Plant-Based Pause No 18: A lot of People Will Get the Terms ‘Plant-based Vegetarian’ and ‘Tree-hugging Hippy’ Confused

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Let fear be a counselor and not a jailer.’ – Anthony Robbins

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Firstly, I want to explain the title of this post. I mean no offence to tree-hugging hippies, I’m just not one. A common assumption I get is that veganism is purely about animal rights. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any living being to suffer unnecessarily and animal rights is a very important cause to me, but it’s far from my top reason for living plant-based. I truly believe that all living souls on this earth are born equal whether human or not. I appreciate that is a controversial statement to deal with for a lot of people. I can’t help but think, though, that I could have just as easily been born into the body of a cow or a fish, and I would have been pissed off at the egotistically allegedly superior species trying to kill me for his dinner. The current state of affairs has led to an extreme, screwed-up world where we have genetically modified and farmed many species to the extent that we are dangerously endangering our own evolution. Having said that I personally also believe that we need to use animals to some extent to ensure our own existence. For example, you need cows to grow organic vegetables. More specifically, you need the fertiliser that comes from the cow. Unfortunately, 50% of cows that are born are male, and males cannot be kept together because they’ll fight (I’ve also seen this in male humans when working in bars 🙂 ). Therefore, male calves have to be killed because there is nothing else we can do with them. Chas Griffin explains this theory a lot better in his book ‘Scenes from a Smallholding’, but I hope you get the point.

There are many reasons why people choose to go meat-free – health, to help with fitness, ethics, environmental reasons, they just don’t like meat. I heard of one man who’d worked in a slaughter house and couldn’t face eating animals after that. Judging people based on assumptions is a bad human habit, one I’ve been guilty of myself in the past. Just because someone classes themselves as vegan or plant-based, it does not necessarily mean you should attribute other labels to them. When we turn vegan, we don’t have to sign a contract promising to recycle everything we use, never drive a petrol car again and adopt every stray animal we come across.

Some reactions I’ve had to telling people I’m vegetarian include:
‘Do you know anyone who’s died from CJD?’ – No, I don’t, but I’d been vegetarian long before the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the UK. Besides, I ate meat in the 80s, so if I’ve got CJD then turning vegetarian wouldn’t make any difference and I won’t know if I’ve contracted it until at least 2015 due to the incubation period.
‘But I saw you preparing meat sandwiches when you worked in Subway.’ – Yes, I didn’t have to eat the sandwich, but I did have to pay my rent.
‘You killed that wasp!’ – If the wasp annoys me, I’ll swat it. It’s the wasp’s own stupid fault, and I’m not a Buddhist. Likewise, if my survival depended on killing an animal for food or in defence, I wouldn’t hesitate. Unless it was a big, dangerous animal like a hippo. Then I’d probably run and hide.

To anyone who is reading this, whatever your diet and lifestyle choices, please don’t make assumptions about people. We all know that it’s really annoying. Instead, politely ask questions if you are interested in their motives. And to those who are being asked the questions, be patient and answer kindly.

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Plant-Based Pause No 14: Eat More!

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘We live in a society where pizza gets to your house before the police.’ – Anonymous

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Wait a minute, didn’t I tell you a few months ago that you can lose weight by eating plant-based? And now I’m telling you to eat more? That’s right, by living plant-based you can have your cake (or carrot) and eat it. With the exception of nuts, plant-based food is generally much lower calorie density than animal-based food, so you can eat lots and lots of it. As for the nuts, unless you gorge on cashew nuts three meals a day or nuts particularly make you pile on the pounds, I wouldn’t worry about it. Since I switched to a plant-based diet, my portions have doubled. Eating more good food also prevents me from being tempted to eat unhealthy snacks.

Be prepared for some shocked looks from omnivores. I have male, rugby playing friends who are three times the size of me and eat a lunch half the size. I quite often get asked ‘How can you eat so much?’.

When eating out in non-vegan restaurants or with omnivore friends, remember to ask for bigger portions. Omnivores will give you the same size portion as them but meat free. Or, even worse, exactly the same plate only minus the meat. Be prepared for smaller portions by carrying some healthy snacks with you. When I attend special functions like weddings, my handbag usually contains lip gloss, safety pins, cashew nuts and vegan energy bars.

