Two week vegan challenge – done!

So I completed my two week vegan challenge.

I didn’t eat meat, fish, cheese, milk, chocolate, basically anything that contained animal products. This also included milk powder, honey, gelatine… oh yes, I went all in (or all out…). I wanted to do a recap post of how I found things, things I liked, didn’t like and what happens now.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

Bloating

I did not get on with chickpea or lentils. This is possibly because I went from full meat-eater to full legume consumer in a short amount of time. On my first few days I ate a lot of chickpeas. I saw them as a fantastic source of protein and something I could use to basically replace meat, cheese and eggs.

What I didn’t see coming (foolishly) is how that would hit my digestion. Within hours of eating I was VERY bloated. To the point that I went to bed looking pregnant. I’m lucky that I have a boyfriend that is apparently blind because although he couldn’t tell (pffft mere mortal man that he is) I could 100% tell and it made me feel quite low in self-esteem (I’m only human).

Vanity aside, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. My diet was never bad beforehand. I ate a lot of fruit and veg so adding more fibre-rich foods just overloaded my system. Getting real here, before the vegan diet I had a very nice regular toilet routine and rarely had any issues. Call me perfect poo Anna 😉 But add in a whole bunch more fibre and gaseous legumes and everything went out of whack. My system just was not happy and suddenly I felt very, well, backed up. I felt uncomfortably full all the time.

Potentially Expensive

So quickly chickpeas and lentils were removed. This massively improved things, but it did cause me a somewhat annoying issue of having to buy more expensive food items to fill in the chickpea holes.

I bought Linda McCartney sausages (GAME CHANGINGLY GOOD), kebab-style fake meat and relied more heavily on tofu.

Now I know that protein isn’t the be all and end all and we don’t need as much as protein powder companies and gym buffs would have us believe, but personally for me I work better on a higher protein lower carb diet. This new vegan diet however was a lot higher in carbs and a lot lower in protein. It was hard to find protein to slot in. But don’t get me wrong, meat is expensive too. I guess my issue is more than I couldn’t just throw cheese on things or have eggs – both are very cheap forms of protein/fat.

A Bit Boring

I found tofu very dull. I mean this is highly likely to be an experience thing and over time I’d get better, but honest to god it was dull. Not matter how many spices I threw on it, it just tasted very boring and the texture was a bit ehhhh.

I’m not a huge bread, pasta or rice eater so this left a lot of salads to eat at lunch…and salads that didn’t contain a huge amount in my eyes. Or soup. I got to eat a lot of soup as an easy filling lunch. Again this is down to experience but to make something I was going to enjoy required a lot of effort and thinking.

As a non-vegan I can whip up very boring and fairly bland meals but still really enjoy them – scrambled egg… chicken… tuna salads… I can eat this stuff for days. But without those options I was left a bit lost. I used butternut squash and sweet potato A LOT.

Hard Work

Now I know this would get better with experience and learning but for my two week stint, eating was hard work. Checking ingredients for anything non-vegan. Trying to find items that would be filling and not too fibre rich and not too expensive to add to meals. It just made eating difficult. It was a pain each night to think of exciting meals that would fill me up and not bloat me.

One of my favourite go-to meals was a sausage sandwich. But I missed eating lots of vegetables and not worrying about their compounding affect on my digestion.

Vegan Protein Powder

I tried two types. One upset my tummy (I tried Form Protein three times, and it just sat in my stomach like a rock) and one just tasted meh (MyProtein Vegan blend). It made eating porridge a bit sad for me.

Now onto the good…

Oat Milk

This is INCREDIBLE in tea. It really has changed my ways for good. I love it! It just upgrades a cup of tea. I probably won’t go out of my way in cafes to ask for it but if I notice they have it I’ll be getting it.

Linda McCartney Sausages

These are in my life for good. I used to eat a lot of the Heck chicken sausages but I’ll be replacing them with these one now. So tasty, so much flavour and FULL of protein.

Nutritional Yeast

Man this stuff is good. I was sprinkling it on everything. A small amount contains so much protein and B12 and FLAVOUR. Cheesy savoury goodness.

