Reduce your plastic use (without losing your mind)

“Progress has been made by two flames that have always been burning in the human heart. The flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope that you can build a better world.” Tony Benn

I am aware that a post on reducing plastic may may some people feel a bit eye rolly. Like when your dad started talking about you getting a pension when you were in your twenties. It may seem a bit over cautious, and not something to worry about right now. And a poll by the National Centre for Social Research earlier this year would inidicate that lots of people feel this way – it concluded that the majority of people in Britain know about climate change and acknowledge a human component, but are overall ‘relatively indifferent and apathetic’ about it. (Barasi, 2017). Whilst this is depressing for those of us in panic mode, we cannot afford to sit around being depressed. There simply isn’t the time. We have to change mindsets, and fast. At the risk of sounding like Sarah O’Connor in Terminator 2, every single one of us is in grave danger. But I am still clinging to the hope that progress can still be made, and that the flames of anger and hope are still burning. The alternative is simply unthinkable.

Last week a programme on Radio 4 indicated that 20% of people are very worried about climate change and are actively trying to do something about it, another 20% don’t believe that it is actually that bad or don’t care even if it is, and 60% do care but feel that their individual efforts won’t make enough of a difference and so they don’t bother. This is GOOD NEWS because it means that if we can persuade those 60% that their efforts will make a difference, (and they will), then that’s 80% of people who could be doing something about it, and that would really change things.

I know that most life lists are long. There are SO MANY things to do and there is so much to worry about. I know that many people live in poverty and literally cannot care about the state of the planet because they are just trying to survive. I know that there are health issues, and unhealthy marriages, and that there is loneliness and loss, and a lot of pain. But this post is for anyone who feels that they are lucky enough to be in a position in their life to make some positive changes.

The IPCC’s report published last week concluded that in order to avoid environmental disaster the world must embark on a ‘World War II-level effort’ to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Because of the reasons mentioned above I can’t see how we can do this at full capacity, but for those of us who are able and willing the ways we can help are almost endless. We can do the obvious things; drive only when absolutely necessary, fly much less, FaceTime instead of travelling to meetings, switch to the greenest energy companies we can find, insulate our homes, preserve electricity and water, and use Ecosia instead of Google, but the single biggest thing that anyone can do is to adopt a vegan diet. Cutting out meat and dairy will slash your personal emissions by 70%. If this still seems just too impossible then I am sure you can see the sense in a least trying to cut down.

                                  

This problem is huge and you only have so much time to give me, and so for now I am going to focus on reducing our plastic waste. Plastic is an extraordinary material. It’s cheap, cheerful, and colourful, and because you can make into all kinds of shapes you can make ANYTHING out of it – and we do. Lightweight, strong and extremely hardwearing, plastic can in fact be more environmentally friendly than alternatives for some things, for example when used to build homes and vehicles. Some plastic packaging actually saves energy too – the milkman switched to plastic bottles because it meant using much less fuel than when he transported heavy glass bottles around – and some plastics are treasured – you’d be hard pressed to find anyone slagging off lego wouldn’t you. There are also those who would argue that plastic packaging prevents food waste and since we still seem to have an insaitiable appetite for imported food, this may well be true. However, when it’s used to make items which are ultimately designed to be thrown away, plastic is hugely destructive. Once we’ve tossed it aside and forgotten all about it, plastic exists FOREVER.

Many of us saw the documentary “Drowning In Plastic.” (If not you can see it on BBC Iplayer HERE.) I don’t know about you but the scale of the destruction took my breath away, made me cry and kept me awake long into the night. By 2048 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. We are quite literally, trashing our beautiful planet, and we have to stop. A lot of people argue that unless the US and China and other powerful countries get behind this issue that there is little point in us trying. We do need alternatives to fossil fuels and we must vote for those in power who will fight for change (and we need to because Theresa May’s plans to eradicate avoidable plastic by 2042 are NOT good enough). But our every day actions do matter as well – the Thames alone pumps out 18 tonnes of rubbish into the sea every year, and now China is no longer taking our plastic waste then we have to take responsibility for it ourselves.

We can’t do it alone, but by acting as individuals our efforts make up a chain that is much more significant than we think. Just look what happened with the plastic bag ban! It started a domino effect. It can happen again. You refusing a plastic straw the next time you go for a drink will send a message to the barman who may then consider switching to paper straws. Taking a metal water bottle to the gym may encourage other gym bunnies to look into buying their own. Using a reusable cup in your local coffee shop may encourage the barista to think about the disposable ones he is handing out left right and centre which may well lead him to  consider making changes in his business. One person’s small changes become their neighbour’s changes, and so it goes on. You are a very important part of an absolutely essential chain. Your actions matter. (My hope is that it will soon become deeply awkward to be seen with a bottle of Evian or a Starbucks cup. Mortifying even. In an ideal world – social suicide.)

Historically speaking, human behaviour change can be slow. I know that we have to be the change, that we need to be patient and wait for people to finally clock onto the severity of the situation themselves – but we are running out of time, and so we need to hurry people along. The politician wastes no time on those who will never vote in their favour. So forget the 20% of people who don’t care, let’s not waste time trying to get them on board. Let’s focus on our own behaviour, and then on those who potentially could become willing to act. It all starts with the mind and perspective and so we will start there.

Firstly we need to know what goes on once our recycling is taken away by our friendly bin men. Out of sight and out of mind it may be, but plastic is complex and made up of all sorts of unsortable different plastics and so recycling it is expensive and time consuming. Because of this, only 9% of plastics are recycled and even then usually only once. It is FAR cheaper just to make more of the stuff and so that’s what we do over 90% of the time. So recycling should really be considered a very last resort. Remember ‘Reduce, re-use and recycle’ –  and in that order. And REDUCE is the important one!! It means – try not to even buy it in the first place. I can hear you saying ‘Crikey’ under your breath, but once we start looking at a plastic bottle mineral water as an object that will take between 450 and 1000 years to break down, if it breaks down at all, and most plastics do not, then we start to question whether in fact we really need to buy it, which may then lead onto us buying a reusable bottle. This is then noticed by others – we all love to copy each other don’t we, and stainless steel water bottles are oh so cool right now. And so the chain goes on. If you consider that the yoghurt pot you had in your packed lunch on your very first day of school in 1981 is still sitting somewhere, either under mounds in landfill or floating about in pieces in the sea, you start to question everything you buy. Soon you become more conscious about avoidable purchases. Perhaps you’ll find yourself looking at the plastic bottle of coke you usually choose with your meal deal and wondering where it will be ONE THOUSAND YEARS from now. Maybe you’ll find yourself asking if you can really justify hastily buying those plastic encased croissants that will be eaten a matter of minutes if the packaging will exist forever, and perhaps you’ll pick up some loose apples instead. Your behaviour will start to match your thought processes, and that’s how habits form. Soon you will be questioning everything you buy and asking yourself those really important questions; do I really need this, can I reuse it when I’m done, can I recycle it and how, and where will it be after I am dead and gone? How would I feel if I had to store ALL THE PLASTIC I have ever used? (Asking yourself these questions often means you save a lot of money as well as sealife.)

My thinking has changed a lot in a short time. I remember wanting a new, warmer duvet for my daughter last Autumn. I planned a trip to M&S. I was going to have a coffee in the café and make a morning of it. I was excited about it (because this is what you get excited about when you are nearly 40). Then I looked at the one on her bed, about to be discarded. What would happen to it? Could I really justify getting a new one? She had three quilts lovingly made by friends, as well as two blankets in the cupboard. I had a little think, and then I mentally cancelled the shopping trip and layered up her bed until it was gorgeously snug and cosy. Then smiling, I went downstairs to make myself a coffee.

Changing our thoughts changes our behaviour. We need to be thinking when we are shopping! There are so many changes that we can all make, and I am going to list as many as I can below. PRIZES IF YOU DO THEM ALL!! (NB the prizes are kisses.)

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE AND COFFEE CUP

The most obvious and the most easy. Have fun picking them out and then use them with pride. Do not leave the house without either of them and you’ll never be caught short.

Buy local food in person

Online shopping is hugely convenient and I was a massive fan for a long time. But the amount of plastic packaging got worse as time went on, despite my pleading emails to head office, and I had no control over what I was receiving and so we stopped. Shopping in person allows you to take back control and involves the family more. (Even though you may well rather poke sticks into your eyes than take your children shopping, kids really need to be part of these conversations so that they grow up aware of how to avoid plastic and live more sustainably.) Most people can make the time to find a greengrocers, or visit a market each week. Supporting local organic producers and buying food that hasn’t flown wherever possible is better for our bodies but also means you are giving business to those who are working hard for a better world rather than to the supermarket giants – who are just not. If you are still buying meat, dairy and fish then take your own containers along with you to fill with at the counters instead of buying it plastic wrapped.

