Monday, 17 June 2019

Yes I'm an Essex Girl | Breaking the Essex girl stereo type

Essex girl, beauty ideals, being individual, natural beauty, feminism, being you, Michelle Louise Love

I live in Essex and was born here, so to say the image that people have of Essex bothers me, is an understatement. The rest of the country seem to have a grossly inaccurate view of the female population of our county. The common misconceptions of what the ladies of Essex look like is only further confused by the likes of shows such as Towie, Ex on the beach, and celebs go dating, which feature illiterate, rude, disrespectful and extremely plastic enhanced human beings.

Changing the Essex girl portrayal

Contrary to popular belief we do not all have fake breasts, hair extensions and skin of a similar shade as a tangerine. The majority of us actually favour the natural beauty look and are shunning the barbie doll image that seems to make its way onto the TV shows, and I admit I may swear at the television every time another trashy illiterate person from Essex pops up on the screen. Far be it that all people from Essex are like that, just a lot of the ones who are desperate to be famous for doing nothing other than getting drunk and disorderly.

There seems to be a bit of a divide between women who want to look beautiful and women who want to look fake. Television and the internet are littered with many young women who are having so much surgery that they are totally unrecognisable from their natural selves, and it's often not in a good way. I am not one of those people against cosmetic surgery, far from it, in the words of Hailee Steinfield "it's ok if you want to change the body that you came in" but seriously now there surely has to be a limit to that.

We are not all barbie dolls

If you scroll through Instagram you will come across hundred of women with the tiniest nose and huge lips pouting on your screen. The parameters of surgical enhancement seem to be changing so dramatically that people don't even look normal anymore! Their noses look similar to what you would see on a barbie doll, and their lips have been injected to 3 times their normal size so much so that they start developing the duck face, but because so many people are doing it, it's become today's "normal". 

Consequently it's people like this that are shaping the women of tomorrow and that doesn't sit well with me. Whilst chatting to a work colleague she mentioned how seriously her 6 year old daughter takes choosing an outfit for non school uniform day, and another was told by her young daughter that she doesn't want her hair in pigtails for school because she doesn't want to look cute!! And yet another caught her 6 year old daughter rolling up her school skirt to make it shorter. I personally find this incredibly worrying, young girls are so impressionable and are being bombarded with images of fake unnatural and often unattainable beauty. Society is teaching them that it's normal to want to change every single bit about your physical appearance until you fit the mould, and it's all about what you look like rather than about what you know and are capable of. We should be teaching our girls to be strong, smart, savvy and in control, and that they are capable regardless of what they look like.

Are orange stained palms a statement of beauty in these here parts? It seems that the women of Essex are addicted to having bronzed skin and regularly use fake tan to give them darker skin and small fake tan streaks are worn like a badge of honour! I have lost count of the amount of times I've been told I'm so pale and I think it's just stupid. I'm a fair skinned white female, my skin isn't meant to be dark and I'm not ashamed of that, just as someone who has dark skin shouldn't be ashamed of who they are either. These are the small differences that make us unique and interesting, that mark the difference in race and ethnicity. Why would we all want to look the same and lose part of who we are?

Shockingly, fake tan sales in Essex Asda stores soared by 80% a week ahead of the debut of a new season of The Only Way is Essex back at the start of September 2016, as women in the county tried to emulate their favourite cast members. I suppose you could argue it's better than people trying to tan their skin on sunbeds, but I still question why there is so much pressure to have darkly tanned skin anyway? I fully support the likes of Em Ford of the blog "My Pale Skin" for speaking out against the pressure to have darker skin. She has also fallen victim of people telling her she's too pale, like it's a crime to be naturally fair skinned! It irritates me that it's just another way that people are being pushed towards some kind of beauty ideal, rather than us all being celebrated for our differences.

Yes I am a woman of Essex, but I am proud to not portray myself in the way that the rest of the country have come to know of us. I don't wear, let alone own hair extensions. I find false eyelashes annoying and uncomfortable, I can't be bothered to fake tan every few days, nor do I own a contour palette to make my nose appear slimmer! I am who I am, I'm not perfect and never will be so I don't buy into chasing the current beauty ideal because it's a race I will never win. I am not beautiful to everyone, but I am beautiful to some and that's all that matters!