Vegan Meals Out

I enjoyed trying pulled BBQ jackfruit and I loved the seitan “chicken wings” I had at the Rockstone pub in Southampton.

Omg so good! Choosing something off a vegan menus is something I would NEVER have done before as I was worried it wouldn’t fill me up or be that exciting but after three different vegan meals out I can say that wasn’t the case.

And vegan cake is damn good too!

The only thing is, vegan cheese is not good. I’m sorry but it isn’t. I’m a blue cheese kind of girl. Strong mature cheddar. Goat’s cheese. Vegan cheese was literally fake cheese. Horrible. It didn’t taste of anything and it made me feel slightly queasy when I thought too hard about what it contained (you could argue that cheese made from animals should make me feel the same but as I don’t see eating animals as an issue this argument doesn’t work on me).

I Didn’t Miss Meat that Much

This was an eye opener. I didn’t crave meat. I didn’t miss it. The only times I missed it was really when I couldn’t think of something to throw together. Ordinarily I’d be throwing chicken into something and boom there’s a meal. But it was more the convenience of it than the taste (don’t get me wrong though, I bloody love chicken). What this has shown me is I can think outside the box and not just be lazy and reach for meat. I can eat a non-meat meal and still be full.

It has shown me though how much I love cheese. That I won’t be reducing! But meat, definitely. I can see several days in the week being meat-free. Chicken wings aren’t going anywhere though – if they’re on the menu, it’s likely I’ll be ordering them.

Overall, the two weeks taught me a lot. It helped me become more conscious of my animal product consumption. Showed me vegan food isn’t terrible (chickpeas aside) and helped me assess my diet going forward to a be a bit more environmentally conscious.

I raised a little bit of money for a local animal shelter too, so that’s bonus! (HERE’S the link if you’d like to sponsor!)

Have you ever changed your diet in a big way before?

Do you eat a lot of meat?

Do you eat a lot of cheese?

Romsey Beer Race 2019

The Romsey Beer race is a race I’ve done four times before and I truly love it.It’s such a lovely local race with great atmosphere, a beautiful route through Braishfield and of course a cake and beer at the end.

I’ve actually done really well at it each year I’ve done it – placing either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.But going into the race this year things weren’t going to be the same. I was nursing a bit of a hamstring niggle and in all honestly probably should sit the race out to look after it. But the thought of not running it brought a lot more sadness than the thought of running it and not being able to run after. It was a risk and one I decided to take. It was Kyle’s first time doing this race, my parents and his family were going to support… I won’t lie, I’d have felt like shit just watching and not running.

So on the Sunday we arrived in Braishfield. It was fairly overcast but still a little warm. Not as bad as some years though (especially last year which was so hot). It’s such a small and local event that it has a handful of porter toilets and a very easy-going approach to the start, which I love. It’s chip timed though so that’s a win. There’s a water station that you pass twice which is always appreciated (though plastic cups… better than bottles but still).

Now realistically I should have just enjoyed a gentle plod round but as every time I’ve ever run this race I’ve always gone for it I decided to not break the routine. It’s the one short distance race that I actually enjoy pushing myself on. I don’t know why. Maybe because I know the pain points and I know I won’t explode running fast because I’ve survived many times before.

Kyle and I did a little warm-up, said hello to running friends (fellow blogger Big Mug of Tea was doing the race for the second time – spoiler: she smashed her PB!) and then got to the start. The start is on a flat field where you have to do one lap before heading out onto the road. This is the only race I feel somewhat comfortable with going near the front. I feel somewhat justified as I’ve placed a few times before… I was eyeing up other girls wondering how fast they’d be. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything crazy considering my hamstring issue but I wanted to at least give myself a good chance. It’s like this race turns me into a weirdly competitive person that isn’t normally present at running events.

I knew I’d need to put my foot down straight away from the start because the first mile or so is relatively flat and then there are some nasty hills, so it’s best to get some speed in while you can. So off we went around the field before meeting the road. We turned the corner and I got to wave to Kyle’s family and my parents as they cheered us on. I heard them shout for Kyle very soon after so knew he wasn’t too far behind.