Look into getting a veg box delivered

Guy from Riverford has been working himself to the bone for years trying to grow the most eco friendly, seasonal, organic and plastic free produce that he can. I like all the veggie boxes but Riverford is my favourite because they only send you what has grown which forces you to eat seasonally and I love that. Plus Guy writes you a little letter each week.

Try loose tea

Nearly all tea bags on the market have a thin layer of polypropylene plastic around the edges to enable the bags to be sealed. Loose tea in a teapot will make you feel quaint. And it tastes better too.

Buy cans, jars and cardboard instead of plastic

Choose the glass bottle of ketchup over a the plastic one. Buy canned lentils instead of those ‘handy’ plastic pouches. Find the pasta that comes in a cardboard box. Instead of plastic wrapped pastry and croissants use Jus Roll (which is also dairy free!) Avoid multipacks of cans which are usually plastic wrapped for convenience. Sigh.

Find Zero waste stores and buy in bulk

Zero waste stores are popping up all over the place, you can find one local to you here – just tap in your postcode. Grab your jars and tins, and then take your kids and let them help you weigh out pasta, rice, grains, flours and dried fruit. We need to get back to doing it like Grandma did. Suma is the UK’s largest worker co-op with 7000+ ethically sourced, fairtrade and eco friendly products available to buy in bulk online. You can order with a group of friends to make it easier and more cost effective.

Seek out alternative packaging

Here in Holland I can buy all sorts of things in compostable packaging that looks like plastic but is actually made from tree sap. Flashy no? Many other alternatives are popping up. Whenever your time and budget allows it, do support these good ventures. Think of it like this; every single purchase we make is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.

Grow your own

I feel like a criminal writing this one because I am so shit at this. But I try. Herbs are easiest.

Be prepared

Along with your stainless steel water bottle, pop a metal straw in your bag (we use these ones from Lakeland), and whip it out whenever you order a drink so that the staff and everyone else can see the statement you are making with it. Ditto with your own cutlery for take away places. You will feel like a knob the first time you do it. After that you will just feel proud, you’re a hero! Always have snacks that will fill you up so you aren’t tempted to buy shitty, processed, plastic wrapped crap when you are out and about. When you leave the house just make your current checklist longer; wallet, phone, keys, water bottle, coffee cup, straw, cutlery, snacks.

Use a cloth shopping bags– decide that from today you have a zero tolerance for plastic bags. Keep cloth or string ones in your bag, in your car, and strapped onto your bike so that you are never without.

Make your own

As vegans we get through a lot of hummous – some of the clichés are true – and so this was one of the first staples I learned to make from scratch. I also make oat milk and am on the way to making my own butter since it is proving impossible to find plastic and palm oil free dairy free spreads. When I have perfected this I will share the recipe! There are LOTS of things we buy without thinking, that if we really need we could make ourselves. I know how busy everyone all is but the United Nations could not have been any plainer – we need World War 2 level efforts here. We need to learn to wait for things, to make and mend, even to go without things. All in all I am sure you agree that in these times of apparent plenty, some making and waiting will be good for us.

Eat seasonally

If we choose out-of-season foods they will invariably be packaged in plastic so that they can survive their long haul journeys. Enjoy the plastic free food of the season you are in, and look forward with anticipation to the food of the next.  You can always pick your own berries in the summer using your own containers, and then freeze them to tide you over. And Autumn is for blackberries which you can find on your Sunday walk in the woods. Sweetcorn is out until next Summer now, as are strawberries and raspberries, but having to wait for something usually makes it even more delicious.

Batch cook

Avoid relying on plastic wrapped convenience food by using the weekends to prepare food for the week ahead. Learn some vegetarian and vegan recipes. (Please. I will pay you.)

Loo Roll– If you know me at all you will have heard me harping on about Who Gives a Crap toilet paper for a long time now. Great for your bum, amazing for the planet – and you will never run out of loo roll again! There are absolutely no excuses now folks. It is no more expensive than other brands and so if you are not using this company then please do sign up right now.

Soap

Buying handwash and shower gel used to be something I did weekly without giving it a second thought. Now when I think of all those plastic bottles I bought sitting in landfill or in the sea somewhere I feel crushed. Such a ridiculous purchase – your average bottle of shower gel is mostly water! Switching to bars of soap instead is such a simple change to make. You can now buy shampoo and conditioner bars as well which like soap bars are highly concentrated and so last for months.  (My local Dutch zero waste company has agreed to ship these to the UK so get in touch if you would like to order one.)

Toothbrushes– anyone with access to the internet will have seen all the new companies making bamboo toothbrushes. I have made myself keep all the old ones for cleaning – and to remind myself just how everlasting and plasticky there are.

Toothpaste– if you’re in the UK can use Euthymol which comes in a metal tube which should be incentive enough to embrace the hardcore taste. If that’s a no go consider dentabs which you can buy online here.

Deodorant– most people are now aware of the dangers of aluminium deodorants even if they have read all the bollocks their google search brings up. There are a plethora of natural deodorants to suit every budget available nowadays and many come without plastic. (Nuud is good and comes in a tube made of sugar cane but for those looking for something cheaper try Ben and Anna, which is available online or in health stores.

Make up remover pads and cotton buds– there are SO MANY zero waste stores online nowadays offering plastic free alternatives. Coconut oil is amazing at removing make up!

PLASTIC FREE PERIODS  – in capitals because this is so important. Did you know that some sanitary pads contain up to four plastic bags worth of plastic? Or that half of all tampons, (along with wipes, cotton buds, plasters and ALL SORTS of other things) are being flushed down into our Victorian sewer systems which simply cannot cope – by one third of our population? It has got to stop. Now. I have been banging on about my Mooncup for nearly a decade now but to my dismay it is nowhere near becoming mainstream yet. Ladies – please consider using one, and then once you’ve fallen in love with it (which you will) then please bang onto your friends about it and let’s make some headway here. THINX are becoming more popular now too – if you invest then please shout about it. Friends – we need to tell everyone about our pants.

Make your own cleaning products

Packed with toxic chemicals, your average plastic bottle of kitchen or bathroom spray is as bad for you and your family as it is for the environment. Invest in stainless steel spray bottles and make your own instead. You can even make your own dishwasher detergent! This website is tremendously helpful, and you can contact my lovely friend Gus via her website to learn about how essential oils can transform your home and life.

Use a laundry egg

These save you using detergents which pour chemicals into the water system. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the little pellets that go inside so that you can still have the fresh smelling laundry you love. We use an eco egg which lasts for 720 washes – that’s just 3p per wash.

Use a washing bag

Every time we do a load of washing, up to 700,000 microplastics are washed off our clothes sand enter the water system. These end up in the ocean, and then in the bellies of sealife, and then, if you eat fish, inside your own body. The Guppy Friend bag is the best scientifically approved solution against microplastic pollution from washing. After each wash you will see the plastics on the bag which can then be gotten rid of safely.

Avoid cheap clothing

Fast fashion is the second largest polluter on earth. Toxic chemical waste causes water pollution and huge amounts of textiles end up in landfill, many of them containing plastic fibres. Buy less, buy second hand, and organise clothes swaps with your friends. They are much less wanky than they sound.

Keep kid’s clothes in circulation

If you are in London please consider supporting Little Village, and if not consider setting up a clothes swap system in your school or playgroup so that the little clothes don’t end up in landfill either.

Use washable nappies

Almost six million nappies a day, or two billion nappies a year, end up in landfill where they emit methane, and take about 500 years to decompose. Despite having dear friends in the cloth nappy industry I am ashamed to the very roots of my hair to say that my babies mostly wore disposable nappies. I was told that the energy needed to wash the cloth nappies cancelled out the benefits of using them – which is not true. I also used baby wipes, choosing the believe the marketing hype about how much more environmentally friendly there were compared to a decade ago. Every single nappy and wipe that I used are all still in existence somewhere, and they will be for a very, very long time. Everything I think about this I want to cry. There are many washable nappies on the market now and they all look absolutely amazing.

Refuse to buy plastic wrapped toys

With Christmas coming up this is going to be a biggie. Buying toys online has the same downsides as groceries – you cannot control the level of packaging. We are aiming for a plastic free Christmas this year and so buying second hand will be a good option. You could consider wooden toys instead of plastic ones if you’re buying for small children. (As for wrapping paper, each year we throw away 226,800 miles of the stuff – enough to stretch nine times around the world – and lots of it ends up in landfill. Use newspaper or old magazines instead and be PROUD to do so. You are trying to save the planet here!) I usually buy books for other people’s children instead of plastic toys, and always choose birthday cards that do not come in plastic.

Stop eating fish

We need to realise that protecting our oceans from plastic goes hand in hand with protecting the life within it. Fish are sealife, not seafood. The fishing industry is responsible for 46% of the discarded plastic in the ocean. So whilst ditching our own single use plastic is important, we need to consider our eating habits when it comes to fish too. This TED talk by the amazing Sylvia Earle explains more about why the oceans are in danger and what we need to do about it.