If you liked this post don't forget to share it on social media or leave me a comment below.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Which Vegan Milk Is Best? | Full Guide to Plant Milk

The demand for plant based milks is staggering, the increase in sales has grown exponentially in recent years and continues to rise. In 2017 the sales of vegan milk hit £367 million in the UK, that's an increase of 30% between 2015-2017, and globally the industry is estimated to be worth a colossal $16bn!

Producing cows milk emits four times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than plant milk production, so the shift in popularity is being driven by people's concern for the environment, predominantly 16-24 year old's who in a recent study 46% of them said they felt the current food system is unfair to the environment.

The range of plant milks is a little overwhelming, with pretty much any plant product becoming fair game to be milked. So how on earth do you choose between the ever expanding options available?

Well settle down in a comfy spot and grab yourself a cuppa because this is going to be a long one, as we dive into the world of plant milks and compare which really is best. Unless you're just here to find out which milk is best in tea, then that answer is simple. Most people prefer soy or oat milk for tea as they both have mild inoffensive flavours that won't ruin the taste of your PG Tips!

best plant milk, best vegan milk,

Is vegan milk better than dairy?

Is vegan milk better for the environment? Absolutely it is! Soy milk for instance produces 2 and a half times less CO2 emissions than dairy, it also uses two times less land and four times less water, some other plant milks have an even better footprint and research is always being done into more sustainable ways to produce plant milks.

Is vegan milk better for you? Yes, it most certainly is! Adult humans aren't supposed to drink milk, once we are weaned as babies our bodies lose the ability to process lactose, which is why more and more people are realising that they are lactose intolerant and it causes symptoms like stomach aches, sickness, bloating and diarrhoea. Dairy has also been linked to causing acne, with many people noticing significant improvements in their skin when they cut out milk and cheese. We have always been lead to believe that milk is great for our bones, but studies have shown that countries with little to no intake of dairy have vastly lower rates of osteoporosis and the countries who consume the most milk, cheese and ice cream have the highest rates of the disease! Studies have also shown that drinking lots of dairy results in higher rates of heart disease and cancer, and when you pair this with the fact that the dairy you consume contains the antibiotics pumped into all cattle, the question is why would you want to drink milk? Dairy really is scary.

Soy Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 39 cals | 1.8g Fat | 2.5g Carbs | 3g Protein 

One of the oldest plant milks in the world, it has been produced in China since the 14th century. Today it is a staple in coffee shops and homes around the globe. Soy milk is a popular choice and by today's standards has quite a mild flavour so lends itself well to being used in hot drinks. It can easily be used in recipes that call for cows milk and it's fairly high in protein. Alpro soya light is my personal favourite in tea and can be likened to semi skimmed cows milk.
Impact on environment: Soy milk production is a little higher than oat and almond milk in terms of emissions, however the land and water usage are fairly low, Alpro is one of the biggest suppliers of soy milk in the UK and they source the majority of their soybeans from France not the rain-forests of the Amazon. 

Almond Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 13 cals | 1.3g Fat | 0g Carbs | 0.5g Protein 

Roasted, unroasted, sweetened, unsweetened..... So many options! Almond milk has grown to be the biggest selling plant milk, in the US it has 64% of the market share. It's rich in Vitamin E which is great for your skin and helps lower inflammation. 
Avoid the sweetened varieties if possible as they are full of sugar and almond milk is tasty enough without this addition. It's low in calories and carbs so makes a great base for smoothies and makes a pretty nice latte. The mild almond flavour goes well in porridge and on cereal and it can be used in baking.
Impact on environment: Almond milk is obviously lower impact than dairy milk, the emissions of almond milk production are lowest out of the 4 big plant milks, (Soy, Rice, and Oat) but it does require the most water, a glass of almond milk requires 74 litres of water to produce which is about the same as an average shower. UK giant Alpro source their almonds from the Mediterranean so the food miles are lower than if they were coming from California which is known for producing the majority of the worlds almonds.  