My first mile was 6:40 and I felt like this was within the realms of my capability. I could feel my hamstring a little –  not painful or hindering but just THERE saying “remember me”. I knew there was at least one girl ahead of me and as we got into a consistent pace two other girls passed me. So it goes! I wondered if I would catch them up later. We hit the hill and it was a long slog to the top. Oof why do I love this race so much?? Thankfully we got a nice downhill to enjoy afterwards and I managed to overtake one of the girls. Another girl sped past me but she shouted to us that she wasn’t racing and to ignore her – she was running under a man’s bib. I was nice of her to tell us but a bit confusing.

The route goes in a sort of two loop style thing and is all on road. The road isn’t closed off but the marshals do a good job in managing any cars (of which there were very few). It’s a lovely countryside quaint little British town so it’s very quiet. The locals come out and cheer and one house always sprays their hose pipe which is a welcome relief when it’s super hot.

Because of how the course goes you get to see your supports a number of times. It was really encouraging and nice to hear Kyle being cheered on very quickly after me. Though it did help me keep my pace up for fear of him catching up! 😉 A lot of my club do this race so there are always friendly faces about the place – another reason I love this race.

Thanks Mr Big Mug of Tea for the photos!

Another girl overtook me and I knew any placing was becoming out of reach. That’s OK, I was going a lot faster than I’d expected. My hamstring was still there as a persistent annoyance but still nothing to make me super concerned. The final mile felt like a long drag. I knew there were three girls ahead of me (as well as the non-racing girl) and the third girl was just ahead. She was about 5-10 seconds away. Could I make it? It felt like such an ask. Everyone was cheering me on and I tried and tried to not let my pace drift backwards.

We turned around the corner onto the cricket pitch where you do a final lap before finishing (such a tease). My friend Mark who’d already finished was shouting at me to push on and try and catch her. I tried one final push but just couldn’t get close enough and on the final 200 metres I just lost it and my speed drifted away as I lost my energy. She was the stronger runner, kudos to her. She finished 5 seconds ahead.

The difference between me getting a trophy (or a tankard in this case) and not, ahh well I tried! My time was 33:46 – which means I beat last year’s time by one second.

I was initially (and in a very silly way) disappointed not to have maintained my streak of placing in the top three but when I took a step back I realised I achieved a lot more than I’d initially thought by a) even running it and b) being faster than last year.

My hamstring wasn’t too bad afterwards. I mean it felt like it had been worked hard but I wasn’t limping or anything like that. It wasn’t painful to walk, for that I was glad.

Kyle finished soon after me and was happy with his 34:27 time.

We headed over to the cake and beers and I got a slice of lemon cake and a beer (which, as usual tradition of this race dictates, I gave to my dad after I had a few sips).

Fantastic supporters!

It was nice to chill for a bit on the cricket pitch and cheer in other runners and chat in the sunshine. Another part of why I love this race.

Then we headed home so Kyle and I could quickly shower and head to our local pub, The Osborne View, for some lunch with my parents.

As it was the last day of my non-vegan status I went the full hog (ha) and had a double portion of the chicken wings. It was glorious.

Is there a race you do every year because you love it?

What’s your favourite pre-race food?

Would you rather a medal or a cake/beer?

Week one of being a vegan

I went into my vegan challenge feeling quite smug and happy. I’d meal prepped like a boss. I had replacement snacks. I was good to go. 

As someone who is very routine-based with the meals I eat during the week (same breakfast, same lunch, similar snacks) I just had to replace them with vegan alternatives. I had my meal pan for the week and felt confident.

Breakfast was easy. I just swapped my whey protein powder in my porridge with a vegan version. I used almond milk already so that was fine.

The Form vegan protein I tried initially (chocolate salted caramel flavour) was delicious and gave a good consistency to my porridge (super stodgy, which I love) but I didn’t feel great afterwards. I felt a little sick and like it was a rock in my tummy.

The MyProtein Vegan protein powder however sat far better in my stomach. Sadly the taste was far inferior (I had the chocolate flavour). For feeling better afterwards though, I’ll stick with the MyProtein.

