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!


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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.

Mince



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.


Sausages


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.

Burgers


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!
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