My first ever Giveaway! Closes 31 March

Hello lovelies! It is a sunny Friday in London and I have launched my first ever giveaway. I am sooo excited to share this with you. I’ve carefully sourced some of my favourite products and put them all into a hamper for you. Check it out on my Instagram account to enter!

I want to take the opportunity to say THANK YOU for all the support, for allowing me to share my thoughts, recipes and life lessons and for believing in my skills as a home cook ūüėõ

I love the community around my natural kitchen and I TRULY believe in the best life being one of freedom, healthy eating and mindfulness. Nature has a lot of lessons to teach us, we just have to pay attention, stand still, live in the now, use all our senses. My happiest times have always been linked to nature, whether through food, outdoor adventures, observing beautiful, natural beauty and living freely.

Back to the giveaway now!

You can win 13 amazing products by entering before 31 March 23.59 BST

The products are:

@clearspringuk Tamari sauce (I use this in most of my savoury cooking), miso paste and Udon noodles.
@hybridherbs¬†cordyceps mushroom powder and matcha powder – premium tonic herbs and rare superfood powders. A huge thank you to them for sending me these incredible products! ‚̧
@mr_organic dairy-free hazelnut chocolate spread
Verivalbio #muesli and organic spelt granola
@orwellhealth_ Black Soybean Pasta Рfull of protein
@blooming_you_powders barley and aronia powders
@buywholefoodsonline currants + Soul Nutrients cacao nibs which did not fit in the pic, lol

All 13 products in this giveaway are vegan ūüĆĪ
HOW TO ENTER
1. Follow my account @mariasnaturalkitchen
2. Tag 3 friends you want to share this with
3. Enter until 31 March 23:59 BST
4. Multiple entries allowed
5. Winner will be drawn at random on 1 April
6. UK & EUROPE ENTRIES ONLY

Terms and Conditions

  1. The promoter is Maria’s Natural Kitchen.
  1. The giveaway is open to residents in Europe aged 16 years and over.
  1. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this giveaway.
  1. By entering this giveaway, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  1. Route to entry for the giveaway and details of how to enter are via https://www.instagram.com/mariasnaturalkitchen 
  2. Multiple entries are allowed.
  1. Closing date for entry will be 31 March 2018. After this date the no further entries to the giveaway will be permitted.
  1. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  1. The rules of the giveawayand how to enter are as follows:

Follow my Instagram account @mariasnaturalkitchen
Tag 3 friends you want to share this with

10. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the giveaway and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the giveaway will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.

11. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this giveaway.

12. The prize is as follows:

The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. We reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.

13. Winners will be chosen at random by software, from all entries received and verified by Promoter on 1 April 2018.

14. The winner will be notified by DM on Instagram. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.

15. The promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected / delivered.

16. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the giveaway will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

17. By entering this giveaway, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.

18. The giveaway and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.

19. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.

20. The winner’s name will be available 28 days after closing date by emailing the following address hello@mariasnaturalkitchen.com

21. Entry into the giveaway will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.

22. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to Maria’s Natural Kitchen and not to any other party.

Some additional Terms and Conditions which you might wish to include if relevant:

  • Maria’s Natural Kitchen shall have the right, at its sole discretion and at any time, to change or modify these terms and conditions, such change shall be effective immediately upon posting to this webpage.
  • Maria’s Natural Kitchen also reserves the right to cancel the giveaway if circumstances arise outside of its control.

5 Awesome Weekday Vegan Breakfast Ideas

healthy ideas for a perfect brekkie

Don’t know what else to make for breakfast? Tired of porridge or simple toast? Look no further than these awesome vegan breakfast ideas so you can always be prepared.

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day – partially because you burn them off regardless of what you have. But mainly because of the variety – sweet or savoury, healthy or indulgent, buffet-style sit-down or Mason jar on the go. Here are five quick and easy breakfast options I turn to most mornings before work.

