Monday, 23 March 2015

Review - Delicious Alchemy

I've been trying to write something witty and clever for this post but I mostly want to shake the hand of the person behind Delicious Alchemy and go on the website and TAKE MY MONEY.


I tried out the Delicious Alchemy Oat Cookie Mix and the Brown Bread Mix and both work like a dream and require such little effort that I'm still slightly in shock.

I have been gluten free for aeons and egg free for about 4 years. In that time I have forked out hundreds of pounds on exotic ingredients to make my own food. I have thrown disgusting lumps of 'bread' into the bin and become mad scientist-like in my quest for a 'simple' home-made biscuit.

Ingredients:
Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Rice Bran, Sugar, Sugar Beet Fibre, Stabiliser
(Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose), Dried Yeast, Salt, Psyllium Fibre, Flour
Treatment Agent (Ascorbic Acid), Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum), Cocoa Powder

I added oil and water to this mix, left for 20 minutes to prove, popped it in the oven and I got the most perfect loaf, crunchy on the outside and bouncy, soft in the middle. I got 13 (small) slices from one loaf and it froze and defrosted with aplomb. And it was such a pleasure to be able to slice my bread as I like it.






Ingredients:
Gluten Free Oats (34%), Sugar, Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Raising Agents
(Disodium Diphosphate, Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Calcium Sulphate),
Flavouring

 




















The cookie mix was even easier. I added dairy free marge and water and 20 minutes later had the most tasty cookies. They baked like a dream, kept in one piece and stayed fresh overnight. They taste like maple syrup Oats So Simple smells and are really, bloody moreish.

I can't believe how reasonably priced everything is too. £2.49 for the bread mix (19p a slice - Another GF and EF bread on the market works out at 43p a slice!)

And I love the website, so simple to navigate and all the info is there (don't you hate it when you can't even find out ingredients on sites selling 'free from' products?)

Next on my shopping list - I'll be trying the white bread mix, instant porridge (dairy free!) and chocolate brownie mix.

www.deliciousalchemy.co.uk

*These products are not suitable for egg or soya allergy sufferers. May contain traces of nuts & peanuts*

I received these samples free of charge. My review is all my own opinion and wording.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Q&As - IBS, Food Intolerance and Coeliac Disease

I have compiled a series of Q&As with sufferers of IBS, food intolerance and coeliac disease. The questions focus on diagnosis and what happens afterwards. I found the answers fascinating and it has opened my eyes to many things, despite living with multiple food intolerances myself for many years.

What is clear is that a huge number of people are suffering from bowel discomfort and embarrassment. This should not be taken lightly; as you will read, your self-confidence and freedom are affected whether you have IBS, food intolerance or coeliac disease. The people I have interviewed have all noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms by eliminating certain foods from their diet.

I hope readers will note that these are not 'faddy diets'. Living without certain foods may seem extreme to some, but to those interviewed and countless others, it is a life that helps us to feel 'normal'. And for those with coeliac disease, it is essential.

Hopefully some readers will find these Q&As useful - whether it is to help someone explain their own symptoms to others, or to give someone the courage to seek medical advice for their own symptoms.

I have provided some basic details about the participants, so you can see age, location, symptoms, but not their name or GP's name. Some participants are friends and some are people I found using Twitter. I tried to get a broad range of experiences. The questions asked are the same for each participant, apart from slight variations regarding treatment.

A Bit About IBS from www.nhs.uk

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx

The most common symptoms of IBS are:
•abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo
•a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both
•bloating and swelling of your stomach 
•excessive wind (flatulence)
•occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
•a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet 
•passing mucus from your bottom 

Other, less common symptoms are:
•a lack of energy (lethargy)
•feeling sick
•backache
•bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder)
•pain during sex (dyspareunia)
•incontinence

The symptoms of IBS can also have a significant impact on a person's day-to-day life and can have a deep psychological impact. As a result, many people with the condition have feelings of depression and anxiety.