Mini Plant-Based Pause: Hemp Milk

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A few weeks ago, as part of my plant-based series of posts, I told you about the problems with dairy and how you can replace it in your diet. As a follow-on to this, I had to tell you about my new favourite dairy milk alternative – hemp milk.

The story of me and non-dairy milk is a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. Each alternative I tried was too sweet, too difficult to use or I was allergic to it.

When I began my conversion to a plant-based diet, the first change I made was to start drinking soya milk. And I happily drank soya milk for two years. Unsweetened, it tasted nice enough to drink on it’s own, and could pretty much replace cows’ milk like-for-like in recipes. The only problem I had with soya milk is that, unless you heat it up first, it flocks when you add it to hot drinks. Apparently this is a common problem with non-dairy milks because of the temperature differences with plant-based foods. So why did I want to change my milk of choice if soya was working for me? Well, my brother was the first person to put a spanner in the works. Ever the one to find an argument against anything I choose to do in life, he loudly announced one day that his children weren’t allowed to drink soya milk because it contains too many ‘females hormones’. This wasn’t a complaint I’d heard about before, but in the interests of education (and beating my brother), I kept an open mind. Since then, the only reference I have come across about the side-effects of soya milk is in Rich Roll’s book ‘Finding Ultra’. He doesn’t drink soya milk either because it increases the levels of oestrogen in the body. Personally, I have never experienced any of the side-effects that Rich describes in his book. In fact, if anything my hormones have been a lot better balanced since I changed my diet. But, I thought I’d find an alternative and prove my critics wrong.

Unfortunately, due to my allergies, I’m unable to drink rice milk or oat milk. I did try rice milk once, but I thought it was way too sweet anyway.

Next up was almond milk. Obviously, this one is out for anyone who has problems with nuts. I’d heard people talking about almond milk and how tasty it is, and how it’s their treat of the month (almond milk is quite a bit more expensive than other milks). When I tried it for the first time, though, I have to say I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, it’s drinkable, but nothing amazing. And it flocks soooooo badly in hot drinks. It’s OK if you heat it separately, but when do I have time to do that at 6am when I’m half-asleep and trying to get ready for work? I tried to stick with the almond milk for a few weeks, but I was starting to think it would just be better to cut milk out of my diet altogether. Then came the revelation.

I’d heard of hemp milk mentioned in recipes and articles online, but never seen it in real life. Was is just a myth, a common typo or, even worse, one of those amazingly great vegan ingredients that isn’t available outside the US? Then, whilst shopping in my local health food store one day, I spotted a couple of blue Good Hemp cartons hiding on a bottom shelf. A quick read of the label, and I was more than impressed. Produced right here in the UK (yipee, it’s local too!), hemp is one of the fastest growing plants on earth and it captures a lot of CO2. It doesn’t need pesticides, and as well as being healthy it’s suitable for virtually everyone to drink. As if all that wouldn’t encourage me to use it anyway, it tastes lush (that’s Welsh for ‘good’) plus, and this is the best bit, IT DOESN’T FLOCK IN HOT DRINKS!!!!!! That’s right, you can use it exactly as you would dairy milk. So now, I walk straight past all the big displays of soya and almond milk in the shop and head straight for the blue cartons.

Travelling Plant-based in Iceland

When travelling anywhere, my tip to sticking to your plant-based diet is BE PREPARED. If I know I’m going to be in transit, I always pack enough snacks to see me through until I’m confident I’ll find another meal.

DSC_0136Although I try not to eat processed food, I do make an exception when making travel meals due to convenience. For my Iceland trip I made some vegan cheese sandwiches (on gluten-free bread) along with some of my recently invented breakfast wraps (spinach and mushroom pudla, vegan soysage, vegan cheese and organic ketchup all bundled up in a gluten-free wrap). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the wraps that I usually buy, so this batch didn’t look so neat and tidy and were actually held together with two layers of clingfilm, but they’re still a great way to keep my calories up while I’m on the move. DSC_0137Chuck in some fresh fruit, cashew nuts, cereal bars and of course my ever present water bottle and I’m good to go.