Protein-packed green smoothies

This is my trusted green smoothie¬†mix – might sound random to some, or delicious to others, but it ain’t too sweet, or too green, it’s just right.

Your choice of vegan milk, one banana, half an avocado, half an apple, 1 kiwi, handful of spinach, table spoon of peanut butter, chia seeds, few grams of Chorella powder (5g = 600% of RD of vit D!) pinch of cinnamon, pinch of salt, squeeze of honey and blend, baby, BLEND!

Apple, bananas and peanut butter

As simple as slicing one apple and a banana (or other fruits) and dropping a dollop of organic crunchy peanut butter on top of.  Or you can have a whole platter (with some porridge too)!

Quinoa porridge

Same warming effect, lots more nutrients and protein. Here’s an autumny version I made with pumpkin puree and maple syrup. Yum! So all you have to do is simply warm up some cooked quinoa in some almond milk with vanilla and sweetener,

Roasted almond butter and raspberries on toast

Do as instructed in the title – it should look a little something like this (with a bit of sweetener of your choice). Or you can go for the classic Nutella (vegan), bananas and walnuts.

Avocado on toast with pumpkin seeds and chilli flakes

This is when I crave a savoury breakfast or after a gym workout – knowing it will give me protein, lots of minerals and good energy.

Hope you enjoy these quick and easy vegan breakfasts!

xoxo

Maria

Make Your Own Almond Milk

It may seem like a mysterious process that only the most versed plant-eaters can master, but making your own almond milk at home is easier than making toast. Here’s the basics so you can never have to think twice about putting your nuts to good use and spend less money on store-bought versions.

What do you need?
  • A blender
  • 1 cup pre-soaked almonds (150g-160g) – soaked over night or for at least 6h
  • 3 cups Filtered water
  • 1-2 dates
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • cinnamon, cardamom pods, vanilla (all optional)
  • A fine strainer or a cheese cloth, or even a tea towel
Method
  1. Put all ingredients in the blender
  2. Blend until white and foamy (1 minute at least)
  3. Strain and store

Did I not tell you it’s the easiest freakin’ thing? But I haven’t mentioned this almond milk is 10 times more delicious and creamy than anything on the market. Word! This method works for any nuts or seeds you want to use: cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin, etc.

Maria's vegan kitchen Almond milk.jpg
Make your own plant milk

Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Anxiety

Today is not about food. Today is World Mental Health Day and I decided to share my story of living with anxiety. I will also share what I’ve been doing to keep it in check and improve the quality of my life.

In order to make this post easier to digest, I will skip the background information about mental health and what anxiety is. If you’re here, you probably know that already. If not, check out this website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk¬†or this one¬†www.anxietyuk.org.uk. There are so many resources online, but it can get a bit overwhelming sifting through.

I’ve been battling anxiety on and off since I was 17. It seems to flare up really badly every two years, generally around big life changes which I usually generate. Funnily enough, as much as I love routine and comfort, half of me is always¬†dying for a challenge, novelty and adventure. But my anxious brain can’t keep up, so I put myself through hell by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

While this can be seen as brave, my anxiety has paralysed me with fear and guilt many times. So I started to associate change with negative feelings. Instead of seeing the world as my oyster at those exciting times of moving to another country, changing jobs or travelling to a new destination, I see danger, failure and endless worst case scenarios. But NEVER have my worst fears become reality! 

The anxious mind equates uncertainty with danger. This is irrational.

This is the first big lesson I am going to share with you: you are NOT your anxiety. It’s just a brain pattern. A pre-set. It’s a distorted perception of reality, anchored in fear. Your brain chooses to see an opportunity or a change as something bad, dangerous, etc.

Before starting to write this blog post, I looked back through some of my notes. This is what I wrote five years ago:

‘I‚Äôve always lived in fear that I will fail. This fear turns into panic attacks, then total numbness and ultimately a tragic loss of precious time. This is the time where I should be thinking, creating, making things happen. And this is what annoys me most about anxiety – its ability to kill time. And when you‚Äôre young and full of potential, the feeling of seeing your life pass you by because you‚Äôre incapable of getting it together, usually triggers more panic attacks.¬†It‚Äôs vicious cycle.’

