Four reasons to try plant-based eating

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Two years ago, if someone had told me to go vegan or have meals without meat or fish, I would have laughed in their face. Then I suffered months of health issues, which wreaked havoc on my hormones, digestion, mood and life. So I decided in January 2018 to do a trial period of eating less meat and more plant-based foods. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go… would I be hungry all the time? Would I become morbidly obese? Would I have enough energy to exercise and lift heavy things? Would I waste away? Would my digestive system love me or hate me for it? Would I spend more money on food or less money on food? So many questions.

A few things happened, some positive and some negative, and I’m going to share the main benefits and drawbacks of plant-based eating, from my experience, with you today.

Five a Day

If you struggle to get your five-a-day, then go plant-based for a while. Making sure you get enough vitamins, protein and fibre in a diet that is mostly made up of vegetables, fruit grains and a few dairy products is not easy. I found myself making lunches with things like eggplant, butternut squash, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes, courgettes, broccoli and brown rice. My snacks were apples and bananas on a good day, and dark chocolate covered almonds on a bad day. I drink almond milk and apple juice pretty regularly anyway, so I kept these in. Yum.

Digestion

Eating vegetables does not give you the same bloat as eating meat. And if you suffer from any form of IBS or IBD, you’ll know that digesting meat can sometimes be painful and difficult. After six weeks of plant-based lunches, I can honestly say that I felt the difference. My meals didn’t sit like heavy rocks in my stomach. And I didn’t suffer from any uncomfortable gas either. My body liked them and digested them well. Sometimes I felt a little bloated after a carb-heavy meal but green tea and black coffee helped ease that symptom. My body struggled with some foods like broccoli and cauliflower, which are extremely fibrous, but as with any dietary adjustment, it just needed time and patience.

Satiety 

It is possible to feel full on this diet but you need to really pay attention to your protein and fibre intake. This was the only problem for me. I wasn’t always full after a plant-based meal. Sometimes I found myself hungry a couple of hours after lunch and honestly, I hate snacking during the day. It messes with my metabolism and messes with my mealtimes. If I don’t pick the right snack, it also sends my blood sugar levels all over the place resulting in crashes and mood swings and all sorts of horrors (yes, I’m human and sometimes I make bad choices.) I played around with meals including more chickpeas sometimes or lentils or quinoa. I don’t know if I ever nailed it but again, it takes time, patience and tweaks before you get it right and find your flow.

Carbs

Plant-based eating means that you get to eat more carbs, which is great. Bananas, sweet potato, squash, carrots, berries, apples, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc. More carbs means more energy, and fuel to thrive. If you’re a runner, you are probably used to eating a high-carb diet anyway. And if you’re not, then you’ll find you have more energy to burn in your workouts and cardio sessions. The only down-side to this way of eating? Sometimes, I did find myself over-eating or going too carb-heavy or too fat-heavy. It’s easy to fill up on bread and starchy carbs, but if you’re not using those to fuel yourself physically, the weight will start to creep back on.  And on the flip side, it’s easy to go too fat-heavy and gorge yourself on nuts and avocados. But if you’re not burning fat in HIIT-based workouts or balancing that out with a lower carb intake, your body will turn that fat straight into fat. DISCLAIMER: Every body is different. My housemate can eat an entire baguette every day and still stay a size UK 6. If I even look at a baguette, my hips and arms grow by like six inches.

Plant-based eating is great for getting your five a day and your stomach and bowels will thank you for it. But beware of over-eating, under-eating and eating too many calorie-dense foods. It’s easy to eat a banana peanut butter sandwich and think, “this is plant-based so I’m a beacon of health.” But you should probably be having raw carrots and homemade avocado dip instead — unless you’ve just run a 10K of course. If you’re strength-training, you’ll need to load up on protein like chickpeas, beans, tofu and peanuts. In fact, my body craved yoghurt after gym sessions, which told me that I needed more protein. If there are two key reasons to really try this, it’s: (1) to challenge yourself to eat more fruit and veg and (2) to find a way of eating that is good for your body and good for the environment.