1. Q&A - Diagnosed with IBS and Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity

2. Q&A - Diagnosed with IBS, Self Diagnosed with Food Intolerances 

3. Q&A - Diagnosed with IBS - FODMAP Diet Found Food Intolerance

4. Q&A - Diagnosed with IBS, Food Intolerance Test Revealed Several Food Intolerances

A Bit About Coeliac Disease from www.nhs.uk

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/pages/introduction.aspx

Coeliac disease is an example of an autoimmune condition, when your immune system mistakes healthy cells and substances for harmful ones and produces antibodies against them (antibodies usually fight off bacteria and viruses). In the case of coeliac disease, your immune system mistakes one of the substances that makes up gluten, called gliadin, as a threat to the body.
The antibodies cause the surface of your intestine to become inflamed (red and swollen).
The surface of the intestine is usually covered with millions of tiny tube-shaped growths called villi. Villi increase the surface area of your gut and help it to digest food more effectively.
However, in coeliac disease, the damage and inflammation to the lining of your gut flattens the villi, which reduces their ability to help with digestion. As a result, your intestine is no longer able to digest nutrients from your food, leading to the symptoms of coeliac disease.


Eating foods containing gluten can trigger a range of symptoms, such as:

•bloating or abdominal (stomach) pain
•flatulence and a noisy stomach
•weight loss
•tiredness and fatigue, which may be a sign of iron deficiency anaemia or folate deficiency anaemia
•tingling and numbness in your hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
•vomiting (usually only affects children)
•swelling of your hands, feet, arms and legs caused by a build-up of fluid (oedema)


If coeliac disease is untreated, being unable to digest food in the normal way could cause you to become malnourished, making you feel tired and lacking in energy. Malnutrition in children can lead to failure to grow at the expected rate, both in terms of weight and height, as well as delayed puberty in older children.

Although not a symptom of coeliac disease, if you have an autoimmune response to gluten, you may also develop a type of skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis.

Even if symptoms are mild or non-existent, it is still recommended to change your diet, as continuing to eat gluten can lead to serious complications.


1. Q&A - Childhood Coeliac Diagnosis - A Parent's Perspective

2. Q&A - Coeliac Diagnosis in Adulthood

3. Q&A - Diagnosed with IBS Before Further Tests Reveal Coeliac Disease


Coeliac UK Website



Monday, 2 March 2015

Gluten Free Finds - Swansea

I visited Swansea city centre for the first time on Saturday. Me and my husband were in the area for a birthday party so I thought we could have a nice wander around. However it wasn't really the day for wandering around, with biting winds and sideways rain.
 
I was told Swansea was badly damaged during WWII and it shows. Grey, 70's rows of shops sit next to beautiful Tudor buildings. We found ourselves round the back of buildings, in litter strewn alleys quite a bit, wondering where we were going. We found ourselves in a huge modern shopping centre with all the usual shops and then discovered another mall on the other side of town that felt like something from a post-apocalyptic world.
 
There was a cute little market in Castle Square (if you ignore the worrying, blood red water feature), and most of the stall holders were selling local produce or at least locally produced products. There was a good mix of local cheese, bread, cake, pasties, hand sewn and painted items with a Welsh theme, Welsh slate products - with added paella, pizza and brownies. (I tried to find out if this market is regular, but couldn't see anything online.)
*Edited to add that I've just found out that this was part of the 'Get Welsh Festival'! http://www.bigheartofswansea.co.uk/event.php?id=57
 
Being St David's Day, I was hankering after a Welsh cake. I spotted a sign that said 'GF available' and did my best, dignified 'squeal, jog, arm wave' approach to the stall. And predictably, they were sold out. The nice lady said that they deliver anywhere in the country and gave me a card - www.jloccasionalcakes.co.uk but it just ain't the same on any other day.


 
Castle Square

Down Whitewalls, which seems to be one of the main shopping streets, sits a very busy café called The Crepe Vine (we Welsh love a pun) and there was a blackboard outside saying 'Gluten Free No Problem. Soya Milk Here'. I wanted to go in (or at least try and find a table) but my husband was really not in the mood for a crepe. Which is fair enough I guess.

There are no contact details on the website, so if you're reading this guys - can you confirm what is GF?
www.thecrepevine.co.uk

The Crepe Vine
 
We then went into the fabulous indoor market and although I didn't spot anything specifically GF, this is still the place to go for amazing meat, fish, seafood and cheese. (I found my favourite cheese 'Perl Las', it's a meltingly soft and creamy stilton, definitely recommend).