Does this sound familiar?

We usually fear the fear, not failure or the situation itself. Being worried about how we are going to cope, our reactions, what others will think, what we are going to feel.¬† We get so worked up before we even know what the outcome of an event is. I find myself saying things like: ‘I just want to know already and deal with it’ or ‘I wish someone would make a choice for me’, so I don’t have to exhaust myself with the endless possibilities and outcomes my mind perceives. Isn’t it true though that most of the times the outcome is better than our vivid anxious imagination?¬† Again, it’s all about perspective. And unfortunately, people with anxiety lose that. We live in our heads, in our pre-sets, in our worst case scenarios.¬†But here comes lesson number two about anxiety: learn to trust that you WILL cope just fine.

Another thing¬†I learned in over ten years of dealing with this friend of mine: Anxiety is not a weakness. People with anxiety are some of the strongest people I know.¬†You are not less of a person. In fact, every time you do something in spite of your anxious feelings, you are brave. Because it takes SO MUCH strength to push through despite wanting to crawl into a cave, to feel the fear and still do it, to feel paralysed but still make a decision. So don’t forget lesson number three: You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Before I move on to my top 3 strategies to keep anxiety under control, let’s recap the lessons:

  1. You are NOT your anxiety.
  2. Trust that you WILL cope.
  3. Anxiety is NOT a weakness.

It’s time for a short disclaimer acknowledging I am not a mental health professional and my advice is based purely on my experience and what works for me.¬†

I’m going to get straight to it. Here are the top 3 things that made a huge difference to me:

  1. Acceptance

Up until recently, I used to beat myself up for having anxiety. I hated it and because of it I hated myself. I also blamed people or external factors. Long story short, I dealt with it in a very negative way and felt terrible when I wasn’t able to see the glass half-full, when I wasn’t grateful or happy, when I pushed people away with my behaviour.

Through therapy, and self-help, I am learning to accept anxiety as a separate voice. I am not associating it with who I am, I am accepting it as thoughts, not reality. I am taking control and working to train my brain, not fit everything else around my anxiety. (Not that this comes easily when really intense fear strikes, but progress is better than perfection.)

You may recognise this pattern, but we tend to avoid anything that can trigger anxiety: getting on a plane, meeting new people, being in a crowded place, public speaking, public transport! etc. But avoidance feeds anxiety. Yeah, I know, it’s crazy how our minds work.

So, my first tip for you is to accept this is something you have to work on. And be kind to yourself! There is nothing better you can do at this moment than say to yourself, as creepy as it sounds: ‘It’s ok. I understand you. I love you.’¬†

2. Therapy

It may have taken you a while to acknowledge you have a friend called anxiety, but it’s ok. You are not alone and you can and should talk about it. In fact, you should do more than that: you should try therapy.

The same way we take care of our bodies, our teeth, our diet – our mind needs care too. And as much as our friends and family are willing to listen and probably really want to help, I found that therapy was the most helpful thing for my anxiety. Here’s why:

  • A therapist will help you navigate the type of anxiety you’re experiencing (phobias, panic attacks, general anxiety, health anxiety, etc) and will offer appropriate support. By that I mean asking the right questions, giving you tools, asking you to think about certain patterns, dig deeper into your past, what the root cause of your anxiety is (usually has its beginnings in childhood and was triggered by something you’ve experienced then; it can also be passed on from behaviours you’ve seen in your parents, which we absorb as children subconsciously). The more you understand your anxiety with professional help, the better you can deal with it!
  • Friends and family can only help to a certain extent. They are emotionally invested, so it takes a toll on them trying to be there for you, especially during a particularly intense episode. Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t go away with one good talk with a loved one. Even if it helps so much ūüôā It just needs longer to be undone (at least at the beginning). So it can be really hard and exhausting for someone who isn’t trained in dealing with this, to take on the task of not just listening, but, out of love, also trying to help. This doesn’t mean we can’t talk to our friends and family! We can and we should, but we need to be mindful of how much they can take on. I encourage you to reach out regardless. Don’t keep it in.