Rice Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 50 cals | 1g Fat | 9.9g Carbs | 0.1g Protein

Rice milk is a good alternative if you have a nut allergy and like to avoid soy products, it's pretty high in carbs and higher in calories per 100ml when compared to soy or almond. Rice milk has a very thin consistency and naturally sweet flavour which might not be to everyone's taste.
Impact on environment: Rice milk is higher on the emissions and water scale than soy, almond and oat milk but requires the least amount of land. 

nut milk, vegan milk, which vegan milk is best

Oat Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 57 cals | 2.8g Fat | 6.6g Carbs | 1g Protein

Oat milk is becoming more of a popular choice and I have seen it being used in a lot of coffee shops now. Oat milk has quite a rich and creamy flavour which some people might find a bit much, myself included, but oat milk giants Oatly now do whole, semi and skimmed versions. This is probably quite positive as the regular oat milk is quite high in fat and carbs when compared to it's counterparts.
Impact on environment: Oat milk is arguably the best for the environment as its production is low on emissions, land use and water.

Cashew Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 23 cals | 1.1g Fat | 2.6g Carbs | 0.5g Protein

Cashew milk is really quite rich and creamy so this might limit its uses, I personally wouldn't use it in tea and I find it a bit rich for coffee as well. It goes nicely on cereal though and would probably be quite nice in your porridge. It's surprisingly low in calories and fat, considering how calorific cashew nuts are and for how creamy it tastes.
Impact on environment: Cashew nuts are relitively eco friendly to grow, they don't require as much water as the almond for instance and they help to prevent soil erosion. However most cashew nuts are grown in North Africa, India and Vietnam so they are certainly not doing any favours on the food mile battle if you live in the UK or US. In addition to this, once they are harvested they are very labour intensive to get to the point where they can be sold. Most cashew nuts are shelled by hand and the workers can experience injuries from doing this day in day out. There are some dark secrets the cashew nut trade is hiding regarding this, so from a human rights perspective cashew milk is probably another one that should be saved for special occasions rather than being your go to milk of choice.

Coconut Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 20 cals | 0.9g Fat | 2.7g Carbs | 0.1g Protein

Coconut milk is delicious, but it does have quite a strong flavour so isn't a good choice for tea and will impart a very coconutty flavour on your coffee which isn't such a bad thing. Its uses are limited due to its strong flavour, don't use it in any baked goods you don't want to have a coconut undertone. It does make a good smoothie though especially if paired with pineapple or banana.
Impact on environment: Coconuts have low water needs however with the growth in popularity of the fruit it is having an effect on the way it's grown. As coconut trees get older they become less productive so farmers have to keep planting more to keep up their production levels. It's also grown in a monoculture which can harm biodiversity, not to mention that coconuts are only grown in the tropics, most often Indonesia which means that it's travelling a long way before it makes it to your table. Coconut milk should probably be a supplementary milk that you use rather than to fulfil your main needs.

Hemp Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 24 cals | 1.8g Fat | 1.9g Carbs | 0.5g Protein

Hemp milk is definitely one of the healthier plant milks, hemp is a complete protein as it contains all of the essential amino acids, it's high in omega 3 and 6, it has a creamy flavour and is rich in calcium.
Impact on environment: The environmental impact is quite low, the cannabis plant is used for many different things now so the whole plant is harvested and used for various products such as clothing, CBD oil, and cosmetics, so very little is wasted. The plant itself it very hardy so doesn't require much in the way of pesticides, it also filters carbon dioxide out of the air which is good for the atmosphere.

Hazelnut Milk

Nutrition per 100ml: 29 cals | 1.6g Fat | 3.1g Carbs | 0.4g Protein

Hazelnut milk has a very strong nutty flavour, so not one for your cup of tea. It is very tasty though and goes well on cereal and in smoothies. Hazelnut milk seems to be quite high in carbs, the nutritional value above is based on Alpro hazelnut milk but I did notice quite a variation between brands. Innocent's version is a lot higher in calories, fat and carbs per 100ml, so you need to be careful when choosing the brand of milk as they are not all created equal.
Impact on environment: Hazelnut trees are very sustainable, they don't use much water and are drought resistant. They also sequester carbon back into the soil therefore improving its quality and they help reduce soil erosion. So they are a pretty good crop for the environment.