Look… just try it. Give it a few weeks and then let me know how you get on. You can find me on Instagram or Facebook.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

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I LOVE pancakes. I mean, who doesn’t? Traditional, fluffy pancakes smothered in butter and maple syrup may taste delicious but they will rapidly expand your waistline. Recently, I have been experimenting with different variations of pancakes made from ingredients like coconut flour, protein powder, and courgette. These carrot cake pancakes are one of the tastiest versions I’ve made. The carrot is naturally sweet so they don’t require any extra sweetener. The spelt flour helps bind them together and is a high-fibre, low-GI flour which is a much better option than any traditional white flours.

Why not try making these for breakfast and topping them with turkey bacon, fresh berries, or some greek yoghurt and flaked almonds? If you want them served the traditional way, cook them in Irish butter rather than coconut oil and top them with a drizzle of honey rather than maple syrup. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised at how yummy they are!

Ingredients:

  • 300g of Carrots
  • 1/4 Cup of Spelt Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp of Coconut Oil (for cooking)

Method:

  1. Heat up the oil in a pan.
  2. Peel the carrots and grate them into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the eggs and mix it up well with a fork.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and the vanilla essence and mix well.
  5. Use a 1/4 cup measure to add the mixture to the pan and cook the pancakes on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  6. Check that they are cooked all the way through before taking off the heat. They will have a slightly more moist consistency due to the carrot.
  7. Add your toppings and enjoy!

RECIPE: Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower Mash

A light, tasty, healthy substitute for mashed potato.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on vacation with my best friend in Malta and we decided to go all-inclusive, which meant that breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner were all served up buffet-style. As a former fat girl, buffets are a bit of a danger zone for me. The old me would have gone crazy and self-control would have been non-existent. Hunger would have just taken over like this unstoppable force, and I would have eaten with my eyes rather than my brain, choosing what looks good rather than going for sensible, healthy, nutritious options. However, thankfully now that I am more informed when it comes to nutrition, I was able to make much better choices.

The food choices in Malta were dishes containing lots of fish, salads, eggplant, artichoke, tomato, olives, capers, and other healthy foods. However, when I was carb cycling, I would have stayed away from many of these items. In fact, somewhere along the way, I became too scared to eat anything that wasn’t sweet potato, broccoli, or plain boiled rice. But, I decided when I was on vacation that I would eat whatever I pleased, and filled my plates with lots of different veggies, salads and oily fish. When I returned home, to my surprise, I had not gained weight. Now, I was exercising when I was on vacation, but not as much as usual. Most days were spent lying on a sun lounger by the pool, so even with the mini-workouts in the gym, I was much less active than normal.

Eating all these interesting, colourful, delicious combinations of healthy foods was the inspiration I needed to get more creative in the kitchen. I don’t want to “diet” this autumn/winter season. I still want to eat healthily and workout as much as I can, because I love how it makes me feel. But I know that eating a restrictive/repetitive diet of broccoli, boiled eggs, quark, tuna, and chicken, is depriving my body of some of the nutrients it needs.

Cauliflower is a vegetable that I have only just begun experimenting with. Many of you have seen, and tried, my cauliflower pizza. Now, I give you ‘Cauliflower Mash’ which you can serve up with chicken, fish, a good steak, or whatever you please! If you try it, please tag me on Instagram or Facebook. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Cauliflower
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 tsp of ground Nutmeg
  • 120ml of Semi-skimmed Milk (or Unsweetened Almond Milk)
  • 1/2 tbsp of Coconut Oil

Method:

  1. Chop the cauliflower into small pieces and boil for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Drain the cauliflower.
  3. Place the coconut oil in the pan over a low-medium heat.
  4. Finely chop the garlic cloves.
  5. Add the garlic to the pan and toss it around in the oil for 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add the drained cauliflower to the pan and stir it up with the garlic for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the milk and mash it up well.
  8. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes, season with salt and pepper, serve, and enjoy!

*Tip: sprinkle chives over the top to add a little extra flavour!