I understand that this might not seem widely available, but there are free services available in the UK (ThinkAction is one I’ve used before), hopefully in your country too, or if you’re from Romania (my home country) I can put you in touch with a few really good therapists. If you can afford it, it’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

3. Self-care plan

This is where you can truly make a difference to the quality of your life. This is when you decide how much you let anxiety rule your thoughts, how much you feed it and how you shape your behaviour around it.

Now, it’s important to know that it takes time to get this right, to know what works, to have the will power to actually follow the plan during those dark moments. It also has more chances of success if you have followed points 1 and 2 first. Accepting and understanding your anxiety really well will ensure you take the right steps to take care of yourself during turbulent times.¬†¬†

This isn’t a prescription and you probably need to create your own. But for inspiration, this is how mine looks like:

Take time off*

If things get too much, I take time off and have learned NOT to feel guilty about it. Mental health is as important as physical health. I used to force myself to go to work even though I was experiencing severe anxiety but I usually starred at my screen and was too consumed with worry to be able to focus. I felt too guilty to stay at home.

You are not helping yourself, your employer, business, project or anything by being consumed with anxiety and trying to do work too. Whenever possible, be honest and open about your anxiety, talk to your manager and take time off. Tomorrow is another day and you’ll probably be more productive and able to do a better job.

This can also come in the form of taking time off to breath, meditate or just take a break. Whatever suits your circumstances, but take some time off.

*Sometimes, however, distraction helps, especially if you’re really passionate about your job or if the work environment is a safe and happy one.

Write things down

There’s no better way to get outside your head than putting it all down on paper. Just write it all. I actually have a journal called: Talking to my friend, Anxiety, where i document daily anxious thoughts, but in the third person. E.g. My anxiety made me believe that… Because anxiety is not me! Remember lesson number 1 ūüôā I’m basically trying to figure out what anxiety is saying and what my true inner voice is saying.

If I’m going through a particularly distressing episode, I also try to answer these questions:

  • Is my thought/fear/worry rational or logical?
  • What proof do I have this fear/worry is rational or logical?
  • How much do i believe it is actually true? (%)
  • Does it help to have this thought/worry/fear now?
  • What can I do/think differently about it right now? (How can I reformulate this thought? Can I make a plan?)
Soothing music

Don’t underestimate the healing power of music. Here’s an example of the sort of music I use to calm anxiety. YouTube is a gold mine, so look for something that works for you. Sometimes soul music or jazz works for me too.

Aromatherapy

I’ve learned to create a ritual out of my self-care action plan. And aromatherapy is a powerful, powerful ally. Whether I’m taking a bath, or using a lavender shower gel, scented candles, essential oils or aroma diffusers, I always create a calm, relaxing environment in which to recover and take care of myself, usually involving all of the above. I recommend Lavender Oil,¬†¬†Boswellia Carterii, Wild orange + Peppermint, Rose, Bergamot. Rub oils on your wrists, temple and back of the neck.

Eat well and hydrate

Plants are always my favourite remedies. Apart from eating good, nutritious food, I make sure I drink plenty of soothing teas, like camomile, rose tea or peppermint.

Watch videos or listen to podcasts

When I need a little more help with changing perspective on what I’m thinking or feeling, I look up videos on dealing with anxiety, or TED talks. It’s a good idea to keep these handy in a playlist for when you need them, just like with music.

Nature

This is something I have to force myself to do sometimes. As much as I ADORE being outdoors, my mind is very stubborn sometimes and will talk me out of this simple self-help tool. But trust me – ignore what anxiety is saying, just get out, get some fresh air, somewhere quiet, not too crowded, somewhere in nature. Sit there in silence and look at the sky, the grass, people, children, birds. Or walk. You will slowly feel the benefits.