Pea Milk

Nutrition per 100ml:  35cals | 2g Fat | 0.9g Carbs | 3.2g Protein

Pea's require 85% less water to grow than almonds and are high in protein, but they have a chalky, powdery taste which you will already know if you use pea protein powders. Having said that, it is the highest in protein per 100ml compared to the other alternatives, but seeing as we don't need as much protein in a day as we are lead to believe, I'm not sure if this is really that much of a pro. I think taste and sustainability are the most important factors.
Impact on environment: Peas don't usually need artificial fertiliser and require little irrigation so are economical to grow, the only thing to look out for would be where they are being grown to minimise food miles.

Is homemade nut milk healthier?

Not necessarily. Generally we believe that home making anything tends to be healthier than the store bought version because it will be free of additives, preservatives, chemicals and all those hidden nasties that find their way into mass produced food. 

However with making your own plant based milks this isn't always the case, if you make your own then yes it will be free from anything other than nuts and filtered water which is a good thing. The bad side to this is that most plant based milks have been fortified with things like calcium, B12 and Vitamin D so if you do embark on making your own milk please take into consideration where else in your diet you'll be getting these vitamins and minerals. 

For instance, I drink soy milk in my tea and have a few cups per day so I'm getting my B12 requirements just by doing something I would always do on a daily basis anyway, if I was to swap that to a home made milk then I would need to add B12 into my diet either by a supplement or by eating nutritional yeast nearly every day.

But if you are interested in making your own nut milk, it's certainly satisfying to make things yourself. Here are a couple of the items you'll need to get started:

High speed blender- this is essential for blending your nuts into a smooth mixture, a BlendTec, Vitamix or a NutriBullet are the best options here. BlendTec and Vitamix have both been tested blending an enormous amount of items (not all food, they can blend mobile phones into dust) and they are really good quality blenders but they are more pricey. A Nutribullet will do the job ok if you are looking for something a little cheaper.

Nut milk bags - once you've blended your nuts with water, you'll need to strain the mixture to separate the pulp from the milk. You'll need bags like these ones on Amazon for under £7.

Does vegan milk froth?

Yes some vegan milks froth well and others won't froth at all. Plant based milks all differ quite a lot, some are very thin whilst others have a thicker consistency. Basically the higher the fat content of the milk the more chance of it creating a good enough froth fit for a cappuccino.
The top 4 milks for frothing and using in coffee are soy, almond, oat and coconut, unlike dairy these milks shouldn't be heated to more than 60 degrees Celsius or they might split. Heat them slowly without introducing too much air for the best foam.

There are barista versions available for some plant based milks that have added ingredients to enable them to froth better, if you're just using the milk for home use then I don't think there is much point in this, it's more for coffee shops and restaurants. 

So there we have it, the low down on all things plant based milk, hopefully you found this helpful and can go forth and find your favourite!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Going Vegan | Week One Shopping List

In my last post I wrote a quick start guide to going vegan, there is a lot to think about if you are considering a vegan lifestyle. So if you've decided to take the plunge and need a helping hand with your first week, I have created a vegan shopping list and meal plan to get you through those first 7 days.

I have deliberately kept it simple, there are no fancy time consuming recipes. Everything is quick and easy and designed to make sure it fits into your life without additional effort. Plant based diets can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, some people make their nut milks from scratch and fiddle about making their own Seitan, which is fine if you have the time to do that, then by all means. But my meal plan is no fuss, and involves a couple of batch cooks so you can make more than one meal ahead of time.

Once you have got through your first week you can easily start adding some more fancy meals and recipes into your repertoire.

You are more than welcome to pick whichever vegan sausages, burgers and mince you like to use in the recipes, I have included a couple of my picks below.


Tesco Meat Free Mince  This mince isn't the most realistic, but it is really good value for money and does quite well for quick cook dishes. Also because it's frozen you only need to cook what you need so no waste.

Meat Free Farm Mince This stuff is crazy good and in an ideal world I would only use this one for all my mince requirements but it's currently not available in all supermarkets so I have to make a special trip to Sainsbury's for it. But trust me, it's totally worth it. Not only does it look like real mince it has a great texture that is so realistic.

Plant Kitchen Mince from Marks and Spencer. Sadly I can't link to this item because M&S don't do online groceries. I have used this mince before and it is quite good, it doesn't come in the most generous sized pack though.

The above the ones I have personally tried and can vouch for, however every supermarket out there does vegan mince now, just be aware that Quorn mince isn't vegan and in my opinion wasn't that nice anyway as far as I remember.