RECIPE: Spinach, Ham and Onion Omelette

Spinach, Ham and Onion Omelette

This breakfast will keep you going all the way until lunchtime! Or if you like, have it for lunch or dinner instead.

An omelette is a great way to get lots of protein and nutrients into your daily diet, and they don’t just have to be eaten at breakfast time. Adding extra egg whites, which are just pure protein, can help keep you full and help you maintain lean muscle. This is a really simple, easy meal, and contains a whopping 41g of protein, and only 10g of fat and 8g of carbohydrates (macros may differ depending on which brands you use). Ditch the ketchup, the toast, and the Heinz baked beans, and spice this up with hot sauce and some sauerkraut. Your tummy and your waistline will thank you. If you try it, let me know about it on Facebook or Instagram!

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites, 2 yolks
  • a big handful of Fresh Spinach
  • 50g of Cooked Ham
  • 1/2 a Red Onion
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Coconut Oil

Method:

  1. Whisk the egg whites and yolks in a measuring jug.
  2. Heat up approximately a teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan on a low-medium heat.
  3. Cook the red onion for 4-5 minutes until softened and then put it aside on a plate.
  4. Pour the eggs into the pan.
  5. Chop the spinach and the ham.
  6. When the eggs are mostly cooked, add the spinach, ham, red onion, salt and pepper, and carefully fold the egg over.
  7. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the egg is cooked all the way through.
  8. Serve with sauerkraut for gut-friendly bacteria, and a little Frank’s hot sauce if you’re feeling like spicing it up!

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Tip: Hot sauce, peri-peri sauce and most of the spicy sauces in Frank’s range contain zero (or very little) sugars. This is a great alternative to ketchup or HP sauce, which are notoriously high in sugars and syrups.

RECIPE: Emma’s Spicy Slaw

Spicy Slaw

White or green cabbage, carrots, chilli flakes and a few other ingredients make one delicious mayo-free slaw.

Those of you who have been following me for a while now will know that I am very “passionate” about vegetables. I try and get raw veggies into my meals whenever, and wherever, is possible. Raw veggies are packed with vitamins and fibre. One of my pet peeves is over-boiled veggies because you lose so many nutrients by cooking them that way! Roasted veggies are great in the winter time, but if you’re pouring oils over them to roast them, you are ruining them.

Even I, lover of green food, cannot eat just plain raw carrots or plain raw cabbage. But when you mix a bunch of veggies together with a light oil and vinegar dressing, magic happens. This is basically a coleslaw without the mayo, refined sugars, and all the other added rubbish. The beauty of this slaw is that you can eat it with pretty much anything. Throw it in with your salad, have it as a side dish with chicken or fish, or even have some with your eggs in the morning.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as it is one of my favourites! If you make it, give me a shout on Instagram or Facebook. And if you make an even tastier version, please share it with me on Instagram.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a head of White or Green Cabbage
  • 3 medium Carrots
  • 2 tbsp of Extra-virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp of Chilli Flakes
  • 1 tbsp of Organic Honey
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Finely chop the cabbage and place into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Grate the carrots and add to the bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients and the spices.
  4. Stir well with a fork.
  5. Separate into tupperware containers, refrigerate overnight and serve the next day.

Tip: The reason for overnight refrigeration is that the acidity of the cider vinegar actually breaks down the cabbage so that it is easier to digest and isn’t so harsh on the gut.

RECIPE: Cajun-Style Beans n’ Rice

Cajun-Style Beans and Rice

A healthy version of one of my favourite side dishes. This can be eaten with Mexican, Southern or Cajun cuisine.

I love carbs. I mean, who doesn’t? But when I eat egg-fried rice or any “fast-food” rice, my stomach goes absolutely haywire. I am bloated for days and sometimes, it’s actually borderline painful. I know it’s not the rice, because when I eat rice at home, I am fine! Therefore, it must be the oils that are used during the cooking process. Rapeseed oil? Vegetable oil? Sunflower oil? I have no idea what most fast-food restaurants use, but whatever it is, it really irritates my gut and I find it hard to digest.