For lunches at work I’d meal prepped a roasted beetroot, butternut squash salad with an olive oil based dressing (getting my calories wherever I can!) for two days and a lentil chickpea curry for three days. The beetroot meal was delicious, filling and left me feeling good.

The curry was a different story. While very tasty and filling, it left me feeling extremely bloated and very, well, windy. I probably further compounded this issue by then having a vegan salad on the same day when Kyle and I went to the cinema. As it’s only around 220 calories I decided to throw in a load of chickpeas to bulk it out and up the protein.

This meant that on Wednesday I felt dreadful. I don’t mean to go too much TMI here but I was literally needing to fart ALL THE TIME. This is awkward when you work among people in an office. I kept having to go to the loo or just hold them in which just made me feel even worse. I looked pregnant as well how much my stomach was bloating.

For Wednesday dinner Kyle and I went to a pizza place called Popsi’s in Southampton before we saw the Bodyguard music show and I was able to have something non-bean related.

I had a mushroom fake cheese bread starter, followed by a pizza with fake pepperoni, chicken and cheese on it and then churro nuggets with a hazelnut chocolate sauce (all vegan of course).It was quite nice (to be honest, at this point I was happy with anything that wasn’t a salad or a chickpea) but it tasted very “samey”.

Like the meat was all very tasteless and the cheese wasn’t cheesy at all. I enjoyed it don’t get me wrong, but it definitely was more of a “better than nothing” rather than a “better than the real thing” kind of meal.

The churros though were GOOD. Blobs of sugary chocolaty goodness.
Sick of feeling bloated, the next day needed a change. I had my lentil curry lunch planned but I couldn’t face it so popped it into the freezer.

My dad gave me an onion soup he had in the fridge and I made a little salad to go with it (#health). I felt SO much better. It wasn’t the best lunch in the world and it contained minimal protein but I enjoyed it and it caused ZERO bloating issues.

I caved by Friday and bought a fake meat substitute to throw in a salad. A kebab style meat thing from Vivera. Their range looks really good and it was really nice. I’d go as far to say that I’d eat this after my vegan challenge. It’s quite expensive though (£3 for a pack and I ate it in one…).

Unfortunately I didn’t read that you had to cook it before eating!! But it tasted fine and I had no ill effects… it’s entirely plant-based so?

Dinner-wise, well I’ve been out twice so that’s helped. Monday night I didn’t fancy what I had planned so ended up with soup with added chickpeas (the start of the chickpea saga…).

Thursday night I had a tofu based meal. I threw in lots of veg and peanut butter to make a sauce and bulk it out a bit and it worked well. But the tofu was a bit bland and sad. I need to work on this as I know I can make it better.

The weekend is where it got tricky. I’m used to having exciting and fun meals… I’ll usually have an Indian takeaway (I love tandoori chicken on the bone) and I’ll probably go out for a meal or two.

Well we still went out for food on Saturday but I just made sure it was vegan-friendly. This did mean we were limited on where we could go and when we turned up and it was absolutely rammed we had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table instead of just going somewhere else like we would normally have done.

The restaurant was the Southsea Village which, after eventually getting a table, was really nice. I went for BBQ pulled jack fruit burger and BBQ pulled jack fruit loaded fries, having been told jack fruit was amazing.

And it was! It was so tasty and had a meaty texture. It was lovely. But because it was essentially the same thing for both it quickly became very samey. I should have chosen a different burger (there were a few vegan options) but I wanted to avoid anything bean-related.

A big upset was getting a cafe we know and love and finding out that the vegan cakes had sold out. Kyle was lovely and offered to not get anything but I told him one of us had to enjoy a slice of cake at least!

Honestly this was the hardest part of the week, watching him eat a slice of cake I could have happily destroyed. I did have a very silly moment of wanting to cry when I saw how good it looked but I quickly pulled myself together. It’s just two weeks, Anna!

Anyway, on to week 2. I’m still going strong, though I have to say it’s a lot harder than I thought.

Have you ever gone vegan?

What’s your go-to easy meal?

Have you ever tried a vegan cake?