Below is the selection of mince just from Sainsbury's, and they have loads to choose from. No easier time to be vegan!

Vegan Mince range at Sainsbury's.


Linda McCartney Sausages are such a staple, they are tasty but not necessarily the most realistic sausage on the market now. However they do come with the bonus of being frozen so you only cook what you need and you can always have them on standby.

Shroomdogs by Sainsbury's are a firm favourite of mine and I buy these quite a lot. They have such a good flavour and they are quite realistic as well.

Veggie Kitchen Sausages from FarmFoods are another great choice, obviously frozen which is convenient. They have a good texture and a nice herby flavour.

Lastly, it'll be another pick from Marks and Spencer's Plant Kitchen. Their Sausoyges are very nice and again pretty realistic when compared to a pork sausage, they are a little bit pricier than the other brands though.


Linda McCartney 1/4 pounders are a good choice, frozen for convenience and a good price.

Vivera Burgers are really nice and I buy these often. They have a lovely meaty flavour and texture.

Meat Free Farm do burgers as well as mince so as you would expect the texture is on point! 

For the veggie curry, pick a jar of sauce to your liking, these ones below are all vegan:

Use cubed potato, chickpeas, carrots and any other veg you fancy and top with the sauce. Cook until all veggies are soft and serve with your chosen rice whether it's brown or white.

On the shopping list I have put a Chilli con carne spice sachet, I use the one by Colmans as it doesn't have any hidden milk powder. You obviously don't have to use a sachet mix, if you have all of the spices needed then by all means make it from scratch. The main reason I chose a sachet is for speed and ease, but you can adapt the plan if you would rather cook the chilli or indeed the curry without a pre-made mix.

Good luck with your first week, if you follow my plan let me know how you get on. I would love to hear how you are doing!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Going Vegan | A Beginners Guide

vegan starter guide

Are you thinking of going vegan?

First of all, that's fantastic news. Now let me help you, because I've known of several people who have given up because they found it too hard.

Like any big changes in life, they come with their own hurdles for you to overcome. I went all in from day one when I became vegan, I watched a few videos beforehand, made the decision and the next time I went to the supermarket no animal products made it into my trolley. I do understand that that is a daunting task, and it's ok if you want to take smaller more manageable steps.

Where do I start if I want to go vegan?

Firstly decide if you a) want to go vegan or b) just plant based. What's the difference between vegan and plant based I hear you ask. Well my view point is that one is a dietary choice and one is a life style choice.

Being plant based means to eat a diet of plant foods without the addition of animal products, so starts and finishes with what you eat and drink.

Being vegan is much more than that, it's a lifestyle choice where you choose not to use any animal products in your life, which has a much broader effect on all aspects of your life. From food to cosmetics, fashion and everyday products, as well as events that involve animals.

Even if you decide you want to be vegan, it probably won't happen overnight and you'll have to transition in bite sized chunks, because it will probably mean changing pretty much every product you buy and use on a daily basis.

Step one for going vegan

Step one, lets start with food and drink. Write down a list of the things you eat on a daily basis, what do you usually have for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Then you can start writing down the easy swaps you can do to make it vegan.

Vegan breakfast

If your breakfast usually consists of toast or a bagel then continue as normal. Most bread products are vegan, but try and get into the habit of checking the ingredients as it's very easy to get caught out. I know I have in the past.

If you eat a bread product for breakfast then it's a simple as buying some vegan spread to replace the butter. If you use toppings like marmite, peanut butter or jam they will mostly be vegan friendly. Just don't forget that honey is a no-no.

Cereal or porridge is another easy one, porridge oats are vegan so all you need to do is replace cows milk with one of the many non dairy alternatives, and there are lots! If you like cereal be mindful that some will contain honey, dairy or milk chocolate. Some safe options are shreddies, cornflakes, rice krispies or frosties. 

They aren't lavish breakfast options but for the first couple of weeks don't try and change things up too much as you will make it unnecessarily difficult for yourself. Start small and work up to bigger and better things.