This rice dish is a great alternative to those rapeseed-oil-filled Uncle Ben’s rice packets and it is super easy to make. I usually serve it with fajita chicken or jerk chicken, but it would work as a side dish with any meal.

There is a lot of discussion about beans containing phytonutrients, which inhibit the absorption of other vital nutrients such as iron, for example. However, other sources state that beans are a great source of fibre and protein, and fibre is super important for a healthy gut and healthy bowels. I haven’t quite made my mind up about beans yet, but when I do, I will let you know!

If you make it, let me know! If you come up with an even better version, let me know too. And enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin of Red Kidney Beans
  • 1 cup of brown or white Basmati Rice
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 stock cube

Method:

  1. Boil the rice with the stock cube for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Drain the rice and rinse with cold water to get rid of excess starches.
  3. Return the rice to the pan.
  4. Drain the kidney beans and rinse well.
  5. Add the kidney beans, spices, and coconut oil to the pan.
  6. Stir well on a low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, serve, and enjoy!

Tip: Try adding fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice to this dish if you are serving it with Mexican food!

RECIPE: Pink and Purple Slaw

This is a bulk recipe for one of my most successful coleslaw alternatives yet! Goodbye boring white, mayonnaise-filled and refined sugar-filled coleslaw. Hello pink and purple mayo-free slaw! If you make this amazing recipe, let me know about it here! And please also give me a shout-out on Instagram if you make an even better version.

Pink and Purple Slaw

This is such a delicious, colourful and MUCH healthier alternative to traditional coleslaw. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a head of Red Cabbage (650-700g)
  • 1 bag of Radishes (240g)
  • 3-4 Medium Carrots (300-325g)
  • 2 tbsp of Organic Honey
  • 3 tbsp of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp of Chilli Flakes (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Finely chop the red cabbage.
  2. De-head the radishes and chop them finely.
  3. Peel the carrots, chop off the ends, and grate them into a bowl.
  4. Add the three veggies into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the wet ingredients and the spices to the mixing bowl and stir it up well with a fork.
  6. Place the slaw into tupperware containers and refrigerate for those weekly lunch boxes!
Chopped Veggies

Red cabbage, radishes, and carrot.

RECIPE: Creamy Broccoli Salad (Mayo-Free)

Broccoli Salad

Easy to make, and absolutely delicious!

Ok, let’s just be honest for a second here. Plain boiled broccoli is boring! (Try saying that five times fast.) Trust me, I ate it for more than six months straight. Today, I knew I had to make a delicious dish with the broccoli that was patiently waiting in my refrigerator, and I had a few other food items that needed using up as well. This is how the creamy broccoli salad happened.

Raw Broccoli

This dish is absolutely delicious, and packed with fibre and vitamin C. Also, the apple cider vinegar helps soften the harshness of the broccoli and red onion on your tummy, so bloating and wind (for people with sensitive tummies like me) should be kept to a minimum. It’s sweetened by the tomatoes and the honey, but if you’re on a no-sugar diet, consider the honey optional!

Broccoli in the Mixing Bowl

Summer may be over, but there is no way I am saying goodbye to my summer body! In fact, I am more excited than ever before about eating healthy and staying fit during the upcoming winter months. Autumn and Winter foods are the best. Hello pumpkin, cinnamon, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, vanilla, and more! I am really looking forward to getting creative in the kitchen and sharing all of my creations with my readers.

Broccoli Salad

As you know, this blog is all about green food, so as much as my diet may turn a little orange this season, I will still be giving you plenty of recipes to get your greens in wherever you can. I hope you enjoy this salad and please give me a shout-out on Instagram or Facebook if you make it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Broccoli
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 2 medium Salad Tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (or pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup of Skyr Icelandic Yoghurt or 0% Greek Yoghurt

Method:

  1. Chop up one head of broccoli into small florets and place in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain, season with a little salt and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop up the salad tomatoes and the red onion and add to the broccoli.
  3. Add the yoghurt, mustard, honey, oil, vinegar, and stir it all together.
  4. Season with the salt, add the chia seeds, and toss it up.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

RECIPE: Authentic Mexican Guacamole

Guacamole

My delicious, homemade, fresh Mexican Guacamole.