Sleep

This is probably the most important aspect. It’s usually key in maintaining good mental health. But it’s also the hardest to achieve when an episode of anxiety strikes. However, if you follow the steps above, your mind an body should relax enough to ensure a good night’s sleep. Maybe not the perfect night’s sleep, but better than a horrible sleepless night. Any sleep is better than no sleep!

Share your self-care plan with your partner or someone you trust, so they can give you a nudge and remind you of these steps that will make you feel better.

When we’re caught up in it we feel like nothing’s going to work, but try anything off this list, or combine as many as you can, and I promise you it’ll make a difference.¬†And if you can’t, that’s ok too. Tomorrow you’ll do better. Remember lessons 2 and 3: You are stronger than you think and you will be able to cope! Just be kind to yourself and give yourself as much time as you need.

I am learning to deal with anxiety every day. Some days I’m so good at it, some days I struggle. I have anxiety-free months and other times I don’t want to leave the house or get on a plane. I’m not perfect, but nobody is. Everyone is dealing with their own issues, even those people you think have their whole life figured out. So don’t think you’re alone or inadequate. The most important change I made is going to therapy, and that’s my biggest recommendation. If it’s beyond self-help, therapy will make a difference! Even remote, online or over the phone. It made me feel normal. Because the biggest burden I had to remove first was the feeling of being crazy, or having something wrong with me.

I have to stop this massive post here, as I feel it’s already a mission for you to read through it. It has been extremely therapeutic for me to share this, and I truly hope it helps you see anxiety differently, if only a little bit. There is a lot more to discuss, but let’s pause here for now. Let me know if you want more info on any of the points I made.

With love,

Maria

Where to Find Awesome Vegan Pizza in London

Fear no more, I am here to help you discover the best vegan pizza places in London. This list is updated constantly.

I tried to keep this on the down-low, but I LOVE PIZZA! I think few people don’t. Did you know that pizza is actually a pretty balanced meal when chosen with fresh, simple ingredients? Pizza has a terrible stigma attached, due to some fast-food versions of greasy, meaty, cheesy mess. But the traditional Italian pizza is a perfect combo of starch, protein (think mushrooms + dough, or cheese if you still eat dairy), vitamins and minerals (tomato sauce, garlic, herbs, rocket, other veggies) and fiber. And I’m not the only one saying this; qualified nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert, also encourages people not to see pizza as ‘evil food’.

Ok. So where do you find GOOD vegan pizza in London? I haven’t been everywhere, but I already have three favourite places so far

MY TOP VEGAN PIZZA JOINTS
  1. Pizza Pilgrims РTheir £5 Marinara is 100% vegan and available in every branch, as one of the most popular Neapolitan pizzas. Check it out and find the nearest one to you, out of their 7 locations.

2. Firezza РA little more expensive, their £12.95 Verde Ortolana comes with artichoke hearts, fresh field mushrooms, roasted mixed vegetables (aubergines, courgettes, sweet peppers), fresh basil, tomato and VEGAN cheese (request it as an optional FREE replacement for mozarella). One of my favourites!

3. Voodoo Ray’s – Another delicious chain of really good, cheap pizza. If you fancy yourself a Queen Vegan, try the pizza with the same name (¬£4/slice), sporting artichoke hearts, green olives, red onion, sun-blush tomatoes, tomato sauce and green sauce. Yum!

There you have it, my top 3 pizza joints so far! I will update this post as I find more. Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Brunch at Ethos Restaurant

After a week of events, networking and good food, the weekend ended on a high! I was invited to attend a special brunch at Ethos restaurant in Oxford Circus, organised in collaboration with More than Carrots, to have a taste of their new brunch menu.

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Ethos restaurant – London (Credit: www.ethosfoods.com)

Before I go into the story and the wonderful menu, I want to take a little paragraph or two to talk about my food philosophy.

