Making a difference

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a challenging year to date. There is so much going on in the world that it can seem so bleak. And overwhelming. There has been much sadness and loss. But if you can look past that, there’s some positives too, in particular in relation to the environment.

Although some will still deny it, the climate is in crisis. But when humans went into lockdown, the natural world was gifted a much needed break. We used less resources, created less pollution and just had less of an impact on the environment. Animals roamed more freely, skies cleared and demand for oil dropped so much the price crashed.

But did this really make any difference? Well, apparently it did.

Have you heard of Earth Overshoot Day? It’s the day in the year when the human demand for natural resources and services exceeds what the earth can regenerate in a that year. Last year it was 29th July, which means we spent 5 months of the year taking more out of the environment than it could recover. That’s a shocking figure! In 2018 it was 1st August, 2017 – 2nd August. So as you can see, it was gradually getting worse each year.

This year, however, Earth Overshoot Day was 22nd August – that’s a big improvement, but still leaves 4 1/2 months of excess resource usage (especially now we’re out and about more!). So that’ still a big problem, but by the date moving so significantly (even though it wasn’t by design!) it shows that improvements are possible. If you want to find out how this was calculated, you can read about it here. Although I don’t think anybody will say that living with pandemic restrictions and related economic challenges is the best way to move forward!

Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. One of the biggies is also connected to how we can improve our health and resilience – eat a plant-based diet. Because plants agriculture uses less land and natural resources and produce less emissions than animal, changing to eating a plant-based diet has a direct impact on the environment. For the better. Which might not make much difference when one or two people change (although it still does) but when hundreds and thousands do, it can make a huge difference.

Which is why the groundswell in people looking to make positive changes to their diet is so exciting. It’s the slither of light in a otherwise dark and overwhelming problem. Every food choice can make a difference if we want it to. Even down to what milk you put in your coffee.

August 22nd was also World Plant Milk Day (an odd coincidence). The rise in demand for plant-based milks has led to a wave of disinformation questioning the environmental impact of plant milks. And of course there is some. But compared to dairy milk, it’s much less, especially when you look at the effect of huge, intensively farmed dairy herds that are increasingly found throughout the world. Have a look at this table to see the environmental impact of the most popular milks (including cow).

Seeing information like this shows the stark reality of our choices. And how those choices can make such a positive – and negative – impact. Certainly one of the things I love about plant-based eating (and there are many!) is that I know my choices are having a better impact on the world around me.

When I first changed to a plant-based diet, the information out there was limited. Now it’s everywhere, which is awesome as it makes it much easier, and more acceptable, to change. Plant-based food, ingredients and recipes are readily available – it really is the best time to eat more plants, especially as we are still mid-pandemic. Plant-baed eating boosts immunity and helps deal with chronic health issues, both big topics at the moment as well.

If you are looking to shift to plant-based eating but are still not sure where to start, or you have been trying but just can’t get inspired, then have a look at this amazing plant-based diet info stack – 22 incredible resources (courses, books, cooking classes, apps) that will definitely help you head in the right direction. It’s all online, so no physical resources used, and only $49 (approx £38). But it’s only available for another 48 hours though.*** I don’t normally promote things like this, but I can assure you it’s an amazing offer – and you’ll find a version of my course in there too! It’s a feel good offer for challenging times.

I hope in a few years time we can look back at 2020 and see it as a positive turning point, rather than the havoc and chaos we have today. I really do believe we can all make a difference in many ways but particularly by eating amazingly tasty whole plant foods. We have nothing to lose!

*** the plant-based diet info stack is available until 04.59 on 26th August – so grab it now!

 

 

The incredible rise of plant-based eating

If you’ve noticed lots of plant-based eating trivia in the news today, it’s because it’s World Vegan Day. Whilst the rise of plant-based eating may upset some, I for one am (unsurprisingly) delighted that more and more people, of all ages, are beginning to make changes to the way they eat.

Research by Waitrose (click here)  indicates that 1:8 people in the UK now classify themselves as vegetarian or vegan, with many more declaring they are ‘meat-reducers’. I’m sure the irony that the editor of Waitrose magazine resigned this week over his unnecessarily aggressive comments on vegans is not lost on them!

It’s amazing how quickly things have changed in a very short period of time. I think back to when I first started The Sensitive Foodie blog in 2012 – it was all shiny and new then! Now plant-based cookbooks are the third most popular genre and it’s even featured on Great British Bake-off! It’s now much easier to eat out, with most restaurants offering at least one option and supermarkets are employing chefs to develop new ranges of vegan ready meals.

And it’s not just the UK; the movement is growing throughout Europe and further afield.