I am sure that there are more ideas – and I would love to hear your tips! And after changing our habits, the next part of the chain is conversation. We have to start talking about this. We have to put it at the forefront of all of our minds. The more united our effort, the less the demand on each individual.  So if you do make any changes the coolest thing you can do is shout about it. Don’t be shy – you are awesome and you will inspire even those who pretend not to hear you. Talk about this problem when you’re having dinner with your friends, bring it up in conversations with colleagues. If you use social media, use it to share your efforts. You will feel less alone in this if you join zero waste Facebook groups and follow people who promote sustainable living on Instagram. As well as sharing our lives with each other we have to use social media as a tool to save our world and future now. Mention it throughout your day with your kids. They are the ones who we need to normalise this behaviour for after all. And encourage the people around you to do the same. It may be awkward, but look at the bigger picture and it will give you courage. Believe in the ripple effect. What you do matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weaning Your Baby

Everyone wants the best for their child, especially when it comes to their diet. When you’re at the start of the weaning journey though, it can all seem like a minefield. What to do and when – and where to start? Annabel Karmel will advocate for purees, and the baby led weaners will insist that steamed carrot sticks are the way forward. Your friends will have differing opinions based entirely on what worked for them. Mumsnetters will tell you four thousand different things. As always though, you are the parent, you are in charge. So all you have to do is simply read the evidence, and then make decisions based on the evidence, and on what feels right for you and your baby.

WHEN?

The World Health Organisation states that ‘infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.’ (It is a sad truth that with regards to breastfeeding, the vast majority of women in our country are not supported nearly well enough; as a result only 1% of mothers are breastfeeding exclusively by 6 months despite this recommendation.)

Previous generations were told to start weaning their babies much earlier, before it was understood that an infant’s digestive system was too immature to cope with solids before six months of age. So beware the mother in law who suggests putting the Sunday roast in the blender for your four month old; stay strong and stick to your guns.

HOW?

The baby led weaning method may improve fine motor skills but the puree method may get a bit more food into your child. If you are out and about a lot the hand held foods may make life easier, or maybe you’ll prefer to pop a tub of mush in your buggy. But we are living in a world where many children starve to death every day – in the great scheme of things, how you feed your baby doesn’t really matter. You’ll probably end up doing a bit of both; some of those steamed carrots with some pureed parsnip as well, and the odd breadstick with some yoghurt spooned in afterwards.

‘Up until one, eating is just for fun’ – so spend these second six months of your angel’s life helping them to simply enjoy food. Milk is still the main part of their diet and so you needn’t worry too much about how much food they are getting. Babies aren’t daft – they get what they need. Your job is simply to expose them to as much delicious as you can. It’s messy – but fun! There is nothing like watching someone taste a strawberry for the first time. Bit like the first time they see the sea or snow. It’s a little bit of magic happening right there in your kitchen.

WHAT?

And now for the controversial part. This will not make comfortable reading for most. I became a vegan nine months ago after discovering that the meat, dairy and fishing industries are destroying our planet faster than any of us can even begin to comprehend. (If we continue to demand meat, dairy and fish at the rates we are currently devouring it, we will need TWO PLANET EARTHS by the year 2030.) I also learnt more about the desperate cruelty of the industries, and also the very real dangers of eating animals and their secretions, and decided to cut all animal products out. (You can read about our journey into veganism here.)

Extensive research that has been conducted over the past fifty years confirms that the healthy consumption of flesh is an oxymoron. (An example can be found here, but note that of the iceberg, this is only the tip.) We are not designed to eat meat, and when we do our bodies pay the price. Dairy too, an infant food not even intended for human consumption, is hugely detrimental to health. There are 51,000 species of mammal on planet earth and we are the only one who consumes the breastmilk of another. Over 70% of the population are intolerant to dairy, (it is designed to grow baby calves, not humans), and research proves that the number one cause of colic is intolerance to cow’s milk proteins in the diet of the breastfeeding mother or in formula. Dairy is full of casein, the biggest cancer promoter ever discovered, and growth hormones which clog pores and cause acne and eczema. The calcium in milk is poorly absorbed compared to plant based calcium, and addictive dairy products such as cheese are packed with saturated fat and cholesterol which increase the risk of heart disease. The idea that you need dairy to get calcium is a lie sold to you by the dairy industry – calcium is a mineral found in the ground. Calcium, not cowcium. Fish is bad for us too. It contains no fibre or vital phytonutrients, too much mercury and too few omega-3s. It is also contaminated by all sorts of nasties, and damages our bodies nearly as much as overfishing damages our oceans. Scientists estimate that by 2050 the human population will be immune to antibiotics. A threat greater than that of Ebola or even cancer. Why? Because 70% of all antibiotics produced are given to livestock.

I had none of this information when I was weaning my babies. I worked from the healthy eating pyramid that is practically tattooed onto all of our minds, so familiar is it to us all. I fed my babies vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, and fish. It was fun and messy and exciting, and not for one second did I consider that what I was feeding them was in any way unhealthy. I worried about sugar obviously, and tried (and still try) to keep them away from processed foods, but serving up chicken casserole, roast beef, toad in the hole and fish pie gave me a great sense of satisfaction. I fed them the diet I had grown up on and was very pleased when they ate it all up.

Now I know what I know I wish I could go back in time and do it all again very differently. Eating behaviours are learned through very early experiences with food and eating, and I regret feeding them the addictive foods I fed them in their infancy. Today nearly a third (31%) of children aged 2–15 are overweight or obese – a figure that could be significantly lowered if more parents knew the damage that meat and dairy (and sugar of course) cause. I don’t feel guilty – we can only do our best from our own level of awareness and I simply didn’t know any better, but I’m angry that I was so unaware. There are reasons why all this research has been hidden from us for years, and they all stem from corporate greed. (The pyramid above was designed by the dairy industry itself.) My children are now fully and very happily vegan but the transition was hard for them because they were addicted to meat and dairy – as are 99% of the population in the West.

I hope that if you’re reading this as you venture into weaning, it may help you and benefit your child. If this information is new, you may well be feeling very shocked, maybe angry, probably extremely doubtful of the truth of it, so strongly is food culture ingrained in us all. I understand that, but urge you to seek out the information for yourself, digest it, and then make an informed decision for yourself as well as for your child. It could change your life and the future of your whole family. Being vegan is easy, delicious and really exciting – message me if you want to find out more!

Further Reading:

Articles:

http://www.firststepsnutrition.org/pdfs/Eating_well_for_veg_infants_for_web.pdf .

https://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/wri13_report_4c_wrr_online.pdf

https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/flexitarianism-environmentally-friendly-diet-47222.pdf

Books:

‘Comfortably Unaware’ by Richard Oppenhanger

‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer

‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows’ by Melanie Joy

Documentaries (all on Netflix):

‘What The Health’

‘The Kids Menu’

‘Forks Over Knives’

‘Cowspiracy’

‘Food Choices’

‘Vegucated’

Vidoes and Speeches:

 

ONE WEEK EASY PEASY VEGAN MEAL PLAN

Many people have told me that they want to try being vegan but they just don’t know where to start. It can feel like way too much of a commitment and if you’re not someone who enjoys cooking, a massive ball ache. Of course you can be a vegan who lives on chips and skittles – you’ll be dramatically reducing your carbon footprint and saving animals’ lives – but you won’t feel the amazing health benefits. The truth is that you do have to put a bit more effort in – because you’re cooking from scratch – but it’s totally worth it because this is your body and your health we’re talking about. It really doesn’t have to be tricky though, and I can prove it. I’ve written up the EASIEST and YUMMIEST (not to mention most nutritionally valuable) vegan recipes for you, and compiled them into a menu for one week. I’ve given you seven breakfasts, seven lunches and seven dinners so you can mix and match. So why not have a read, buy what you need, cook it up and eat this way for one week only.  Then see how you feel; physically, emotionally, and in your soul, and go from there. Just one week!! Go on……………….


Easy Vegan Breakfast Options:

  • Porridge made with plant milk (almond, oat, soy or rice – find your favourite).
  • Toast with dairy free spread and marmalade, jam, or peanut butter.
  • Cereal e.g. cornflakes or muesli served with ice cold plant milk – check the labels as some contain milk – WTF. (Label checking is actually a very important life skill. Get into the habit of looking at the ingredients list on everything you buy because it makes you realise all the crap that goes into processed foods. If you don’t recognise the ingredient, it isn’t good for you!)
  • Massive smoothie – chuck in whatever you have lying around e.g. bananas, apples, celery, spinach etc, and then add oat milk or orange juice and some oats to thicken it up. You do not need me to tell you how much your body will thank you for this.
  • Avocado on toast.
  • Beans on toast.  Protein for breakfast! (Or lunch, or tea.)
  • Vegan Fry Up = Vegetarian sausages, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, baked beans, spinach, hash browns and toast with dairy free spread served with fresh fruit. LUSH. (We have tried all on the sausages on the market and Linda McCartney sausages are the bollocks.)