I have always loved cooking with fresh fruit and veggies. The more I learned about nutrition and the food industry, the more my choices changed. I gave up meat and dairy this year and chose to remain ovo-pescatarian until I feel ready to transition fully to veganism.

Food is to be enjoyed, to nourish ouR bodies and make us thrive. Turning food into something negative doesn’t sit well with me. That is why I don’t give advice about a vegan lifestyle, but I choose to show how wonderful plant-based food is – how varied, how delicious and how versatile. It is my passion to create healthy foods, regardless of whether I call myself a vegan, pescatarian or vegetarian.

The brunch&learn event I attended at Ethos was a beautiful example of people coming together because they were curious about vegetarian and vegan food (regardless of their current diet or lifestyle). And they were welcomed and taught about great ingredients and ways of cooking, without being judged or told HOW to live or WHAT to eat.

I think that is the right way to help people make positive changes, changes they are happy to maintain long-term.

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Right, that being said, let’s go back to Ethos. Ethos is a self-service restaurant located in the heart of central London, moments from Oxford Circus. They specialise in meat-free food that tastes as good as it is for you. And they operate a Pay by Weight System which means two wonderful things:

  1. You get to taste everything that you fancy from the buffet.
  2. You will probably be more aware of portion-size – the secret to maintaining a healthy & balanced life.

But let’s talk about the actual food now!

Here’s a sneak peak of the menu:

Portobello Hash

Portobello mushroom, fried egg, potato hash, pistachio pesto, balsamic glaze

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Banana Bread French Toast

Banana bread coated in eggs and cinnamon with strawberry jam, orange yogurt, fresh strawberries and mint.

Watermelon Caprese

Mozzarella, watermelon, avocado, apricot glaze, olive oil

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Sweet Potato & Kale Scramble

Kale, sweet potato, tofu, red onion, coconut oil, turmeric, cumin

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Wow, it was so delicious! My favourite was indeed the tofu scramble option (an old favourite of mine), but I was very inspired by the portobello hash and the watermelon caprese – which can easily be turned into vegan versions by replacing the cheese with a vegan one, and opting for a no-egg option when it comes to the hash brown.

Ok, the banana bread was also heavenly! haha. Sorry guys, this isn’t a critic’s review, it was honestly great food, cooked to perfection, at a beautiful venue.

Oh, did I mention we also got to pile up a plate with the most gorgeous hot and cold foods from the buffet? Yep, that happened too. Here’s what you can find regularly if you go check it out:

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So, if you are looking for a meat-eater-friendly place that doesn’t actually do meat, this one’s for you. Plenty to choose from, you won’t even miss the meat AND you get to try some gorgeous vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Now let me tell you about More than Carrots – what a cool name, right? Well, the long-short of it is this: If you want to start eating less meat, they can help.

They offer facts about the impact of eating less meat + nutrition, ideas for delicious meals and tips for great restaurants in your area. Best part? You can purchase their starter kit with all the info you need to start eating more fruit and veg.

I hope you guys found this little tale of where to find good food and support useful. I will probably check out new places and brands soon and report back.

Enjoy your food wherever you are in your journey!

 

3 Key Reasons to Choose Organic Products

Organic is not fancy. It’s not just for the wealthy either. I grew up on a farm where my family grew their crops organically in an attempt to save money, not to waste it. So this is what I learned first hand from my father and grandfather, who have been growing crops for over 60 years.

Health

Organic agriculture uses natural fertilisers (animal manure, food compost, crop residue) instead of chemicals. Therefore, anything grown with pesticides and chemicals will then be absorbed by our bodies.

Quality and taste

The taste of organic products is also at its most natural and our bodies can recognise that unaltered DNA easier, so they are digested and absorbed better. It’s food as it should be.

Sustainability

Organic farming doesn’t harm the environment. In fact, it helps maintain the ecosystem – bees, bugs, wildlife and the people. When you choose organic products you are also supporting local and smaller farmers and producers.

Want more reasons to choose organic? The Soil Association has a lot more information on the topic here and in this cute inforgraphic.