Keto 101: Everything You Need to Know

I have a contributed post today talking about the keto diet. I rarely change the way I eat (says the girl who’s currently on a two week vegan challenge…) but I love reading about different diets. I find it fascinating when people take such drastic approaches, such as cutting out groups of food or having a different perspective on the way they eat. And what works for one might not work for another. But it’s interesting anyway! So here we go…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ll know about keto diets or at least have heard of them. They’ve taken the world by storm with their ability to burn fat without being hungry or feeling deprived like typical low fat diets, eating while losing weight sounds too good to be true but it’s easy to wrap your head around once you know the science. Here’s everything you need to know!

What are keto diets and ketosis?

Keto plans work by reducing your carbohydrate intake. With limited carbohydrates, your body switches to burning its own fat supplies for fuel- meaning your weight loss efforts are increased. This process puts your body in a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’, you can check if you’re in ketosis using simple urine analysis strips available at any chemist.

How does it work?

Imagine your body like a fridge freezer. Your carbohydrates are like the fridge section, easily accessible and when they’re available they will be your body’s first choice for fuel. Your fat supplies are like the freezer- the backup supply. Once the ‘fridge’ is empty, the body will utilise what’s in the ‘freezer’. It breaks down this stored fat and uses it for energy, including energy need at rest such as digestion, brain activity and more. This makes it much easier to lose weight compared to a traditional low fat low calorie diet.

Is it safe?

Ketosis is a perfectly safe and natural process for your body, as humans it’s exactly how we were designed. We store fat to be used as fuel so we have energy even when food supplies are scarce. Ketosis can sometimes be confused with ‘ketoacidosis’ which is a serious complication which people with diabetes can get. But despite sounding similar, they’re completely different things. The process of your body switching from carbohydrates to its own fat supplies for fuel can be a little gruelling, many people feel a little dizzy, tired and headachy for a couple of days. However, once the body is fat adapted and reaches ketosis these side effects disappear and you feel much like your normal self again.

How easy are keto plans to follow?

Keto plans tend to be very easy to follow. While you’re cutting out much of an entire food group (carbs) you have plenty of fat, dairy and protein options which are filling, satisfying and taste great. While it’s not an invitation to eat to excess, you don’t have to count calories and can eat until your satiated meaning there’s less temptation to cheat.

One of the symptoms of ketosis is reduced hunger, this is because without carbohydrates there are no spikes in your blood sugar. It’s these spikes that cause cravings and hunger pangs, so without them you’ll notice a definite improvement in your appetite if you’re prone to overeating. Because there are so many available things you can eat and so many great recipe ideas online, you shouldn’t get bored.

On top of this, it’s the kind of diet where you can still go out and eat and enjoy food with friends. Invited to a barbecue? Tuck into the meat and enjoy with some salad and just avoid the bread (be sure to avoid sugary marinades). If you go to a restaurant, ask for your side of potatoes to be replaced with some low carb veggies like broccoli- just be wary of added sugars or carbs in gravy or sauces. Restaurants are very accommodating and can remove these, or at least let you know what’s in them if you ask.

Can vegans follow a keto plan?

Following a keto plan as a vegan is certainly possible. There are more challenges here, since many keto followers do tend to use meat, fish eggs and dairy as their primary food sources. However you do still have options- coconut products, oils, nuts and seeds, non starchy vegetables, vegan protein sources like tofu and tempeh and vegan ‘full fat dairy’ such as cashew butter and vegan cream cheese are all on the menu. The best thing you can do is log your macros on a site like MyFitnessPal, make sure you’re keeping your carbs low enough while hitting all of your nutritional needs.

Are there any side effects

There are a few side effects of ketosis. One thing that just about everyone will experience is changed in their breath, that’s because when the body burns fat it created ketones and some of the byproducts aren’t used by the body. They’re excreted through urine and the breath, a lot of people report a ‘fruity’ smell or an acetone like smell like nail polish remover. You can relieve this symptom by chewing parsley or chewing sugar free gum. Feeling cold is another common side effect. For the most part, you won’t feel all that different when you’re in ketosis and for the majority of people, the minor side effects are worth it for the ability to lose weight more effectively.