Easy Vegan Lunch Options:

  • Pasta with dairy free pesto (available in all large supermarkets). Mix in spinach and add basil, chopped tomatoes and pine nuts for extra nutrients and yumminess. (This is also perfect as a kid’s tea served with plenty of chopped carrots, sugar snap peas, celery and hummus for dipping.)
  • Falafel is a great friend at lunchtime. Eat with a leafy salad (because IRON), sprinkled with sunflower seeds, pine nuts and superfood chia seeds. Or all three. Make your own dressing in seconds using olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and a teeny bit of golden syrup.
  • Sandwiches or wraps (or a jacket potato if you’re really hungry) filled with any (or all) of the following; vegan sliced cheese (Violife is good), tomatoes, avocado, hummus, guacamole, pesto, beans, beetroot, grated carrot, cucumber, lettuce etc. The options are endless – you DON’T need cheese!
  • Put some chick peas, chopped red onion, apple and celery into a food processor with some vegan mayo (‘Follow Your Heart’ does a great one called ‘Vegenaise’), season with salt and pepper, and shove into a pitta pocket with some fresh tomatoes. You can also add pesto to this if you fancy it. Delish.
  • Cous-cous – buy it already made with roasted veg or make your own. Eat with a leafy salad (because CALCIUM).
  • Make a bean salad  (because PROTEIN), by mixing together a chopped red pepper, a chopped avocado, some sweetcorn, a tin of black beans, and dress with lime juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of cumin. Serve with crusty bread dipped in garlic infused olive oil. MMMMmmmmmm.
  • Sunday Roast – If you don’t fancy making a vegan roast lunch you can easily buy one and then serve it with all the trimmings. You can even make vegan yorkshire puds if you can be arsed.

Easy Vegan Dinner Options:

  • Vegan shepherds pie. OMG you guys, this is SO tasty. Worth the chopping I swear on my whole life. Boil some potatoes and then mash them using dairy free spread and some plant milk. Season with salt and pepper. Then just chop an onion, a stick of celery, and three or four carrots and saute in some rapeseed oil (which contains the lowest saturated fat of any oil and has 10 times more omega 3 than olive oil). Then add a tin of sweetcorn, and a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree or ketchup and mix it in. Make up a mugful of veggie stock (using a stock cube or builion), and slowly stir it into the mixture. (You can thicken with a bit of flour if you want to.) Lastly add a teaspoon of thyme and another of sage, and then season with salt and pepper. You can also add a dollop of maple syrup if you want. (YUM.) Simmer until the veg are soft, and then cover it all with the mashed potato and bake until bubbling. YOUR FAMILY WILL GO WILD FOR THIS TEA!
  • Cauliflower and potato currySo easy! And so good! Just saute an onion, and then grate in some fresh ginger, three chopped garlic cloves, a teaspoon of cumin, another of curry powder and a pinch of tumeric. A minute later, add a can of chopped tomatoes, and a teaspoon of sugar.  Break a whole cauliflower into florets and add them all, along with two potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks). Simmer for 30 mins, stirring occasionally and adding a drop of water if needed. Serve with toasted pitta bread and a green salad. 
  • Anna Jones’ Tomato and Coconut Cassoulet is one of my favourite dinners EVER. I literally dream about it at night. You can find the recipe here. You’re welcome.
  • Veggie burgers are super easy and most are really delicious. Pull them out of the freezer and serve with whatever you like to serve burgers with. You can also make dirty hot dogs by putting Linda’s veggie sausages in hot dog buns and lacing them with fried onions, ketchup, vegan mayo, and American mustard. Heaven! Don’t forget the corn on the cob!
  • Dhal curry. Packed with protein and absolutely delicious. This recipe has become a firm favourite in our house. Yes you have to concentrate when you make it for the first time but after that you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. And everyone will become your best friend because dhal is the freaking BEST. (Mix in some spinach before serving it with brown rice.)
  • Sloppy Joes are the nuts. Saute a red onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves in some rapeseed oil until soft. Add a chopped red pepper, and two cans of chickpeas and continue to saute. Then add a can of tomatoes, two tablespoons of tomato puree, a tablespoon of maple syrup,  and a teaspoon each of oregano, cumin, paprika, thyme and some salt and pepper. (All this stuff should already be in your spice rack because you are a grown up.) Simmer for ten minutes and then serve in burger buns with a leafy salad. Perfect.  OR, just fry a chopped red onion, add a can of chick peas, some ready-cooked lentils and a tin of sweetcorn as a taco filling.   (The tacos kits you can buy come with seasoning and salsa as well as the tacos.) Supper in SECONDS. 
  • Stir Fries are super because you can just chop up and fry any veggies you have in the fridge, and then toss in some egg-less noodles or serve them with rice. For an easy sauce just mix some soy sauce with garlic, ginger, lime and a pinch of brown sugar to taste. 
  • If you come to the end of the week and can’t face cooking – give yourself a break! You’ve cooked all week long! WELL DONE!!! How about a take away tonight? Order yourself a delicious curry (most curry houses have loads of vegan options) or get yourself a vegan pizza. You deserve it. (Incidentally www.allplants.com will deliver a selection of incredible and reasonably priced plant based meals straight to your freezer and it doesn’t get easier than that.)


Vegan Snacks, puddings and treats:

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You can veganise literally ANYTHING. Fancy an apple crumble? Just use oil instead of butter for the topping. Want a cake? Vegan bakers reach for the oil, use a little extra baking powder, and rely on apple sauce, bananas, or flaxseed instead of eggs. Supermarkets now stock a wide variety of dairy free chocolate and there are a whole world of vegan yoghurts and ice creams out there too – many of which are really bloody amazing, and many sweets and biscuits are accidentally vegan as well. But bear in mind that half the fun of going vegan is all the shopping you have to do when you’re suddenly so slim that none of your clothes fit anymore, and so you don’t want to screw that up by eating shit in between meals. If your main motivation for veganism is weight loss – try not to snack. The recipes above should fill you up beautifully so you shouldn’t feel hungry until the next meal time, but if you do, get into the habit of reaching for a carrot instead of a biscuit.


Eating Out:

Don’t freak out when you eat out. There are more and more vegan options popping up on menus every day, but if you can’t see one just ask the kitchen to make you something vegan and delicious please. And they will.


 

Ok so that’s it. Just check you have the ingredients – and go for it!!! I would LOVE to hear how you get on. Message me! Huge love. X

Vegan, but WHY?

Oh no. A blogpost on veganism. I know I know I know –  you’re regretting clicking on it, and you want to stop reading right here. I understand that. But please, please, read on. The following comes from a place of love, and I promise you that you will not regret it in the end.

It’s coming up to my six month ‘Veganversary’. (Stay with me guys.) This weekend I will have been a vegan for six months. Since it’s been quite a ride, I’ve written about how my family and I have done it here, but before we get onto that – let’s talk about WHY. Because why would you, right? Surely it’s a crippling sacrifice and a daily torture – because ….. BACON! And CHEESE!! Right? Well, actually, no.

Eighteen months ago my husband and I watched a documentary which smashed my mind and heart wide open. I learned things that I had no idea about until that night. They upset and frightened me so much that I spent most of the next day trying to find evidence against what I had seen. Trying to reassure myself that it wasn’t true. There has been controversy over the film because the way that all agriculture affects the environment is complex, but it was just the start of our discoveries. The tip of the enormous iceberg. And now, after a year and a half of reading everything I can find on both sides of the argument, I have found fairly conclusive evidence to back up the following (and many more) statistics:

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for more worldwide greenhouse gas emissions than all modes of transportation combined.
  • Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 and has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2.
  • 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef, 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs, almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese and 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk. (Fresh drinking water is not infinite, or renewable in our lifetime – read ‘Comfortably Unaware’ by Dr. R. Oppenlander.)
  • Livestock (if we are happy to call things that are alive ‘stock’), take up 45% of the earth’s land (with more and more forests being destroyed every day to make room for cattle), and animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean ‘dead zones’, water pollution and habitat destruction.
  • We are losing species at a catastrophic rate (the number of wild animals on earth has halved in the past 40 years), and filling our oceans with plastic as we plough through the natural world to satisfy our seemingly unsaitiable western appetites.

(Above stats are taken from the WWF Living Planet Index)

These stats lead us nicely onto the first reason for going vegan:

Reason 1:  FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Obviously we need major changes in energy, transport AND food production to create affordable, climate-friendly alternatives for all. As individuals we can hold onto the hope that our political vote will make a tangible difference. We can try and eat foods that are in season. We can minimalise. We can drive and fly less. We can stop buying cheap clothing and indulging in ‘fast fashion’. But the truth is that these are very tiny drops in a deep and dying ocean. Changing our diet is by far the easiest and most effective way to make a (thrice!) daily difference as an individual. What we choose to eat massively affects the planet. For the sake of our children’s futures, we have to take responsibility – and we have to do it now.