Organic infographic

There are SO many offers on organic products this month, including 3 for 2 in Tesco and a £20 FREE bundle at Ocado with your next shop. This is just what I discovered myself, but check out this list.

Want to get some of these tips and offers by email weekly? Subscribe below.

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What You Need to Know When Going Vegan

Should you consider going vegan? There’s a lot of confusion in everyone’s mind today about what lifestyle to lead. Therefore it’s hard to know what to eat and not to eat, whether fats are the enemy or sugar is, what causes cancer and what prevents it.

There’s no right or wrong answer, or at least I don’t want to get into the controversy of discussing it. But I do believe clean eating, moderation, exercise and a healthy mind all contribute to being healthy.

And this isn’t an easy balance to strike in today’s stressful and polluted world we live in. (sorry for the pessimistic outlook)

BUT we can do better! And we must, for ourselves, but for the world too.

This is where veganism comes into play. Not only is veganism on the rise (Check out this cool article), but it brings me so much joy and hope to see how many young people start their journey into a plant-based lifestyle. I translate this into a better world health-wise, environmentally and for the animals.

More than 1.5 million Americans over the age of 17 are now vegan.

Number of vegans in Britain rises by 360% in 10 years

Whether you are going vegan for health reasons, for the environment or for animal welfare, you have to remember your motivation to be able to fully enjoy this lifestyle.

From my experience, the benefits of this diet outweigh the perceived restriction. In fact, I never feel restricted on this diet, especially in London where there are so many good vegan options.

My main reason for going vegan is health related. On this diet I have reduced inflammation in my body and recovered from chronic conditions. I am usually prone to inflammation and some common infections – that’s just my genetic make-up.

I started my journey towards veganism in January 2017. I decided to transition gradually (giving up meat first, then dairy and soon fish and eggs) because when I tried it out a few years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing and ended up with lots of deficiencies.

But I have learned a lot since then, read and got myself informed before making the decision to go vegan again.

Here’s what you need to know.
  1. You will need a B12 supplement

This is the only thing lacking in a vegan diet – a vitamin found only in animal products, made up by micro-organisms that plants can’t produce. Here’s how you keep this in check.

  • Fortified foods:
    • Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products, vegan spreads, nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals
    • Eat these foods at least twice a day
    • Aim for a daily intake of at least 3mcg (micrograms)
  • Supplements: take either at least 10mcg daily or at least 2000mcg weekly

I recommend this one. But you can get cheaper tablets at your local drug store.

2. Detoxing (and its side effects)

A vegan diet done right contains a rainbow of foods. If you’re not going to have chips and vegan cheese every day (or some weird vegan processed foods), you will probably start detoxing and seeing some reactions in your body.

Upping your fiber intake, your nutrients and antioxidants and the water (smoothies) you drink is going to start getting rid of toxins in your body. Depending on how clean you were eating beforehand, you may experience (only for a few days!) breakouts, extreme fatigue, headaches, constipation or diarrhea, cravings.

However, one you get past this phase you will have more energy, brighter skin, brighter eyes, better sleep and happier organs ūüôā

3. Probiotics

When you’re transitioning to a new type of diet, especially one full of fiber, your stomach might need a little time to adjust. Your intestinal flora is going through massive changes and you need to support your transition by making sure you eat a variety of foods like:

  • Vegan yoghurts with probiotic cultures (most of them have these added)
  • Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha drinks, miso paste)
  • Fermented tofu or tempeh

Alternatively, you can take probiotic supplements.

4. Vegan protein

Don’t worry, it’s everywhere. Just make sure you eat a variety of vegan protein sources so you can have complete protein profiles in your diet. Here’s a great guide:

Vegetarian Complete Protein Combination Chart | Hurray vegetarians rejoice!

Quinoa, buckwheat and tofu are complete proteins.

5. Up some of the nutrients when you’re transitioning

If there’s one diet abundant in vitamins and minerals, this is probably it. However, not all vegan diets are created equal, so make sure you choose¬†nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods!