Whilst detractors may dismiss these changes as a short-term fad fuelled by social media, there are many good solid reasons why people are making the move to a more plant-based lifestyle

  • Health. Basically, eating a diet that’s high in plant foods is good for you. And there’s piles of research that backs it up. In particular, a whole-food plant-based diet can be used to reverse chronic health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease and halt a whole host of other health challenges ranging from multiple sclerosis to cancer.
  • Weight. Eating plant-based food that is packed with fibre helps you lose weight. Lots of people who have come on my Eat Well Live Well course have had amazing success, some losing up to a stone in only three months. That’s eating whole plant-food not refined and processed ready meals. Sorry to be a bore, but junk food is still junk food!
  • Environment. Humans have a devastating impact on the world. The food industry, particularly animal-based food, uses huge amounts of natural resources and produces lots of waste. And an every-increasing world population that continues to pillage and pollute means the problem is only going to get worse unless action is taken. There are many things we can do as individuals to help care for our beautiful world; eating a plant-based diet has the most direct impact.
  • Animals. The internet has helped opened people’s eyes to the reality of using animals as food, something that many of us were brought up to believe was totally normal, natural and necessary. Footage of intensively farmed animals fighting to survive, processes in abattoirs or the heart-broken cry of a cow parted from her new-born calf is now readily available. And it’s making people think.

The food industry is changing too. As demand increases, so does the variety of products available. This year alone has seen a 61% increase in new vegan products on the market.

But a word of warning; if you are increasing the amount of plant-based food in your diet for your health or to lose weight, swapping to vegan versions of processed foods will not yield the results you are looking for. Many of these new products, or ‘accidently vegan’ products like Oreo cookies or Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream are packed with refined sugars and fats as well as food-like chemicals, just like their mainstream versions.

When I changed to a whole-food plant-based diet because of my food intolerances, there was much less to tempt me away – there just wasn’t the option. Now it’s much harder and I think I would struggle if my new ways of eating weren’t firmly established. My taste-buds are definitely attuned to whole foods; anything with refined sugar in is just way too sweet and not enjoyable at all.

The good thing about more options though is that it’s much easier to make positive changes. There are more resources available too, from organisations like Viva and Veganuary, on-line programmes and Facebook groups and a whole variety of cookery books. And websites, like The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen of course. My blog has a whole variety of simple but tasty recipes that have been road-tested and work, which is most important.

If you find the world of plant-based eating for health fascinating and want to read more, my new book The Sensitive Foodie: Eat Yourself Well will be for you. Being published early 2019, it covers all sorts of information you may not have come across before as well as over 100 recipes to try yourself at home.

In the meantime, if you’ve started your own plant-based journey, congratulations for taking action that helps not only yourself but the world around you. Happy eating!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating life on the veg

Today is World Vegan Day, a celebration of eating everything that plants have to offer. In fact, eating plant based is so awesome, the whole of November has been designated as World Vegan Month!

Veganism has become the fastest growing lifestyle movement in the UK – there are over 500,000 vegans, 3 1/2 times more than in 2006. Campaigns such as Veganuary and Meatless Monday have raised awareness and as more research reveals the damage caused by our Western diet, many are deciding to go and live life on the veg.

So what are the main reasons for this change in lifestyle?

1) Health – as the world gets fatter and sicker, many have looked to take control of their dietary choices and gone plant based. Of course, being vegan does not automatically mean healthy, as there are many highly processed, nutrient poor vegan options! That’s why I always harp on about eating whole food and plant based – that’s the healthy bit; and there’s loads of research out there that backs it up. After all, what we put in our bodies breaks down into chemical reactions at cellular level – whole foods maximise the nutrients for these reactions. So putting more of the good stuff in lessens the bad effects like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Which leads me to number two……

2) Weight loss – when I went dairy free, I lost weight. When I went mainly plant based, I lost more, even though I was eating, and enjoying, loads. I went from always being on a diet, to never having to think about weight gain. Nice! And I’m not alone. Research revealed that people who went on a vegan diet lost 5kg more than any other form of diet. But that’s as long as junk is taken out. No wonder it’s becoming popular with Beyonce and the like!

3) Animal welfare – traditionally one of the most important tenets of veganism, factory farms and poor treatment turns many off being meat eaters and on to the veg. Documentaries like Cowspiracy and Earthlings have had a major impact on it’s viewers. Short films showing the conditions and treatment of animals in industrial slaughter houses is enough to make that steak look less appealing. Even though my journey to eating mainly plant based was motivated by my food sensitivities, the things I have learnt about the meat industry has definitely changed my view point.

4) Environment – going plant based is the single most direct effect a person can have on the environment. Producing food from animals is so costly to the planet, using up massive amounts of land and water, and contributing more green house gases than transport. That’s why campaigns like Meatless Monday are important for our world – less contributes so much more!

Everyone has their own reason for going more plant based; the internet has really opened up the debate and this increase in numbers is making it more mainstream. We delve into this topic in more detail in my Eat Well Live Well course, starting again in the New Year if you’re interested in finding out more.

So why not have your own little celebration, raise a glass of (vegan) wine and enjoy living life on the veg!