As a plant-based traveller, I quite often have to make compromises. Eating the same meal five days in a row isn’t uncommon, and some of the plates I’ve been presented with can only loosely be described as a meal. In Reykjavik, I’m happy to say, I didn’t encounter any of these problems. There are three health food shops to choose from, all with a huge DSC_0147array of products, and one was only less than a minute walk from my hostel. Glo and Graenn Kostur are both restaurants that specialise in vegetarian and vegan food, and I didn’t have any problems getting soya milk in coffee shops.

All in all, Reykjavik has a culture where vegetarianism is accepted. Don’t get me wrong, alongside the vegetarian restaurants you’ll also find eateries serving puffin, whale and shark meat. But, for an island where they can only farm sheep, cows and horses, they more than cater for us plant-eaters.

Check out Happy Cow for a list of vegetarian and vegan-friendly stores and restaurants in Reykjavik, as well as lots of other places in the world.

 

Plant-Based Pause No 12: My Kids Won’t Eat Plant-Based Food

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.’ – Harvey Diamond

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I have to start with a disclaimer here. I’m not a parent, nor do I claim to have any idea what it is like to raise a child. However, I do know that we, as adults, have a habit of telling children what they will and will not do before they’ve had the chance to make their own decision. I used to work with children, and I have been guilty of this myself many times.

Although I eat plant-based, I spend quite a lot of time with my godchildren who do not. At first, I made an DSC_0460effort to make sure that there were always meat options available to them, especially when we went camping. I soon learnt, though, not to bother. Apart from the odd burger off the barbeque, out of everything they had offered to them, both my godchildren chose to eat my vegan food instead. (Mental note: pack more vegan food for the next camping trip!)

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and go plant-based, don’t get disheartened if it takes a while for your children to come around. Children become addicted to the ‘drug’ of convenience and processed foods as easily as adults do. Give them a chance to discover things for themselves, though, and you’ll be amazed at how they can adapt.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the best ways to get children into plant-based food is to allow them to grow their own. My nephew proudly sends me regular photo updates of what he’s growing in his garden, and previous birthday presents for my godson have included plant seeds and fruit trees. Not having your own garden is no excuse, either. I volunteer in my local community garden, and every Saturday in the summer it is full of local kids who want to learn more about growing food and have a go.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out Vedged Out. Somer is a mum who converted her whole family to a plant-based diet, the dog included. Not only is she inspirational and full of lots of great information and product recommendations, she also posts the most delicious vegan recipes.

Plant-Based Pause No 11: I Don’t Like Vegetables

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘What a man eats, he should be willing to kill. It’s not absolutely necessary that he do so, but he should at least be willing to face the reality of it. To eat a chicken only if it comes from the market is the height of cowardice and denial. Someone still had to kill it.’ – Catherine Ryan Hyde, ‘When I Found You’

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Preparing food for me to eat is not easy for other people. I will, however, eat anything as long as it does not contain animal protein or gluten (due to allergies). Whatever is available for me, however unexciting or unusual, I’ll happily eat it with no complaint. So it annoys me that I’m considered the fussy one because I eat a mainly vegan diet. I meet so many omnivores who will only eat one or two items on a restaurant’s menu because there are so many things they won’t try or don’t like. The definition of omnivore is that you can eat everything, but they’re often pickier than any other groups. I’ve even missed going to restaurants completely because of one person who refuses to eat anything they offer at all.

Quite a lot of people claim they can’t eat vegan food because they don’t like vegetables. After years of eating processed, animal foods their bodies are so accustomed to it that it becomes like an addiction. Although vegetables may take some getting used to, eating plant-based for a few weeks de-toxes your system and you soon learn to like all the new tastes and flavours. Even just switching from a vegetarian diet, I found that vegetables tasted so much nicer.

Plant-Based Pause No 10: It’s Too Expensive

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won’t, you most assuredly won’t. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad.’ – Denis Waitley

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Straight after telling me they don’t have time to eat plant-based, a lot of people say that it is too expensive. I’ve never understood this argument. Locally grown vegetables are the cheapest food available to us. Unlike animals, they don’t require much feeding, they’re a lot easier to look after and you don’t have to transport them far. Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve received discounts in many restaurants because my meal is cheaper for them to make. Many people in the poorest parts of the world eat plant-based food because they can’t afford anything else. That’s how T. Colin Campbell and his team discovered that a plant-based diet is better for us in the first place.