Like global warming, the plight of our oceans is an issue that affects every country in the world. The seas can no longer absorb the damage inflicted by the 7 billion people on earth. Over many decades, the human race has overfished key species to near extinction, and polluted them with carbon dioxide emissions, toxic chemicals, and discarded plastics. Coral reefs, home to a quarter of the ocean’s fish, have declined by 40 percent worldwide. Stocks of swordfish, yellowfin tuna, and other large fish that people avidly eat are down by 90 percent. Since fishing became industrialized just over a century ago, most commercial species have been reduced by more than 75%, and some by 99%. As stocks dwindle, fishing fleets are increasingly resorting to “bottom trawling,” a hugely destructive technique that involves dragging a large net up to 60 meters wide along the seabed, scooping up everything in its path. And as well as all this, our oceans contain an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic. Marine scientists say that if we do not dramatically change how we treat the oceans and their inhabitants, many marine species will become extinct — with catastrophic consequences for the food chain. The solution? What about considering sea ‘food’ as sea life, instead?

Now no one likes a preachy vegan, but a survey by the Royal Institute of International Affairs found that people are not unwilling to change diets once they become aware of the problem of animal agriculture, but that many have no idea that it is harming the planet. So it would appear that education is key. Hence the necessity of spreading the word …………. And so onto reason 2:

Reason 2: BECAUSE IT’S KINDER

All animals share our human desire to live. And I feel absolutely confident that if you knew how animals are killed in order to become your food, you would re-think your diet.

Veganism is not new. For thousands of years, great minds have advocated the plant based diet. But people disagree, and probably always will, on the morality of eating animals. Some believe that God put animals on the earth as food for humans. Others say taking the life of another living thing for culinary pleasure is wrong. Some people say that to live you have to take life and that eating meat is a natural thing. Others say they could never kill an animal and so they shouldn’t eat meat. Some people have no emotions on the subject whatsoever.

Whatever you believe about the morals of eating animals, there are other ethical issues that need consideration. Take a look at the dairy industry. Apart from the dire environmental impacts of crops that are fed to dairy cows, it is hideously cruel. In any species of mammal, milk is only produced after a pregnancy. If we want cow’s milk, the cows will have to have babies in order to produce it for us. So cows are repeatedly inseminated and forced to give birth to to calves who are then torn away from them within a day of birth, so that the milk intended for their calf, can be sold for human consumption. They simply cannot allow the calf to consume his own milk because it would cost the farmer too much. Removing the calf is the only way that dairy farms can make any money.  Separating mother and baby, causes huge distress to them both. Male calves are usually a waste product, (although some are reared for burger meat, the current estimates are that 100,000 to 150,000 bull calves are shot within hours of birth in the UK), and female calves (reared on commercial milk replacers), will join the diary herd in order to replace their worn out mothers. A cow’s natural lifespan is 25 years long. But a typical dairy cow only lives until the age of 5.

I feel furious with myself for not even thinking about this for the first 36 years of my life but like most people, I was conditioned not to. Completely removed from all the processes animals go through to become food on our plate, we simply just don’t think about it. But if you do stop and think about it you’ll realise that it’s a feminist issue. It’s motherhood. Eating animals is one thing but using them in this way is worse if you think about it. One is ‘just’ murder. The other is rape, kidnap and then murder. Sounds dramatic – but that’s because it is. You can’t make this pretty. I have contacted many, many dairy farms and so far only two have answered my questions. Initially defensive and scared to talk to me, they both eventually told me that yes, babies are removed from their mothers within 24 hours. They said the quicker the better, as allowing the mother and baby to bond only delays the distress.  images-27.jpeg

Cows are incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive animals

Many mother cows can be heard calling for their calves for days. Their distress is so acute that they often self harm if they are physically able to. They grieve, just as we would if someone stole our brand new babies. Do we have a right to cause this suffering? Why do we love and care for dogs and cats, and eat cows and sheep and pigs and chickens? Who decided which animals were worthy of love and life, and which deserved neither? Something to ponder on as we walk our adored dogs and stroke our treasured cats. The truth is that we have been conditioned since birth to think that eating certain animals is normal, natural and necessary, when in fact it is exactly the opposite. Our brains are shut off – we do not think rationally about this. You can learn WHY your mind thinks eating animals is so normal HERE.

Another ethical consideration is the egg industry. Once hatched, female chicks are sent to farms where they are forced to grow at such a speed that their bones cannot hold their weight. Male chickens cannot grow as fast as females and are therefore a waste product. These chicks are suffocated or ground up alive in macerator blades in the hatcheries.  Most chickens lead horrible lives and are treated very badly. Their beaks are cut off to prevent them pecking each other, and they live in cramped cages, squashed up together in their own excrement. I have phoned many ‘free range‘ farms over the last few months to ask them about the industry. They confessed that whilst their chickens live in better conditions, they only receive female chicks to rear. They confirmed that all I have read about the fate of all male chicks is true. So spending more on organic and free range eggs doesn’t absolve anyone – buying these eggs supports an industry that grinds up live baby chicks, simply because they are not profitable. And as for free range farming itself, it may be kinder to the animals – but it is much more damaging to the living world. 

Animals are used and abused for human enjoyment every single day. Being a vegan means considering what you put on, as well as what you put in your body. The use of animals, who have no choice in the matter, is a form of exploitation. If we care, we should avoid, to all extents possible, all forms of that exploitation. Be it products tested on animals, or leathers and feathers, everything should be considered before it is purchased. Vegans aren’t always necessarily big animal lovers. They just want to do the right thing.

You may feel rather removed from these environmental and ethical issues. Everyone is different. So maybe rather than argue about the rights and wrongs of eating meat and dairy, perhaps it would be better if we asked the question of whether or not we are supposed to?

We are not carnivores. As a fellow vegan wisely asked online recently, if you put a baby rabbit and an apple in a cot with a baby – what would happen? The baby would play with the bunny and eat the apple. If you put a baby rabbit and an apple in front of a lion cub what would happen? Something very different. You do not leap on a squirrel when you see one in a fierce desire to kill and devour it.  When you spot a deer you are in awe of it, not dreaming of attacking it  (as a true carnivore would). We are not born with the desire to eat animals. (Obvious if you think about it.) By the time an animal has been killed, cleaned, chopped up, packaged and presented on the supermarket shelves we are so hugely removed from where it came from that we don’t even think about it. Eating meat is so ingrained in our culture that we never question it. We pass the habit, culture and tradition of eating animals onto the next generation, and so it continues. And the undeniable and very sad truth is that it is making us sick. Which brings us onto reason 3:

Reason 3: FOR YOUR HEALTH

More people than ever before have heart disease, breast cancer cases have increased 80 per cent since 1970, diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and one in four children are overweight or obese. (These are all diseases that carnivorous animals do not suffer from.) The Western diet, full of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein, is killing us.

Meat: Animals are eaten out of habit, tradition and culture. We don’t need to eat flesh, and in fact it is really bad for our bodies. Like other herbivores we have long intestines which are designed to digest plants. Meat stays in our lengthy guts for a long time and causes damage. (True carnivores however have much shorter intestines and they don’t chew like we do, they swallow their food whole, relying on their extremely acidic stomach juices to break down flesh and kill the dangerous bacteria in meat that would otherwise sicken or kill them. Our stomach acids are much weaker in comparison because strong acids aren’t needed to digest pre-chewed fruits and vegetables.) Apart from the fact that when you eat meat you are consuming all the antibiotics farmers use to prevent disease as well as all the adrenaline and cortisol that floods an animal’s flesh just before it dies, meat and dairy seriously harms us. We would never eat human flesh that had been dead for four weeks, yet four week old dead flesh is exactly what we are eating every time we order a burger. Animal welfare aside – meat and dairy is seriously bad news for our health.

Diary: There are 51,000 mammals on the planet and we are the ONLY mammal that drinks the secretions of another mammal. Think on that. Milk is bad for us because it is designed to grow and bulk up calves, not humans. It’s no wonder dairy makes us fat! Plus, we are not very well equipped to digest it (in fact over 70% of the worlds population cannot tolerate it at all. The majority of mammals, including humans, naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase — the enzyme needed to properly metabolize the sugar in milk – after they have been weaned. Why? Because milk is an infant food!) Apart from being very unfair to the calf who the milk was intended for, it’s very weird of us to drink a cow’s breastmilk if you think about it. Some more facts for you: one 8oz glass of whole milk has the same amount of saturated fats as four pieces of bacon. Overwhelming evidence has shown that cheese, ice cream, yoghurt – Greek yogurt included – is full of harmful animal protein which promotes tumors and cancers, especially ovarian and prostate cancer. We have all been lied to. Far from boosting our calcium intake, this type of animal protein actually leeches calcium from our bones, and is harsh on our kidneys and livers. Dairy is responsible for many respiratory issues too, and since our skin absorbs all that we eat, it can be badly affected as well. Ditching the dairy means better breathing, clearer skin, and countless other health benefits.