Vegan lunch

If you eat lunch away from home then you'll want food that is easily portable or things you can buy on the go. What's your go to lunch? A sandwich? Soup? Both really easy choices, if you make yourself a sandwich at home then start off with a couple of different fillings for your first week. I love houmous and salad in a wrap or roll, it's easy and quick to make which is just what you need so you don't feel overwhelmed with having to prep and cook lots of different items. Maybe go with some store bought falafel, they are great crumbled into a tortilla wrap with some lettuce and tomato, or else you can make a salad with falafel and houmous.

If you go out to buy lunch, Boots, Marks and Spencer, Pret, and Tesco all have a wide range of vegan options, from sandwiches and wraps to soups and ready meals.

Vegan dinner

Again lets keep it simple, jacket potatoes are an easy go to dinner for me. You could even cook more than one at a time and then you have them ready for another night or to take as lunch, then all you need to do is top off with some baked beans. Pasta is a great option, most store bought tomato based sauces are vegan and then you can just add in some extra veggies to bulk out the dish. Dried pasta is nearly always vegan but fresh pasta usually isn't so remember to check the label.

Is it expensive to be vegan?

No not at all, the basis of the vegan diet is actually quite cheap. Beans, rice, pasta, potatoes and lentils are all so economical. Like any diet though it can be as expensive as you want it to be, if you go into the supermarket and want to buy all the finest ready meals and posh products then of course it will cost you a pretty penny, but that would be the same regardless of whether you eat meat or not.

Transitioning to eating vegan may seem pricey at first because you will want to fill your cupboards with all the vegan staples in one go, which would cost a lot. But again this is no different to filling a kitchen from scratch no matter the diet because buying a range of sauces, stocks, spices etc will always be an outlay. That's why I'm not suggesting you do that, take it one week at a time, keep it simple and buy things slowly so it's spread out and then once you have the items you just top up as and when needed.

What if I don't want to do it all in one go?

Not a problem, if you want to transition slowly set yourself goals for the coming weeks. For instance maybe in week one you change over to only using non dairy milks and keep everything else the same. When you do your weekly shop just buy a couple of different plant based milks so you can find what you like best. 

Milk seems to be a very subjective topic amongst vegans, as everyone differs so greatly. I personally will only drink Alpro soya light in my tea because I used to only drink semi skimmed milk previously, so I don't want anything too rich and creamy in my cuppa. Other people aren't so keen on soya milk so choose to use oat milk or rice milk for instance. It's finding what suits you best for the uses you have for it. I buy unsweetened roasted almond milk for using in smoothies and porridge because it's low in calories and high in protein. Remember that most plant based milks are fortified with calcium, B12 and Vitamin D which means that you won't be missing out on those nutrients.

Week two could be changing over to using dairy free butter and yogurt in addition to the milks of week one, so now when you make your breakfast you have soya milk in your tea and vegan spread on your toast and a dairy free yogurt, and there you have it your first fully vegan meal!

Week three could be the week where you take out the meat, and week four you stop buying eggs. If you find it easier to do it over the course of a few weeks then by all means do it.

Top tips for new vegans


My advice would be to avoid vegan cheese for a little while after transitioning. Vegan cheese can be really hit and miss and some are lovely whilst others taste like something off the bottom of your shoe! Your taste buds will change after being vegan for a little while so the dairy free cheese is something I struggled with at the beginning and I didn't like any of them. Admittedly I think they have become better in the last 18 months or so, as the competition between brands has pushed up the quality, but the ones you buy in the supermarket aren't made in a traditional way so aren't always that authentic. 

There are some fantastic producers of nut cheeses out there who use traditional methods for making and ageing the cheese so it tastes pretty darn good, but at the moment the price for these products is still quite high, so I have them as treat purchase for special occasions like Christmas.

Eating out

Eating out is much easier than it once was, as most places have vegan options on their menu, however I would still suggest looking at a menu online first to make sure you like their vegan option if you're a fussy eater, because some restaurants may only have one or two. A rule of thumb is that most chains are pretty good but some independent restaurants are still in the dark ages so it's definitely worth checking.

Social media

There are so many vegan creators out there on YouTube who have made "what I eat in a day" vlogs, these can be really helpful for giving you inspiration for meals. I also would recommend following accounts like Accidentally Vegan on instagram, they show lots of vegan products you can easily get hold of in all the big supermarkets. You'll be surprised at how many items are vegan friendly, and this is a great resource.
Lastly, join your local vegan facebook group. It's a great place to read up on tips and advice that's local to you, especially helpful if you are looking for restaurant recommendations. People tend to be really willing to help you out if you have a questions as well.

