Monday, 12 October 2015

Cruelty Free Living

Part time vegan
I've been a vegetarian for almost 15 years now, meaning I don't eat any animal products. No not even fish, and no I don't miss bacon (I miss haribo tangfastics, chicken and mayo sandwiches and ordering whatever I want off a menu just fyi), and no if I was trapped on a desert island with a pig I wouldn't eat it...

Now the usual questions are rationale behind stopping eating meat (so far as I remember, I was 14) was that I was against animal cruelty, also it's healthier to eat less red meat and I never have to worry about getting my 5 a day. I recently also started reducing my dairy intake, not going vegan necessarily (I don't check every label and ingredient) but let's say part time vegan, I've substituted as much dairy as I can so far...I'll probably go the whole hog sometime this is how I went veggie. 

For anyone thinking of going veggie or just curious, some of the myths and misconceptions I've encountered are:

But where do you get your protein!?
Um from my food? I train hard and get enough protein from my diet to fuel a very active lifestyle and the muscle gains I want. If I feel I might not be getting enough protein (mostly due to my own laziness with food prep) I'll have a protein shake or add some powder to a meal but to be honest that is rare and it would be the same if I ate meat. I add seeds, nuts and beans to a lot of meals for extra protein. 

It's so unhealthy to restrict your diet like that...
This mainly comes from people with little imagination on what I might eat, who think I live off lettuce and tofu. Yes you can be a vegan or vegetarian and be unhealthy if you don't eat properly, but the same as you can be an unhealthy meat eater. I could be vegan and eat oreos, pom bears and party rings (yep all vegan!) all day, have chips and some breaded pretend chicken for tea and drink 5 pints of cider an evening...being vegan wouldn't be the cause of my bad diet it would be poor food choices!

Protein and iron and B12 are the main things people seem concerned about, I take a multivitamin (which I ensure includes iron and B vitamins) and a vegan omega 3,6 and 9 (all in one) capsule daily - but the times when I forget I don't drop dead. I think actually because I look after my body I am more conscious of taking these vitamins not because I don't eat meat, I actually never ate a lot of fish as I just didn't like it so always took an omega capsule it just used to be cod liver oil. 

It's so much effort to cook vegetarian, my husband/wife/kids would never give up meat anyway
I find vegetarian cooking easy after a while of getting used to it, just sub in a meat free version of a 'normal' meal. Tom eats meat, I've never tried to convert him because I respect his opinion to do so...but I do the majority of the dinners so he ends up eating veggie a lot anyway. I tend to do something where I can easily make a meat version and a veggie version if Tom is getting meat, like spaghetti bolognese or chilli where you make the same base sauce, sides etc and just split it off and add meat to one and vegetables or pretend mince to another. Meat free options are now widely available in supermarket frozen sections, and vegan choice seems to be massively better than when I first tried it even just 5 years ago, this may be due to the rise in allergy awareness as dairy allergies are more well known. I now am mostly dairy free for breakfast (porridge with almond milk and fruit) and lunch (sandwiches or salad or if I'm organised a pre cooked portion of a meal to heat up like quinoa and vegetable bake) and dinner may contain some dairy but I am trying to minimise it.

Kids - I obviously do not have children to feed, but I would like to think I would raise them mostly vegetarian, with meat and fish at dinnertime but not every day (basically what I feed Tom now when I cook dinner not that I am comparing him to a child). If Tom were vegetarian there would be no question about raising them veggie, but he is not so they will get meat but less frequently than their friends. No this will not stunt them or otherwise impair them. It will also not be anyone else's business, I do not comment to the mother feeding her kid McDonalds or sugar laden snacks on her nutritional choices for her child and these habits are much more common than a measured and proven healthy diet which happens to not include masses of meat. 