What about eggs though? Essentially chicken periods, eggs contain all the necessary fats and cholesterol to grow and sustain a baby chick for 21 days with no outside energy source. Eating an egg a day is as bad as smoking five cigarettes a day in terms of life expectancy. (This is not new research, it has simply been kept from us by profit driven food industries. Watch ‘What The Health’ on Netflix.)

Fish: it isn’t quite as healthy as we’ve been led to believe either. Aside from the environmental concerns, the evidence on the health risks that come with eating fish is impossible to ignore. Fish contains saturated fats and cholesterol, and a large percentage contain highly toxic, cancer-causing chemicals. They provide no antioxidants, fibre or phytonutrients. All the necessary omega-3 and 6 (that you are probably at this very moment thinking about) can be found in plants such as soy, walnuts, flaxseed, seeds, beans, leafy greens, cabbage and berries, and seaweed – which is where the fish got it from in the first place.

Plants have it all. Plants contain all that we need and more, including calcium, iron, and ALL the necessary proteins. Humans have no known anatomical, physiological or genetic adaptations to meat or dairy consumption. The opposite is true – we have many adaptations to plant consumption. Take vitamin C – this is made in plants. Carnivores don’t eat plants so they are able to make vitamin C themselves. We don’t make it ourselves because we are not natural born carnivores. We need to get it from plants.

The next bit is so important that it justifies bullet points:

  • Our dental arrangements are the same as herbivores like cows and horses and monkeys. Like theirs, our jaws move up and down AND side to side for chewing.
  • We don’t have the specialist teeth that true carnivores have to shred meat. Because we are not true carnivores.
  • We have no means of catching animals either – like all herbivores, our hands were designed to pick fruits and vegetables, not to kill.

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But haven’t we always eaten meat? Well yes, cavemen did eat meat, but not domesticated vegetarian animals like cows and sheep and pigs. They would’ve eaten smaller animals (that they would kill themselves – if you’re going to eat it, shouldn’t you be the one to kill it?), and consumed all the bones and marrow and organs – and only in places where plants weren’t readily available. Recent studies have been able to analyse the actual plaque on fossilised paleo diets and have found an abundance of plant remains inside the dentistry of ancient peoples. There is a wealth of information from the experts if you want to find out more. Just Google ‘Veganism, TED talks.’

What about B12? Vegans are often advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement. We need vitamin B12 to make nerves and red blood cells. It also helps us obtain energy from our food. It’s often said that animals are the only source of B12 in food, and strictly speaking (excluding unfortified food) that’s true. But B12 is actually produced by bacteria that live in the soil, and animals get their B12 by eating food (plants) that has these bacteria on it. B12 is then taken up into their flesh (or milk). But we don’t have to eat animals to get B12; we can cut out the middle man, and get it from the same place that animals do – plants. The animals humans eat are vegetarians. Think on that a while.

But why don’t vegans eat honey? There is a common misconception that honeybees make their honey especially for us – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Honey (essentially bee vomit), is the honey bees’ single source of food, and fundamental to the hive’s wellbeing. When farmers remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute which is significantly worse for the bees’ health since it lacks the essential nutrients, fats and vitamins of honey. The vast majority of the honey industry is profit-driven so the welfare of the bees is always secondary to commercial gain. Buying organic may mean less harmful chemicals but it doesn’t protect the bees because organic or not, they are specifically bred to increase productivity. Already endangered, this selective breeding process narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease which then spreads to the thousands of other pollinators that we and other animals rely on. As we know, without bees humans would be wiped out because agriculture as we know it would collapse. And bees are now dying at an economically unsustainable rate.  But here’s the GOOD news; unlike bees, humans can thrive without honey in their diets.  Luckily, there are LOADS of yummy alternatives like date syrup, maple syrup, molasses, butterscotch syrup, golden syrup, and agave nectar. All completely plant based and absolutely delicious.

We need change. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire food industry has changed beyond all recognition in the last few decades. Our population has trebled in the last century and factory farming and processed food has become the norm. These foods are often the cheapest option meaning that the health of the nation’s poorest suffers the most. Fifty years ago people got educated and learned that smoking was bad. We need to get educated now – about food.

Animal protein is THE most carcinogenic food we consume. It actually activates the cancer cells that exist in all of us. Only 5-10% of cancers are due to an inherited gene defect. In fact, “80-90% of cancers, heart disease and diabetes could be prevented by adopting a plant based diet.”  Colin Campbell, MD, author of The China Study

What about the famers? Everyone needs to make a living. But it is possible to do that without causing suffering. Reduction in the sale of dairy products will mean farmers will adapt and turn towards arable farming. Soy is being farmed for human consumption on a much larger scale now, and there is money in it. Just as there is money to be made in all areas of the sustainable production of ethical food and energy.  In this hugely overpopulated world of ours the biggest problems; war, famine, poverty, and the current refugee crisis are all caused primarily because of unfair distribution of resources. We have enough for everyone’s need – but not nearly enough to match our greed. The earth grows plenty of food every day which could feed all 7 billion of us, with leftovers – but we feed so much of it to animals (who we then eat), that millions die of starvation. (Look away from the screen and take five seconds to think about that. Insane, no?) Our greed is killing the world’s poorest. Poverty is man made and totally unnecessary, and we have the power to change things – because everything works on a supply and demand basis. If we demand plants and ethically produced goods instead of meat and dairy, then plants and ethical goods are what we will get. Like with all industries, the development and evolution of technology makes some jobs/sectors redundant, and so new roles emerge to replace them. It is a natural process that happens in all industries. Look at black cab drivers. Bus conductors. Supermarket cashiers. Photo developers. Typists. Blockbusters! They’re all virtually gone. It is a question of evolution and finding a product or service that is required by society. Rather than forging ahead in the face of diminishing demand. And it’s already happening. Food industries, catching onto the soaring increase in plant based diets, are producing more and more ‘vegan foods’.

But how can one person make a difference? Because – the ripple effect. Veganism is one of this country’s the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the UK. And globally, many celebrities and countless elite athletes are adopting plant based diets, from Samuel L Jackson and Ariana Grande to Serena & Venus Williams and Scott Jurek, the marathon legend. Taking action encourages others to do the same. And so it grows. The food industry is already changing to meet the demands of so many people who are turning to a plant based diet. So you see, your choices are important, and significant,  and they matter.  Plus it’s EASY  (I promise!) and getting easier every day! It is now possible to live a life that involves delicious food and drink, delivers significantly better health, leaves a MUCH smaller carbon footprint and avoids killing innocents – so why not consider living that life? Veganism is simply the kindest, most compassionate, and healthiest way to live. Sound WAY too tricky? Read about how we did it here.

May I end this post by thanking you for taking the time to read it.

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(And now have a listen to these guys:)

And now watch the following:

EARTHLINGS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3d1MLRKYX8

COWSPIRACY: THE SUSTAINABILITY SECRET
www.cowspiracy.com (Or watch on Netflix)

And while you’re on Netflix, watch these:

VEGUCATED

FOOD INC

LIVE AND LET LIVE

FORKS OVER KNIVES

FOOD MATTERS

SUSTAINABLE

WHAT THE HEALTH

(Your life will change – beautifully.)

VEGAN: 2015
www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYzlfPdpAeY

Vegan, but HOW?

Seriously, HOW? My transition from being a meat-eating cheese lover to passionate vegan has sparked quite a varied response from those I know and love. Those who have been interested enough to learn more have asked me why, and then how I made the transition. I have felt so much love for those people who have been open and honest with me about their feelings on this subject because I know it’s not an easy thing for most people to discuss.

Most people are keen firstly to know the basics of WHY a person would go vegan; (for the environment, because of ethics, and to improve their health – you can read more about these reasons here), but there is zero point in talking about why, if you don’t follow up with how. Many people find just the thought of going vegan terribly overwhelming. Others view it as a middle class fad and imagine tiny portions of quinoa marinated smugly in gluten free soy sauce on a side of bok choi and kale, and imagine vegans slowly starving to death. But the truth is that not only is making the switch delicious, it’s simple, cheap, and easy too. But how?

A gradual process. Very few people can become vegan overnight, and we were no exception. The beginning of the journey that has lead us to where we are now started on an evening in November 2015 when we sat down to watch Cowspiracy. This led to a lot more reading and research and to  a change in our eating habits. We started by cutting out meat Monday to Friday. We decided on vegetarian dishes during the week, fish on Fridays or Saturdays, and then meat on a Sunday. I was careful to visit the butcher instead of buying from the supermarket and made sure that the meat we bought (usually a whole chicken), was organic and free range.