Friends and family

Tell people what you are doing, it's always helpful to have people on board and aware of your dietary changes rather than springing it on them at the last minute. Most people are very accommodating if they know in advance, so let your parents know ahead of your visit, so they have the time to buy some non dairy milk for your tea or coffee. If you are going to a friend or family member for dinner, talk to them a few days before so they can ask questions about what you would like to eat if they want to make something for you, or you can always suggest making something to bring along. Then you know that if all else fails you have a dish you can eat and other people can have a taster of something vegan.

When I visited my parents in France for a week they had bought me some soya milk and had decided on a few meals they could make that were vegan, and we went to the supermarket together where I found a few additional items like some dark chocolate and vegan butter so I could make some chocolate brownies! (Priorities)
One evening we had made arrangements to go to a night market and they knew there wouldn't be much there for me other than chips so we planned ahead, and that day we made some fresh houmous and cut up some carrot sticks so I could have those alongside the chips, my aunt (who is veggie) happily tucked into the houmous with me and my parents friends all had a taster as well.

To help you out at the start of your journey I have created a handy vegan checklist that you can print off. This checklist outlines the 4 main categories of items that you will need to take into consideration when you transition over to being vegan. This list is by no means exhaustive but you can certainly see how much there is to think about.

There is one thing I have purposely left off of the list, partly because I ran out of space and partly because it's controversial, and that's medication and supplements. Capsules are often made of gelatin therefore aren't vegan, so when it comes to supplements you can search for a vegan alternative, but this may not be as easy for medication. Animal products are used in various pharmaceutical products and even some anaesthetic contains egg white, so this category will be down to personal preference.

vegan checklist, starter vegan guide

Try printing this list off and pinning it up at home so you can tackle each section at a time. When it comes to cosmetics I am definitely not suggesting you throw out all of the non vegan items you already own, that would be wasteful, it would cost you a huge amount to go out and purchase everything in one go and there's really no point. You have already bought the items so you may as well finish off what you have, as no one benefits by you throwing half of it away.

The entertainment section of the list is one that everyone will have different opinions about, it is there simply as a guide and some food for thought. In theory, being vegan means living a life where you aren't exploiting animals for your own benefit or entertainment which is why I have included zoo's and circuses on the list. Circus acts that include animals are notorious for their animal cruelty in their training methods and bad conditions in which the animals are kept, although they are few and far between nowadays which is a good thing.

Zoo's are one where people will be divided by how they feel. I personally don't go to Zoo's because I don't really agree with wild animals being kept in captivity, and some Zoo's mistreat the animals. However there will always be a counter argument that Zoo's work hard on breeding programmes to help increase numbers of animals that are near extinction, so this is another decision each person will have to make for themselves.

In Conclusion

I know there is a lot of information to take in here, but hopefully I have provided you with some useful resources? 

Check back regularly because I am in the process of creating another couple of starter guides, including a vegan shopping list and meal plan to help you through those tough first days. In the mean time if you are interested in reading about my transition over to cruelty free cosmetics, you can read about it here.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below and I'll do my best to help. 

Don't forget to share this article with anyone else thinking of giving a vegan diet a try.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

100 Plant Based Recipe Guide

When I first decided to change to a plant based diet back in 2015 I spent hours searching the internet for information on how I could replace my favourite foods with plant based alternatives. My first few weeks of eating plant based were the same few meals over and over again whilst I learnt about all of the products available and found recipes.

When speaking to people about being vegan I've come across several people who have given a vegan diet a shot but given up because they found it too hard, I think that comes from lack of information available to them at the time.

There are thousands of recipes online that will help you create amazing plant based meals, but if you don't have the time to trawl through them all then a plant based cookbook and eating plan is the way to go. It takes the work out of having to think about and go looking for recipes, it makes it really easy to stick to your plan until it becomes second nature. This great e-book is full of healthy vegan recipes so you don't default to store bought junk food, it even contains green juice recipes if you are determined to live as healthily as you can. They even offer a 100% money back guarantee if you aren't happy.

