Looking over my recent posts, I’m aware that I haven’t blogged about living as a plant-based vegetarian much recently. I’ve got so used to living a plant-based lifestyle that it has just become normal to me. Most of my friends, family and work colleagues are aware of my lifestyle choice and, I have to say, have been incredibly supportive. Quite often, though, when meeting new people or bumping into someone I haven’t seen in a while, I have to explain what being plant-based means, why I’m doing it and what I can and can’t eat. Add in my gluten allergy, and I can totally understand why a lot of people find it confusing. Most people I talk to about it have a lot of questions and opinions that they need to voice. One of the most common comments is ‘your diet must be very restrictive’. So I thought I’d take a moment to give my answer.
The short answer is no, my diet isn’t really restricted at all. As a plant-based vegetarian I eat a much more varied diet than I did as an omnivore or normal vegetarian, and certainly more varied than a lot of omnivores in the western world. The biggest change for me is that, as a plant-based vegetarian, I have to be organised. But I don’t see that as any bad thing.
Eating at home is really easy. I cook most of my meals from scratch, and I’ve made cooking and preparing food part of my daily and weekly routine. It’s when I’m out and about that the challenge arises. I can’t just grab something to eat at a service station or fast food restaurant, I have to know where I’m going and what I’m going to eat.
To illustrate how I don’t let my ‘restrictive’ diet stop me living my life, I thought I’d use the YMCA Sleep Easy Challenge as an example. Although the YMCA organised hot drinks and snacks for us throughout the event, I knew that my allergies and plant-based diet would prevent me from eating most of it. Here’s what I packed instead:
Water bottle and flask containing decaf coffee with soya milk – these are standard for me on any day of the week. Not only has carrying my water bottle and flask ensured I always have a drink to hand, but it’s saved me money that I would usually spend on take-out coffee and soft drinks, and I’ve cut down massively on my plastic and paper waste. At the start of this year I made a commitment to use fewer take-out cups, and my flask is the best tool I have to accomplish this mission.
Fresh fruit – British of course! Apart from a few pears, apples have been our main fruit this winter. Cameo, Kanzi and Braeburn are really tasty at the moment, or Cox’s if you fancy something sweet.
Gluten-free bread – The first time I tried gluten-free bread (about 6 years before I found out I was allergic to gluten), I swore that I’d rather give up bread completely than eat it again. Thankfully, gluten-free products have progressed a lot since then. While I don’t think they’ll ever match ‘real bread’, there are some brands out there that are really tasty. My favourite is the DS range as it contains no dairy or egg either. Their brown ciabatta rolls not only taste great, they come in a handy four pack that make them really easy to throw in your bag on the way out the door. Gluten-free pretzels and also a good option.
Seed/nut/fruit bars – Although I try to avoid eating processed foods, I do make exceptions. Ideally, I’d like to snack on fresh, local, organic fruit and vegetables, but between Decemeber and April local produce in the UK is very limited. I quickly get fed up with apples, pears and carrots. Especially after a long winter like we’ve had this year. If I do resort to processed snacks, I try to make healthy choices that are still produced loacally. My current favourites are 9 Bar. Apologies to any vegans reading (they contain honey), but they are free from gluten, dairy, lactose, wheat, egg, yeast, preservatives and artificial colours. Plus, they taste amazing and they’re made in North Wales!
Dark chocolate – Everyone has their vice, and this is mine. I thought I’d miss milk chocolate when I gave up dairy, but dark chocolate is exactly the fix I need when I have a craving.
So, no, I don’t find my diet restrictive because there are so many great, healthy foods out there that I can still eat. And I really had to think hard to make this list, because living plant-based is just living to me now.