This is hands-down my favourite weekend evening snack. The only problem is that I could literally sit and plough my way through the entire bowl. You will never buy Guacamole in a box or a tub or a packet ever again! This is my party trick, my cinco de mayo joy and a recipe that I have selfishly kept to myself for too long. But I am doing this for YOU so that you too can enjoy authentic, fresh, Mexican guacamole. So, next time you fancy some fajitas or are craving a bowl of nachos, top it with lots of this stuff instead of cheese and sour cream. Also, this recipe (excluding the avocado) is also exactly what I would use to make fresh salsa, or ‘Pico De Gallo.’ STOP buying salsa in a jar; it’s probably full of refined sugar. Make your own! The lime juice sweetens it just enough. Now, let’s get down to business

Recipe: 

1 Large Hass Avocado (or 2 small regular avocados)

1 lg. Red Chilli

1/2 Red Onion

3-4 medium Tomatoes

1/2 a lime

Bunched Coriander (or Cilantro)

Salt

Method:

  1. Mash up the avocado in a bowl with a fork. Come on, put your back into it and get that avocado mashed up nice and good! It helps the consistency if you squeeze the juice from that half lime in there. Add a pinch of salt at this point too. It should be a little chunky but overall, pretty smooth like the consistency you would expect from a guacamole dip.
  2. Dice the red onion, tomatoes and the chilli and throw that all in there. Mix it up again!
  3. Chop up a handful of fresh coriander (or cilantro for the American readers). Throw that in and mix it up once more.
  4. Now, taste it and see if it needs more salt. If so, add more. If not, cover it with cling film and leave it for 20 minutes. This allows all the flavours to blend and when you return to this bowl of deliciousness, you may dig in with whatever dipping tool you wish!
  5. Serve with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, celery, rice cakes, snap peas, or whatever you prefer. Enjoy!

RECIPE: Superfood Green Salad

Superfood Green Salad

This salad is full of yummy, green superfoods. So throw away that iceberg lettuce and work this amazing recipe into your lunch or dinner!

YUM. This week’s mid-week recipe share is one that I only recently came up with. I was shopping in M&S when I came across a ‘Green Slaw’ and it only had 2 or 3 ingredients. I thought to myself, “I can make this even greener, and even healthier.” And that is how this amazing superfood green salad happened!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Broccoli Stalk
  • 1 Courgette
  • 1 cup of raw Spinach
  • 1 cup of raw Green and White Cabbage
  • 1 cup of raw Kale
  • 20 Sugarsnap Peas
  • 20 trimmed Green Beans
  • 1 stalk of Celery
  • 1/2 of a Lemon
  • 1 tsp of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 100g Edamame Beans (Optional)

Method:

  1. Grate the broccoli stalk on the fine side of the grater into a large bowl.
  2. Chop up the courgette into cubes and add to the grated broccoli.
  3. Finely chop the spinach, cabbage and kale and add to the mixture.
  4. Roughly chop the sugarsnap peas and green beans and add to the mixture.
  5. Chop the celery stalk and add.
  6. Mix all of the ingredients and toss it all up!
  7. Squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture, add the cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

This salad is super simple and so much more nutritious than the ‘mixed salad’ bowls sold in most supermarket stores. Iceberg lettuce has zero nutritional content. In fact, it’s mostly water! This salad is rich in iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, fibre and so much more. Top it with tuna, chicken, turkey or even some ham and a boiled egg. If you don’t eat meat, then throw in those edamame beans, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds or even some quinoa or peanuts. Just make sure you have a source of protein in there. If you can’t eat your salad without a dressing, make your own dressing with organic apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, organic honey and soy sauce.

If you are meal-prepping for the whole week, just double, triple, or quadruple the quantities! You can eat as much of this salad as you like, as there is truly nothing bad about it. Green food galore. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!