Ask me in the future when I have a screaming 2 year old who only likes chicken nuggets and a 5 year old who only wants sausages if I'm still so ethically minded on this ;)

It's so expensive though?! You have to shop at health food places!
I obviously don't tend to peruse the meat aisle of the supermarket often but when I last checked vegetables were cheaper than beef. Also the supermarkets all now have good own brand vegetarian and vegan options, the freezer ones are often on 3 for £5 or bogof or something. The branded stuff like Linda McCartney and Quorn are now much cheaper too, comparable to meat options. Quorn 'ham' is great for sandwiches, and the Linda sausages are always in my freezer. It's all available in even the smaller local branches of supermarkets.

My multivitamins at the moment are from poundland, and I have some lined up to replace those from Lidl. The omega capsules are a new addition and were comparable to cod liver oil capsules if not a little cheaper depending on where you got them. My protein powder is rarely used but it's from Amazon I think it was around £10 for a huge amount, although to note do not get the unflavoured pea protein it is rank I am trying to use up the pot but it may go in the bin. Always go favoured with vegan protein!!

Humans are carnivores! It's natural to eat meat and dairy!
Actually we are omnivores not carnivores, our natural diet would be mostly plant based with some meat and fish but not at every meal and probably not even every day, it would not naturally include dairy. And when was the last time you hunted and ate a raw cow? Eating meat with every meal is a modern day invention, in other cultures and in recent history here for the average person eating meat was not as much of a requirement for every single meal and more of a few times a week thing. Meals can be cheaper, nicer and healthier without the meat. The attitude of 'It's not a meal without meat' really gets me when I hear it from people commenting on my diet (but won't hear a word against theirs), if you can eat healthier, for less money and more ethically by just replacing one ingredient easily are you that closed minded that you won't try it? It's on a plate, it fills you up and it's else do you want to call it if not a meal?

Dairy is actually the most unnatural, we are made to be weaned off milk and can actually get plenty of calcium from normal food sources. Drinking the milk or milk products of another animal is unnatural, and kinda weird and gross when you think about it. I find it hard to give up dairy totally but I keep trying, I tried 'veganuary' in January this year and failed rather spectacularly in a pizza binge. Now I am trying a more gradual approach of reducing and substituting dairy products until I feel I can say I'm either on or off the vegan train...

You'll feel/look/be so tired and pale and you won't be able to maintain it without long term health issues
I feel great. I don't think I look pale and unhealthy - well I'm pale but I'm ginger so no amount of meat is getting me a tan. I do more exercise than when I ate meat. I climbed a mountain last year. There are vegan body builders, and vegan slobs. It's all down to your lifestyle not your ethical food choices. My grandparents and parents were worried when I went veggie, I heard about people who got terrible issues 10 years into being vegetarian, and that I'd never be able to play sport or that I'd always look pale (I was a goth teenager so this was awesome news). I'll be honest I am tired sometimes, but I suspect that's because I am getting old...and I work full time and I have a full life and sometimes I stay up past my bedtime. Tell me the diet where you never get tired I want that one.

But my cousins friend/old work colleague/mums dog walkers sister went vegetarian and got 'stomach issues' and had to go back to meat. 
The mystical person who someone always knew who had health problems due to being vegetarian always had bowel or stomach issues. Actually red meat is suspected as a direct link to increased bowel cancer incidence (breaking out my work knowledge on you now) and the amount recommended per week of red meat is so small in comparison the the massive amounts people actually do consume you might as well not bother to cut back and just give it up. Dairy is known to cause bloating and irritates conditions such as IBD and eczema (that is purely anecdotal evidence on my part but everyone I know with eczema avoids dairy so...). It is also full of saturated fats and hormones and actually has no proven link to improving bone strength or density. Yes calcium does but we actually can get enough of that easily without milk, the hormones in milk may actually mean it is not good for your bones. Unless you need to be on a low fibre diet for a health condition, or are allergic, or diabetic and need to avoid fruit sugars there are no proven downsides to eating fruits and vegetables. 