3 waste reducing products you need now

We all remember the summer heatwave of 2018 in the UK, here in the south we hit highs of over 30 degrees celsius. Whilst many of us were out enjoying the sunshine, it probably didn't register for most people that the hot weather was a consequence of global climate change.

I'm sure many people enjoyed the record temperatures and were none the wiser of the cause, unfortunately I feel the UK media missed a huge opportunity to use the real life event to create a direct link to what was happening and educate people on why. Lots of people will make changes if they are aware of the catastrophic effects climate change is having on our planet and how they directly affect us all.

If you are interested in learning a little more about climate change there is a good article you can read by The Guardian.

If everyone started to make even a few small changes it can have a huge effect, so here is a roundup of some products you can purchase today that will help you to go a little more green.

Reusable Straws

You may be aware of all the fuss recently surrounding McDonalds change to paper straws and the public were so up in arms about it that thousands of people even signed a petition to bring back the plastic straws! 
There is no need to use a plastic straw when you can buy a set of stainless steel straws that come with a handy carrier so you will always have them on you when you need a sturdy straw for your milkshake! These straws from Amazon even come in a range of amazing colours and a pack of 8 for only £5.99 means that you can give one to all of your family members!

Why Use A Steel straw?

Good question! Most plastic straws are too lightweight to be picked up by the mechanical recycling sorting machines so they end up being disposed of as normal waste therefor end up in landfill. Sadly a lot of plastic straws even find their way into our oceans, nearly everyone is aware of the harrowing picture of the sea turtle with a plastic straw jammed in his nose. So by swapping to a reusable straw you are doing your bit to prevent this from being as bigger issue and your plastic straw won't be one of the approximately 8.3 billion that are littering the worlds beaches!

reusable straw, stainless steel straw, metal straw, eco friendly

Reusable Shopping Bags

I know you're probably thinking this is old news Michelle! Yes you're right, since the plastic bag levy came in I'm sure you are using your own bags when you go shopping. But are you still putting your fresh produce in those annoying little plastic bags they have dotted around the fruit and veg aisles? Everything seems to be packaged in plastic and even if you decide to buy loose onions, tomatoes or potatoes, the chances are you've had to put them into a plastic bag which is somewhat defeating the purpose. In which case you need some reusable produce bags in your life, if you already take your own shopping bags to the supermarket it's no extra hassle to take along a few drawstring produce bags. You can get a pack of 4 from Amazon here for only £6.99 or if you buy a lot of fresh produce at a time you can get a bumper pack of 9 bags for £9.99

eco friendly produce bags,

Reusable Coffee Cup/Water Bottle

If you aren't already on this band wagon then why on earth not!? I've written before about using your own cup when you go to a coffee shop as it's a no brainer. It saves you money on your drinks from most high street chains as they offer a discount if you use your own cup as well as cutting down the amount of paper cups that end up in landfill or floating in your local rivers. With regards to water bottles, they are a much better option than single use plastic not just from the waste perspective but also because lets be honest most of us work somewhere that has a water cooler so you can fill up your own bottle and you haven't had to spend a penny but a lot of water bottles now are insulated as well which means you don't have to worry about your water getting warm even if you've left it sitting for hours.
This cup even collapses so you can throw it in your handbag with no problem, and it comes in plenty of cute colours.

travel mug, reusable coffee cup, eco friendly

I already have a water bottle but I came across this one on amazon that has a lifetime guarantee and will keep your drinks hot for 10 hours, or drinks cold for 20 hours! No more cold coffee or hot water, win win! SHO Fortis Water Bottle - £23.98

insulated water bottle, reduce plastic, eco friendly

All of these products are available on Amazon, so if you buy them today you can start using them tomorrow. It's so easy to start making small changes, that if everyone did would have a huge impact. Share this post with someone who is looking to reduce their single use plastic, maybe you could even split the pack of straws between you? ;)

Be the change you want to see in the world. On that note I have so much love for initiative companies like Skipping Rocks Lab who have created biodegradable and totally edible drinks pods. Their creation was recently handed out to runners at the London Marathon filled with Lucozade Sport to help tackle the amount of plastic bottles used at the event.
The idea behind the product is mainly to reduce the waste at big sporting events and music festivals as the pod can be filled not only with water but cocktails in a little bite sized morsel! Check them out in the video below.

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