You cannot un-know the truth. In amidst all these transitions, we were rearing rescue chickens in our back garden. The irony of eating a roast chicken while the birds we had rescued and then painstakingly and lovingly brought back to health pecked around at our feet, was not lost on anyone. Soon I stopped going to the butcher. But I still felt unsettled. Every time I poured milk in my tea or used cheese in a sauce I felt my heart contract. I knew all about the cruelty of the dairy industry. After while I couldn’t bear it any longer. It was obvious that being vegetarian was simply not good enough. So when in January this year ‘Veganuary‘ appeared in our inboxes and on our social media feeds, it was easy to commit to going vegan for one month. We had to at the very least try it. We were doing Dry January as well and figured that we might as well ditch the meat and dairy as well as the booze.

Veganuary. The Veganuary website had some great recipes and a meal planner so I stocked the fridge and cupboards accordingly, and we went for it. There were quite a few ingredients for what they call ‘the transitioning vegan’, like vegan burgers and ‘prawn style pieces’ to ease us in gently. Discovering new recipes was really fun and we really enjoyed the changes we were making. As January came to a close though we had to have some serious conversations about where we wanted to take this new diet. Would we just be vegan at home? Would we allow ourselves meat in restaurants? Would we have cheese on special occasions? What about when we went to friend’s houses? Would we ask them to make special food? Or take our own? How would we explain our decision to our families? And what about the kids? It felt like a minefield. But it actually happened really organically. It turns out that you can’t really be a part time vegan. In the same way that you can’t be partially racist or a a little bit sexist. There was no going back. It was daunting. I felt alone and if I’m really honest, like a bit of a freak. But day by day my resolve got stronger. And the lovely thing was that friends were really accommodating. I never asked anyone to make me a vegan meal, but only because I didn’t have to. People seemed to like the challenge of cooking without meat or dairy. There were veggie curries with coconut cream. There were rice dishes and vegan starters and dairy free deserts. There was a lot of love in that food. If friends invite us over now I tell them about our new diet (and hold my breath and feel my heart rate increase slightly because I thrive on not being a nuisance), and then suggest that they come to us. This means that I don’t have to be a nuisance, and also that I can have the opportunity to cook them some really good food and dispel a few vegan myths along the way. (Sneaky.) More often than not though, people say that no, they’d love to have us, and then they cook us something yummy. I always take something divine for dessert – vegans can still have fun, and the proof is in the pudding.

You can veganise literally anything nowadays. Suddenly pudding is (almost) good for you!

What about lattes?! Although this new diet has left me feeling lighter and more energetic than ever before, I still love a good cup of coffee in the morning. After much trial and error I’ve found that almond milk is the perfect accompaniment. It froths up beautifully and tastes delicious. And I put soy milk in Early Grey tea which works really well. I hate being a pain at other people’s houses so for ease I’ve trained myself to like my tea and coffee black when I am out and about. And I’ve discovered a whole new world of herbal teas too.

But what about the kids? Well, it’s been a journey for them too. I have always been adamant that having not raised them this way since birth, this new decision had to be theirs too. Forcing them would never work – I knew that they would need to get to where I was in their own time. So at first I was just serving them vegan food at home, and then they went to the dinner hall at school or to friends houses or birthday parties they were allowed to choose for themselves. After a while they started to feel funny about eating chicken and sausages. And then sad. They started to ask if there was any dairy in the food at birthday parties. They started telling their friends that they were vegan because if they were a lamb or a pig they wouldn’t want to be killed and eaten. They explained to people that they didn’t eat cheese or drink milk because they weren’t baby cows. Being vegan makes perfect sense to them, but it can be hard because they face temptation every day. Birthday cakes are tricky and I’m going to have to re-think halloween! But we talk about it all the time, and I’m confident now that they own their decision to accompany us on this journey. It’s taken a while, but the whole family is totally on board now, and all of us feel great now that we’re feeling all the benefits of going vegan. Both the physical ones (Mr G and I have both lost weight, my hay fever has disappeared and the kids’ eczema has vanished), and the emotional perks too. No longer are we watching Peppa Pig before gobbling her up for tea. Gone is the absurd practice of serving the kids the animals they have been encouraged to adore since birth, with ketchup or gravy.

Is it fair to the children though? (I get this a lot.) The answer is YES! If I’ve found the most superior diet of all – why would I feed anything less to my most precious people?! We have gone from a family that ate whatever they fancied to one who considers all that passes their lips. We have posters up in the kitchen to show which foods give us calcium, protein, iron and healthy fats. We check labels on all the foods we buy. Mr G (who has been on his own journey and now considers himself “95% vegan”), has switched to packed lunches at work and has discovered all sorts of cool vegan places to eat in town. And wherever we are the children always ask before eating anything; “Mummy – is this vegan?” They really care, (as most children innately do). I feel really proud of my little tribe. They’re mini pioneers.

Feeling alone. At the beginning I knew only one other person who was a vegan. I won’t lie, it was a really lonely time. This lifestyle change was all consuming initially, and I felt really isolated with no one to really talk it all out with. Then a friend put me in touch with her friend who was raising her three small boys vegan, just a few streets away from me. I clung onto her for dear life. She gave me advice and tips, cooked delicious food for my kids, and made me laugh. Her attitude reinforced mine. I am and always will be so grateful to have her and her family in our lives, and will always endeavour to support anyone else who wants to try this lifestyle in the same way that she supports me. There is loads of help and advice to be found online too. My instagram is full of inspiring people who boost my resolve every day. There are too many recipes to even mention, and more and more places are offering vegan options for when you are out and about. It’s never been easier and I am confident that it will become even more so with the passing of time. I no longer feel alone! I’ve met SO MANY wonderful people in the last six months – vegans will find each other – and so my life has been hugely enriched by some really lovely new relationships, as well as a new diet.

Surviving in a meat and dairy eating world. It was soon after making my new friend that I took some further steps forward. At Easter time I asked those who usually bought the kids chocolate easter eggs to get them a book or something else instead, and hid dairy free treats all over the garden to find on Easter Sunday. At the start of the summer term I went to see the chef at the boy’s school and asked him to alter the menu for them. He tried really hard to veganise the school meals but he couldn’t fully manage it with the ingredients at his disposal, and so now I make them packed lunches. I took packets of cow-free sweets into their teachers so that when a classmate has a birthday and hands out treats, my kids don’t feel like they’re missing out. And now most of my friends are aware of the choice we’ve made and most of the time manage to serve meat and dairy free food at playdates, which I’m really grateful for.

But what about fussy eaters? Like lots of kids mine can be fussy, but now there is no dairy free junk in the house they have limited snacking options, and so come to the meal table pretty hungry. They’ve been trying lots of things they wouldn’t touch before and meal times have become a lot less painful! One of the number one rules of feeding your kids according to the experts is to avoid making some foods seem good and others bad. We shouldn’t be rewarding the consumption of (calcium packed) broccoli with ice cream for example. It is REALLY hard to follow this rule and stay sane though, and so recently I switched things around. The kids now get ‘pudding’ as an after school snack. I make sure I have dairy free cakes, or cookies, or home made rocky road bars (with sesame and sunflower seeds snuck in) and other treats available. Sometimes they’ll get an ice cream cone, (and no one can taste the difference if you buy the Swedish Glace soya brand). So then if they are fussing over their tea I tell them that they don’t have to eat it and that they may get down. They know they’ll be nothing else and so invariably, after a bit of sulking, they eat. And when they do, they realise that mama makes yummy food! And then a new taste is added to their list of acceptable tea items.

What about entertaining though? I feed friends, family and all my new mamas and papas delicious plant based food, cooked from scratch with love. I bake for people all the time too, and so this was a bit challenging at first but I’m getting better at it and learning all the time. (My cherry cake is to die for even if I do say so myself.) There are many other fats to use instead of butter, and omitting eggs isn’t hard; all they do is hold the mixture together and there are MANY plant based ingredients capable of that job. Whenever anyone pops in for a cuppa, I use RAW cow’s milk from The Calf At Foot Dairy which I order online in bulk and freeze. I still wince when I pour it into their hot drinks because YUK, but at least I know it has come from a cow who has been allowed to keep her calf.

New ideas

I have some new cookbooks that have become my bibles: There is so much more variety in our diet now. Before I just pulled the same old recipes out of my brain and cooked them without thinking. Now I dive into my new books and pick out new things all the time. There is garlic and ginger and lime juice everywhere, and everything tastes SO GOOD. I feel like I could cook a different dinner every night till I’m one hundred and that I’ll still be trying new things even then. There are lots of alternatives out there and you may feel like you need them if you choose to start moving away from meat and dairy. As the industries catch onto the fact that more and more people are turning to a plant based diet, sales of vegan cheese are soaring. They are getting more and more yummy as they evolve too – Zizzi’s and Pizza Express being the leaders in melting vegan mozzarella! Having said that, a pizza with a sweet tomato sauce and a world of veggies on top is just as good as one covered in cheese. If not much better. Not to mention a million times healthier. I’ve honestly forgotten all about cheese now. It happens! Taste buds change. They really, really physically change. If you’d told me a year ago that I would soon be vowing never to eat milk chocolate again I would assume you were drunk. But now a cube or two of dark chocolate with a mug of peppermint tea, should I fancy it, is all that I want. I no longer crave the things I used to. Our food bills have gone down and we’ve never felt better.