Can I still exercise?

Yes, you can still exercise when you’re in ketosis and you should- exercise is useful for everyone. However there’s one main thing to bear in mind, and that’s the body can take a little longer to fuel your body with energy from fat. There’s a reason why athletes ‘carb load’ before a workout, it provides instant and accessible fuel for energy. When you’re in ketosis, you don’t have that instantly accessible fuel. For this reason, you might feel a little light headed if you suddenly start exercising intensely. Warm up first, and stick with moderate paced activities rather than intense exercise. Swimming, cycling, even jogging is still fine, but sprinting, hiit workouts and other very intense exercise might not be the best choice in keto.

Resistance training is a great choice when you’re following a keto plan, try out the weights machines in the gym or use Resistance bands by OriGym at home to tone up your muscles. With so much protein in your diet you’ll recover quickly, and added muscle will boost your metabolism and burn even more fat.

Have you ever followed a keto plan?

Going vegan

If you’ve read my blog for a while, or know me even a little bit, you’ll know when it comes to food that I’m a) very greedy and b) a big meat lover.

Chicken wings, ribs, bacon, sausages, gammon, roast dinners, BBQs… I love it all. I openly admit that I eat a lot of meat. I have quite a bit appetite and am definitely more of a protein fan than a carb fan. That said, it’ll be a rare occasion that I’ll say no to cake. God I love cake.

Eating 40 chicken wings…

I know that eating a lot of meat is not great for the environment. I don’t live in a box. I know this. As humans, we eat too much of it. The way we farm animals isn’t great either. Animals are not treated with the respect they deserve. Though I won’t go as far to say we shouldn’t use animals as food, I do believe we could be doing it better for the animals’ welfare. And I’m guilty of putting my head in the sand on this front. Sure I’ll try and find free range products where I can but sometimes I’ll reach for whatever’s cheapest or easiest, and I eat out in restaurants a lot and many of them I’m sure are not ethically minded (Nando’s I’m looking at you).

So I decided to see what it would be like to be vegan for two weeks. It would be a (big) challenge to myself and also I could raise some money for a local animal shelter (the Stubbington Ark) –> please sponsor me if you can HERE. Yes of course I could do this in stages and gradually reduce meat and dairy etc. but I want this to be a shock to the system. Force me out of my comfort zone and hit my hard. I need a big shake up. Something to get me thinking, researching, planning and reinvigorating my love of cooking.

Supermarket haul

I also want to be see if I can take anything away from my two weeks. Make any long term changes. Changes I wouldn’t normally try because I’ve become so dependent on animal products. But now I can really test things out and force myself out of my usual routine and habits and open my mind to other options.

I knew going into this I had to be prepared. I researched what I could and couldn’t eat. I found recipes, created myself a Pinterest Board (check it out HERE), planned my meals for the first week and meal prepped like a boss on Sunday. If I was going to succeed and do this properly I needed to have a plan.I planned out the meals I’d be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next five days.

Breakfast was easy. I always eat porridge with almond milk. I currently add whey protein to it but I obviously wouldn’t be able to use that anymore. So I did a little bit of research online and decided that though I’d heard amazing things about the Awesome Supplements Vegan Protein it was just too expensive. Spending £26 (plus postage) for a tub was a lot. I’m used to spending about £12. So instead I went with the MyProtein Vegan Protein Powder. I’m happy to give it a go for the cost – I hate food waste so I’ll be using it up even if it’s not that great, don’t worry! Who knows, I might even change my whey protein habits.

Lunches I meal prepped on Sunday… lentil, chickpea curries and a beetroot and roast vegetable salad.

Dinners this week are actually easy as we went to the cinema on Tuesday night (we always get a Subway to eat during the trailers and they have vegan options now) and Wednesday we’re out and I’ve found a vegan-friendly restaurant.

I’ll do a post in more detail of how I’ve found it and the things I’ve been eating soon…

Again, HERE’s my sponsor page for a very good cause.

Are you a vegan/vegetarian?

Have you ever gone vegan?

Would you struggle?