and a plant based milk.

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These are a variety of options for you all to try and enjoy. I hope this has given you ideas and options to try. Like I said, I know some people do struggle to get a meal down them in the morning but start slow. Smoothies are a fantastic idea as you can vary your quantities. If that isn’t for you, try with a piece of fruit or slice of toast and nut butter. You will build a habit and introduce your body to eating in the morning. Once you build up to a full meal you wont look back again. Your energy will be optimised, you will think clearer and you will kick start your metabolism for the entire day.

Don’t be afraid to eat breakfast. For all current breakfast lovers, I hope this has helped give you ideas too!

Until next time,

Have a great week!

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What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

We have all heard about the importance Vitamin D but how much do we really know?

As the cold, dark nights set in here in the UK it is a known fact that with that comes a dip in our overall mood. This dip in our mood is largely influenced by lack of sunlight. Lack of sunlight disrupts our bodies internal clock, reduces serotonin productivity and production of melatonin. These disruptions cause feelings of depression, increased tiredness, affected sleep pattern and appetite.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a vitamin which regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. It helps maintain a strong immune system, supports our mood and keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Where can we find it?

Unfortunately, unlike other Vitamins, Vitamin D is only available to us 10% by diet. The further 90% of our Vitamin D comes from UVB rays, which during winter time is virtually impossible to achieve. Even during our Sumer months, with the use of sun cream restricting the amount of UVB we absorb and time spent indoors, it isn’t always achievable to reach our optimal levels.

Supplementation.

Due to the population only getting 10% of Vitamin D from their diet and 90% through direct sunlight, supplementation is strongly advised by Health Experts to achieve optimal levels. Public Health England recommends taking a supplementation during Autumn and Winter months of 10mcg. For those who spend a lot of time indoors throughout the year, it is advisable that these individuals supplement throughout the year, also with a daily 10mcg supplement.

Types of Supplementation.

Supplements are available by either a Vitamin D3 pill or an Oral Spray. Vitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin therefore an Oral Spray is a preferred method as it absorbed directly into the blood stream via the inner cheek. This quick absorption means your body is able to benefit from it sooner.

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Vitamin D supplementation is just one way you can stay healthy this Winter. An active lifestyle, stress management and adequate nutrition are all other ways you can stay healthy this Winter, and all year around.

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Vegan food sources for Vitamin D include:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Plant based milks (look for added Vitamin D)
  • Soy products (yoghurts, drinks)
  • Some mushroom varieties

But remember, only 10% comes from food so supplementing is still crucial! Focus also on getting enough calcium rich food in your diet to aid in bone health.

Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire

Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire

The Ashridge Estate and Autumn Colours Trail

What a place.

As a fully fledged National Trust member, I love to take advantage of this and find new great places to visit. This week I woke up to a gorgeous foggy day, not too cold, and with Autumn is full bloom I wanted to get outdoors and explore. Also, with the dark nights now setting in I am determined to get as much day light as I can. As Winter approaches it is far too easy to stay in and get depressed from a lack of Vitamin D!

I went onto the National Trust website and found places to visit in my county; this lead me to Ashridge.

The website has a selection of walks you can do but as it’s Autumn, it made sense to do the Autumn Colours Trail.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/lists/self-led-walks-at-ashridge

5.9 miles (9.4 km) – Moderate Level – Dog friendly

The walk is absolutely stunning. One moment you’re immersed in colourful woodlands of oranges, greens, yellows and browns, then you turn a corner and you’re welcomed by great open fields. Want to see Deer? Five minutes into our walk we saw our first herd! I couldn’t believe it. By the end of the walk we had seen a total of four herds.

The walk was beautiful and we got to see deer, cows, squirrels and riders on horse back. It was stunning.

Unfortunately there is one downfall to this walk and that is the signing.

Online and in the Store you are able to get a copy of instructions and a map. The problem is that the trail isn’t well sign posted so it is quite easy to get confused as to where you are going. We stumbled across many other confused walkers, on the same route as us, whom we had to confer with as to where we should be going. Although much confusion on the walk, we did end up completing  the trail and made it out before dark.

It is a bit unnerving being lost in a woodland, especially in the Autumn when daylight is short, but with so many other walkers around I’m sure you couldn’t get completely lost.

Overall the Estate and surrounding areas are absolutely stunning. It is a great location for walking, a picnic, a dog walk and so on. I will definitely be returning again and I will be less anxious about getting lost.

If you are in the Herts area or near by, it’s definitely a must see. There are lots of people there exploring the woodlands, it’s free of charge and is a brilliant day out for all.

P.S. If you happen to get lost and stumble across this cute house, turn left and you’re almost at then end.

Enjoy and thanks for reading 🙂