I do miss brie though, and the fish with my chips. But my brain is more powerful than my belly. And to be honest I don’t really think about animal products anymore. Cutting them out completely enables the black and white attitude of ‘food’ and ‘not food’. I’m fitting into clothes that I haven’t worn for twenty years. My skin, hair and nails have never been in better condition. I rarely even wear deodorant – without animal flesh or their secretions inside your body it doesn’t sweat out anything defensive. Literally everything, from your dental health to your sex life, radically improves when you embrace plant based nutrition.

I feel so fortunate to be able to protect myself and my family as best I can by putting the best food inside of them. At our wedding nearly ten years ago, we served every guest a massive steak, and had a wedding cake that was made entirely out of cheese.  Now we are impassioned vegans. A U turn is completely possible.  It takes time, but soon a vegan diet feels completely natural and becomes absolutely second nature. Aside from having my babies – becoming a vegan has been the very best thing I have ever done. My huge and only regret – is not doing it sooner.

If you’re interested in adapting to a vegan diet here are some excellent links to help you:

BRILLIANT hints and tips for going vegan gradually

The 30 day Vegan Challenge

Your vegan starter kit

Going vegan – PETA

How to go vegan – The Vegan Society

Should you need it – some more motivation

You can do it!

 

 

 

A New Tradition for Advent

The materialistic consumerism that has become such a central part of modern life seems to be on steroids during the lead up to Christmas. It makes my teeth ache and my knees sweat. All the gift-sets on the shelves in Boots (10 very plastic wrapped chutneys from around the world – WHY? Also isn’t this a CHEMIST?).  All the plastic plastic plastic toys everywhere. The madness that is Black Friday (just been a bit sick in my mouth) and Cyber (what?) Monday. Too much! We can counteract all the greed in society, with lots of the opposite. And the best place to starts is in our own homes, with our own families.

The first thing you read in my kids’ school reports are how they are doing in terms of behaviour, effort, and consideration for others. The school recognises the truth that these things are more important than anything academic. Their teachers are helping me unfold my children into the kind, giving and loving people that they were born to be.  And at Christmas time there is loads we can do to promote giving instead of grabbing.  I copied an idea from a Facebook friend last year and it worked really well. This year I am doing it again and thought I would share in case you’d like to take on the tradition for your family. So here is what you do:

 Print out the below (or your own version) onto paper and cut out into strips. (This year I think I’ll print onto card and cut into heart shapes because why not.) These are just the things the kids and I are going to be doing this December. (You’ll notice that I like baking but that five minutes into any craft activity I lose the will to live.) Feel free to take these ideas or make up your own depending on what you like to do with your kids – it is supposed to be fun for you too!

 Then place each strip of paper or cardboard heart into twenty-four separate envelopes labelled with dates on the front, from 1st – 24th December. Along with the piece of paper/card, put a tiny treat in the envelope – I put a chocolate button for each kid inside.

 Next hang them all up in a tantalising and decorative way. I use teeny tiny little clothes pegs from the craft shop and hang each envelope onto a piece of string like a washing line. Then from 1st December onwards, open one envelope each day. Have fun!!

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 1st December

Shall we make cup-cakes for all our lovely neighbours today?

2nd December

Let’s write letters to Father Christmas today! We can post them in the morning.

3rd December

Today we can make our sweetie wreath for the front door. Then everyone who comes to see us can help themselves to a sweet and enjoy a sugar rush while they wait for us to open the door! (We can keep adding sweets throughout December.)

4th December

Shall we take a Christmas gift to the old people’s home today?

5th December

Let’s bake a cake for Anna White today, and then take it to her house.

6th December

Today we can pack a hamper for the food bank.

7th December

Let’s draw Christmas pictures to send to Nanna today.

8th December

Shall we make bird food to put in the garden to feed the birds through the winter today?

7th December

Let’s write down all the things we are grateful for and put the lists up on our bedroom walls.

10th December

Shall we buy and decorate the Christmas tree today?

11th December

Let’s go and buy presents for the teachers today!

12th December

Shall we take the toys we don’t play with anymore to the children’s charity shop after school?

 13th December

Let’s make a big cake to take into the staff room for all the teachers.

14th December

Shall we pack up the clothes we are too big for and take them to Little Village today?

 15th December

Here are some new toothbrushes!! Let’s clean our teeth until they are extra shiny and SMILE at everyone we see today.

16th December

Shall we write down all the things we love about Pops and Nona and Granny? (We can put them in a jar for them to open whenever they need cheering up.)

17th December

Shall we take carrots to the horses in the New Forest today?

18th December

Let’s make flapjacks for the bin men today!

PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DARLING WILL!

19th December

Shall we make biscuits for the milkman today?

20th December

Let’s make cupcakes for the postman today!

21st December

Shall we take the books we don’t read anymore to the Doctors surgery today?

22nd December

Today we could make and decorate bookmarks. (We can secretly tuck them into other people’s reading books!)

23rd December

Shall we fill a stocking for daddy today?

24th December

Today we need to make reindeer food (oats, raisins and glitter). We can sprinkle it onto the lawn tonight so that the reindeer can eat it while Father Christmas delivers your toys!

Bodies After Babies

So your baby/ies have ‘ruined’ your body. Sad but true? Not really. Here’s why:images-7
A is for awesome. Your body made a person. How the feck did it do that? All KINDS of awesome.

B is for boobs. Big when pregnant, REALLY big when full of milk, and impersonating those things you hurl over the side of boats when mooring them after that. But they FED and GREW your amazing baby which your awesome body made. Plus you are now entitled to fancy lift up bras because you made somebody else.

C is for caesarean scar. Scars are COOL.

D is for dimples. On butt cheeks. If you have these be proud. You MADE somebody and so if your bum is dimpled because you ate too much cheesecake because you made somebody, then so be it.

E is for everyone. Everyone’s body changes; man, woman, baby or no baby. No one gets to keep their 18 year old body. (Celebrities are pretend.)

F is for funny. Can your teenage baby-sitter fart the alphabet or flap her bingo wings about in an amusing fashion? Exactly.

G is for girlfriends. Everyone has that one friend who inexplicably ‘bounces back’ after childbirth. But if her tummy pings back you can bet the poor love has haemorrhoids. No one goes completely back to normal. Remember – we are all in the same boat.

H is for hair loss. Hormones sometimes means hair loss (amongst other things). Never mind, less to wash and blow dry.

I is for inner thighs. Probably wobblier than they were. Probably touching. That’s ok. Marilyn Monroe’s did too.

J is for jumping. Hard to do without peeing your pants now, but pelvic floor exercises can be done anywhere, at anytime so be getting on with those and soon that trampoline will be YOURS.

K is for kissing. When you feel like a knackered old frump, don’t forget about kissing. Your mouth hasn’t changed much. Use it. Kissing turns ‘have you taken the bins out’ into ‘Mmmmmmmmmmm’. Your fella loves your mummy body. He wants to kiss it.

L is for laughter lines. Loads more now. Because you have been laughing lots.

M is for Motherhood. You are living it. But you will definitely know someone who isn’t and WISHES she was. Be grateful. There are a trillion women who would give anything to have a wobbly belly and a flappy bum if it meant there could be a baby in their arms.

N is for nose. I’ll bet it hasn’t changed one bit! And now you are no longer pregnant things will no longer smell so rank that you puke at the very thought of them.

O is for OTT. Banging on about how fat you are is annoying and boring. You are not fat – you had a baby, and now you have a belly. See the letter M.

P is for pelvic floor. A massive muscle that served you and baby well. Elasticity comes back. You can make this happen. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEZE.

Q is for the Queen. Every single body gets old.

R is for running about. Nature’s postnatal workout. Once a GP asked me what form of exercise I undertook. I told him I had three children.

S is for strangers asking are you having another baby already?! All those sleepless nights will give you plenty of time to think of an appropriate come back. “No, I’m not. This is the left over packaging from the first one”. You may still look a little bit pregnant, but at least you’re not rude.

T is for tummy. The most wonder-fullest place for your baby to grow in, and then lie on.

U is for underwear. Your pre-baby thongs cutting into your lovely handles like cheese wire? Ditch them. Buy some lovely new pants. Comfy ones. Lovely.

V is for vagina. A baby came out of it. See the letter P.

W is for water balloons, AKA post baby buttocks. You could go to the gym or get a personal trainer. Or just use them to sit on whilst you’re watching telly.

X is for x-ray. If you saw one you’d see that even your skeleton has changed. Pregnancy hormones cause the pelvic bones to widen in preparation for birth. This is why your skinny jeans no longer fit – clever bones.

Y is for yummy mummy. You.

Z is for zips. If they don’t do up, don’t worry. See all of the above.