Planning ahead, preparing batches of fresh food for the week and shopping for tasty, local produce all help me to save money (which gives me more to spend on yummy treats like vegan chocolate!).

Plant-Based Pause No 9: I Don’t Have Time

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.’ – Publilius Syrus

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If you have time to sit down and watch TV for 30 minutes, you have time to cook some whole food. That’s what I say to people who tell me they don’t have time to eat plant-based. As for convenience, it takes as long to drive to the take-out/order delivery as it does to cook the food yourself. Special vegan meals such as Christmas dinner are certainly a lot quicker to prepare than their meat counterparts. Here in the UK, people start preparing and cooking their turkeys the night before, and the whole process seems to involve a lot of basting and resting. Some people seem to pay more attention to the turkey than they do their own family. I can prepare a nut roast in under 30 minutes, and then use the cooking time to do something else.

Plus, don’t forget, as soon as you start eating plant-based, you’ll have more energy to work in the kitchen. You’ll get excited about food, and you’ll want to find more time.

Plant-Based Pause No 8: Harness All That Extra Energy

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.’ – Henry David Thoreau

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One side-effect of eating plant-based is that you will have more energy. A lot more energy. This is a good thing, as long as you know how to harness it. If not, you’ll end up sat in the corner rocking back and forth like a polar bear in a zoo.

If you’re the kind of person who has sat on the sofa for years, swearing to start that new exercise regime next week but unable to find the motivation, by eating plant-based you’ll have all the motivation you need. Since becoming a plant-based vegetarian, I want to do something active almost every day. I climb at the indoor climbing wall twice a week, I go to exercise classes such as step and spin, and on top of that I make it to the gym a few times a week as well. I even managed to complete a 5k race last year, something I never thought I’d do. So there’s no more excuses, harness all that plant power and get going.

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Plant-Based Pause No 7: Eating Plant-Based Prevents Disease

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘There are, in effect, two things: to know and to believe one knows. To know is science. To believe one knows is ignorance.’ – Hippocrates

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Every year, we spend billions on treating diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As a species, we seem to have grown to accept this as our fate. We assume that a certain percentage of us will fall victim to these terrible conditions, and there is nothing we can do about it. Rather than simply treating the symptoms of such diseases as a bandaid measure, however, I believe that they can be tackled from the source.

The doctors and other healthcare professionals who pioneered the plant-based movement did so after realising that people who lived in rural areas of the world, where animal products were not eaten due to lack of availability, were much less likely to develop cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. City dwellers who ate a typical western diet, however, suffered more from these diseases of affluence.

Handily, in the early 1970s, Chou EnLai, the then premier of China, conducted a nationwide survey that would prove this theory. After discovering that he himself was dying of cancer, Chou EnLai wanted to understand more about the disease and how it affected his country. They compared death rates for different types of cancer over 2,400 counties and inlcuding 880 million (96%) of China’s citizens. The China Study provided T. Colin Campbell and his scientific team with vital information about how eating plant-based can help us all to lead longer, healthier lives.

Every day, more and more evidence emerges to prove that living plant-based is better for us. Apart from a few exceptions, animal-based foods contain a lot more fat than plant-based foods, and higher fat intake increases the chances of developing cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Just as animal protein contains things that we don’t need, plant protein contains things that we do. Antioxidants, for example, protect our bodies and are exclusively found in plants.

You only need to browse the Forks Over Knives website to find lots of testimonials from plant-based vegetarians who have used their diet to overcome diseases, leading healthier lives and coming off their conventional modern medication. Unfortunately, though, that is not enough evidence for a lot of people. My mum has Type 2 diabetes. She argues with me every time she sees me that eating plant-based is not a solution. I’ve challenged her to prove me wrong. All it will take is 5 weeks. After that time, if she’s not feeling better and off her medication then I’ll admit defeat. So far, she hasn’t taken me up on the challenge.