Yes, it may take some time for your body to adjust, you may feel you’re doing it wrong at first, but it’s just a matter of fine tuning. And the good news is – you can probably eat more now! More of the good stuff that is, not vegan fast food. (sorry)

Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified nutritionist so do consult a doctor/nutritionist before making drastic changes to your diet. I am simply sharing my knowledge and experience of transitioning to veganism.

Calcium

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not hard to get your daily calcium intake from plants. Surprisingly for some, you’ll find it kale, pak choi, okra, spring greens, dried figs, chia seeds and almonds. Calcium-set tofu, calcium-fortified milk and yogurt alternatives and bread fortified with extra calcium are good sources too.

Vitamin D

If you live in the UK, unfortunately there’s no escape from taking vitamin D supplements or fortified foods. I recently discovered I was severely deficient in vitamin D – before transitioning!! – and had NO idea, just a lot of bone pain and muscle pain. What a nightmare…! I now take a drop of this every day.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 

One great piece of nutritional advice I got recently from Rhiannon Lambert BSc MSc ANut (@rhitrition) was to increase my Omega-3¬†DHA intake (which you’d normally find in fish oils) through an algae supplement.

Read more about these nutrients here.
BONUS

A list of sources of information that are reliable and scientific.

www.vegansociety.com

How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health

Happy veganing everyone!

Maria

P.S. Don’t beat yourself up if you go off the vegan trail one day. Remember that even reducing the amount of meat, dairy, eggs, fish you are consuming, you’re already making a huge difference to your health, the environment and animal welfare.

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How to: Vegan Sunday Pancakes

I made it a mission to turn my Sundays into pancake Sundays. And until recently, I didn’t know how to make vegan pancakes, can you believe it? I tried it once a few years ago (missing some key ingredients!) and it was a sticky mess. Literally. They stuck to the pan, burned and tasted like mud. Ok, slight exaggeration, but it was a disaster.

Fear no more! I have discovered the secret to perfect vegan pancakes so you don’t have to go through what I went through.

Vegan banana pancakes

The rules are these:
  • 1 part solid ingredients (flour/s of different kinds)
  • 1 part liquid ingredients (plant based milk)
  • binding agents (1 banana and/or ground flaxseeds)
  • raising agents (bicarbonate of soda and baking powder)
  • flavour (cinnamon/vanilla)
  • sweetness (brown sugar/maple syrup) – optional
  • fats (coconut oil)

First, use a blender to mix it all up into a smooth but thick batter. Then cook ONLY using a non-stick pan. (no oil required)

Here’s my favourite recipe:

  • 200g flour (I make my own vegan pancake mix with wheat flour, almond flour, bran out and rice protein)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 big(ish) banana)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender until it turns into a thick, smooth batter.
  2. Pour it straight from the blender jug into the pan, one by one (whatever size you want).
  3. Flip when they form lots of bubbles on the surface.
  4. Serve with your favourite toppings.

Enjoy and tag me on Instagram because I want to see your creations!

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My Weekly Shopping List

I’m a serial list maker. I just think life is much better in bullet points and tick marks. Before you judge me, my OCD might come in handy for some of you. So here’s what my weekly grocery list looks like for a rich, plant-based diet. I’ve included my regular items, not the variations:

Fresh
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Normal potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries
  • Lemons and limes
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Kale
  • Baby spinach
  • Other seasonal produce
Fridge
  • Plant-based milk
  • Plant-based yoghurt
  • Tofu (lots of it)
Canned
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Coconut milk
Cupboard
  • Vegan pasta
  • Buckwheat products
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Nuts (top up)
  • Seeds (top up)
Freezer
  • Frozen peas (check out this 5-step simple recipe:¬†[ultimate-recipe id=”3178″ template=”default”]
  • Frozen berries
  • Organic frozen produce (whatever I can find)

There you go! Hope you find this handy and use it to start adding more plants into your daily life.