Also I don't mind talking about this as I talk bowels all day at work but skip to the next part if you don't want to hear about it...My bowels are mega healthy. I never get any issues like constipation, diarrhoea, food poisoning, slow transit, bloating...and on holidays I never get a funny tummy other than the fact I sometimes have to live off of chips, pizza and pasta so get a little fat or bloated when I go abroad. When I was going on the Kilimanjaro climb I went to the doctors for jabs and asked while I was there did he have any recommendations generally, he said to eat vegetarian before the trek while in Africa as sometimes the food quality can be not ideal and you are less likely to get food poisoning before you even start. I said I was vegetarian already and we had a 'yeah we know what's up' moment. 

But I like to eat out/travel/go to dinner parties
I'll be honest I struggle when I travel sometimes, but I've never gone without food it's just not always ideal or what I would eat at home. It can get a bit samey if you are staying in a hotel that has 3 veggie options and you are there for 2 weeks, but we look at the options before we book and what is near to the hotel if the options there are limited. If in doubt ask, they laid on food for me at hotels before when I mentioned that I was not going to be able eat in the hotel restaurant. Tanzania, Egypt, Dominican Republic and Turkey were the best places I've been for veggie choices (in and out of the hotels) so you are far from limited on how far you can travel! I had vegetarian meals all the way to the top of Kilimanjaro. In fact the worst place was the nearest on my surprise trip to Paris, we celebrated our engagement with pizza (perfect if you ask me) as no restaurants had an option and few understood what I meant despite me knowing I was saying it correctly...some of them were purposely being assholes if you ask me...I can speak some French and learn the phrases 'I am Vegetarian' 'Do you have an option without meat please?' and 'No meat?' as well as of course the most important '1 beer 1 white wine please thank you' in the local language before any trip.

Spain is ok, tapas always has some vegetarian options. America is hit and miss, either amazing and lovely vegan restaurants and shops...or nothing. Literally one cafe didn't understand what I was asking them when I asked for a menu item without meat (as there was no vegetarian option). I came back from honeymoon so so fat but most of it was just carb loading from living off of pizza, nachos, burgers and pancakes as these were the main options.

Eating out at home is better now, there is at least a vegetarian option in most UK restaurants, with more and more offering vegan choices too. Yes we do go to places we know have a good choice for me, but only once (In San Francisco not even in the UK) have I been to a restaurant where they could not accommodate me at all literally all the options had meat in them and they did not offer any help just let us leave. One place in the UK I left before ordering any food more due to being treated with woeful customer service, they had a (singular) vegetarian option I just didn't like it, and they refused to alter any other menu items for me or let me order off the lunch menu (It was about 3pm). It burnt down very shortly after and Tom still thinks it might have been me. 

Most family and friends are used to me being vegetarian so eating at other peoples houses doesn't seem to be an issue. We don't have many friends who throw dinner parties (as the title of the blog suggests we aren't really grown ups). However when we go to peoples for Sunday dinner, or pizza and a film or whatever I always offer to bring my own, and barbecues I always bring something but so does Tom anyway it's what you do. My close family and Toms family keep vegetarian stuff in their freezers mostly for Sunday dinners and barbecues anyway. I don't ask them to but it's lovely to see and really nice that someone has thought about you, although I still offer to bring something as I don't want people to be put out to accommodate me. Other than one Christmas dinner where Tom was supposed to get me to bring a nut roast, but he thought his dad meant he would get me a nut roast...and therefore nobody got a nut roast...I've never been forgotten or not been catered for. So cheers family!!

I'm hoping to get dairy free by the end of the year, so watch this space and I'll share my journey from long term vegetarian to newbie vegan - and my inevitable fails!


  1. I read in a veggie gardening book that in the past people ate a lot more fermented foods which are rich in b12, so not nec. to consume meats for that reason. I fermented my own kapusta (sauerkraut) for the first time. Super easy and super good.

    1. Thanks for commenting, and for following me over here :) Sounds good, I'd love to try home fermenting or chutney making one day!