It’s been a good three weeks since I embarked on my vegan 5:2 journey, and I thought it was about the right time to write a post about it, and why I’m planning to stick to it.
Firstly let me start off by explaining my diet before this started: I would have considered myself a vegetarian with occasional meat-loving tendencies. On the whole I don’t believe that we need to eat meat to survive (not to mention the environmental impact meat consumption creates and the impending food supply dilemma generations to come will see and likely suffer), and have been an advocate of the ‘if your body is craving it, you probably need it’ diet for years, resulting in an occasional roast chicken on a Sunday, or a beautiful fillet of fish for supper making an appearance a couple of times a month. That, to me at least, seemed like a balanced diet.
Perhaps more influential on my diet than my environmental view is that I have been lactose intolerant for 5 years. Though in the last couple of those years I have reintroduced butter, non-fat milk and a small range of goat’s and sheep’s cheeses in my diet, plus a healthy amount of non-fat yoghurt and eggs. However despite my lactose intolerance and continued consumption of dairy, I have thought for a long time that overall, dairy is probably not very good for us. Quite fittingly I read this article in the NY Times about how studies on dairy consumption have proven not only that dairy can cause adverse effects, but that there is little evidence that having a dairy rich diet is actually good for us at all, contrary to the milk = strong bones message being pumped out across Western countries. In contrast, in what is probably the most well known literature on the subject surrounding dairy we hear about casein, a milk protein (also found in many meat substitutes) that has been found to be cancer promoting. When you think of it that way do you really want to be putting that in your body on a daily basis?
Switching to a largely plant-based diet didn’t come without its conundrums at first; what to use other than tofu, is there a limit on how many avocados I can eat each week, can I just eat noodles all the time, why aren’t there any substitutes for a good runny egg; but then once I started to explore different recipes and articles on the subject I realised that I would be making little actual change to my diet, and instead a huge one to what I kept in my pantry. I have had to be so much more resourceful, creative and explorative, I have started taking more time and care in choosing produce and ingredients, and I have even (for the benefit of my previously very pizza-loving beau) started playing with creating homemade vegan substitutes (vegan mozzarella being a good example of my efforts).
So why have I decided to stick to eating a more plant-based diet? This is a question I have had to answer on a few occasions. At first I explained that I wanted to try and clean up my diet a bit, but now having seen the great benefits that have come as part of this clean up I have changed my answer: I really, really like eating this way. I feel energetic, I don’t feel bloated, I have been eating a lot of slow-burning carbohydrates and a lot less saturated fat, and I have found excellent sources of plant-based protein to replenish after working out. I haven’t been so satisfied with everyday meals for so long, and eating well seems to have improved not only my skin but my general mood.
So what have I learnt about myself through this experiment? Eating well has its obvious perks but balance is still key to my general happiness, which is why I will continue to enjoy an egg every now and then, or some thick-strained yoghurt, or put butter in all of my cakes (always). So don’t expect to not see any of my usual recipes on here any more, but do expect to see a few more vegan friendly options.
Now about this salad, this salad is my new go-to. Cold rice noodles, dressed with a super zingy, garlicky dressing, flecked with chilli and sesame seeds and tossed with charred greens and avocado for a welcome creaminess.
Charred Sprouts + Asparagus Rice Noodle Salad
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 smaller portions
200g flat rice noodles
Large handful of Brussel sprouts, halved
1 bunch of asparagus spears, roughly chopped
1 large avocado, diced
2 tablespoons fresh chives, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
For the dressing:
60ml rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
Juice and zest of one lime
1 tsp hot chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
In a jar add all of the dressing ingredients, close and shake well.
Cook the rice noodles by placing in boiled water for 5 minutes (or according to packet instructions). Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a griddle pan add the asparagus and Brussel sprouts, sauté on medium for 5 minutes or until vibrant and slightly charred.
Toss the rice noodles with the charred vegetables and pour over the dressing. Mix well and scatter with the diced avocado, black sesame seeds and chopped chives.