The indoor market, spot the kiddies in traditional dress


No GF here. Oh, how I miss Corned Beef Pie!

Slightly out of town, we spied the legendary Rossi's Fish and Chip shop. I've read good things about their GF fish and chips.

If anyone knows of anywhere else in Swansea serving GF food, I'd love to know about it!

Download a Swansea map (PDF)

Monday, 26 January 2015

The UK Gluten Free Fish and Chips Guide!

Following on from the success of my UK Gluten Free Sunday Roast Guide and my UK Gluten Free Beer Guide, I bring you the UK Gluten Free Fish and Chips guide!

As before I have split this down into areas of the UK and I will be adding to it often. If I've missed your local, please comment below or let me know on Twitter.

Each listing is taken from a recommendation on Twitter or from the company's own website and is accurate as of January 2015.

Northern Ireland 
x 0

Scotland North 
x 5

Land & Sea Fish & Chip Shop
20 Main Street, Polmont, Stirlingshire, FK2 0PX
Available: 1st Saturday of every month from 12pm - 2.30pm
www.land-n-sea.co.uk

Sammy’s Fish & Chip Shop
Kilmallie Rd, Caol, Fort William, Scotland, PH33 7EN
Available: Every day with 30 minutes notice
www.sammysfishandchipshop.co.uk

Frankie’s Fish & Chips
Brae, Shetland, ZE2 9QJ
Available: Every day with 15 minutes notice
www.frankiesfishandchips.com/assets/files/pdf/fr-gluten-free-menu-MARCH-2014.pdf

North Street Chip Shop
74 North Street, Forfar, Angus DD8 3BJ
Available: The last Saturday of each month
www.northstreetchipshop.co.uk/nutrition.php

The Real Food Cafe
Main Street, Tyndrum, Crianlarich, Perthshire FK20 8RY
Available: Every day
*GF menu includes homemade mushy peas, tartare sauce, soups and selected home baking. Vegan food also available!
www.therealfoodcafe.com/RealFoodCafeMenu2014.pdf

Scotland South 
x 0

North East 
x 2

Seabreeze Fish & Chips
Lobster Road, Redcar, Redcar and Cleveland, TS10 1SH,
Available: Every day, call 0800 024 8537 to order in advance
*Fritters and other items also available
www.seabreezefishnchips.co.uk/menus/gluten-free-menu-cod-chips-fish-chips

Coleman's Fish and Chips
176 - 186 Ocean Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE33 2JQ
Available: Every last Monday of the month 2.00pm - 4.00pm (Except Bank Holidays).
www.colmansfishandchips.com

North West 
x 11

Green Island Chippy
8-10 Willow Street, Congleton, Cheshire CW12 1RL
Available every day
www.facebook.com/GreenIslandChippy/

Fosters Fish & Chips
812 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 6UH and
Fosters Fish & Chips
4 Chorley Hall Lane, Alderley Edge, Cheshire SK9 7EU
Available every Sunday
www.fostersfishandchips.com

Granada Fish Bar
5 North Albert St, Fleetwood, FY7 6AA
Available: Mondays and Wednesdays
www.granadafishbar.com

Holt's Fish and Chips
144 Scotland Road, Nelson, Lancashire BB9 7XT
Available: Every day, call 01282 616532 to order before-hand
www.holtsfishandchips.co.uk/menu3.php

The Good Catch
1. 59 Brook Road, Flixton, M41 5RY
2. 160 Stamford Park Road, Hale, WA15 8AL
3. Montegue Mews, Freshfield, L37 5EB
4. St John's Shopping Centre, 125 St George's Way, Liverpool, L1 1LY
Available: Every Monday
www.thegoodcatch.co.uk/locations.html

Thornton Fisheries
11 Victoria Road East, Thornton FY5 5HT
Available: On the third Saturday of the month
www.thorntonfisheries.co.uk

The Cod Father
289 Manchester Road, Lostock Gralam, Northwich CW9 7NE
Available: Every day
*GF menu includes a spam fritter!
www.thecodfather.org.uk/menu.html

Yorkshire and the Humber
x 2

McNic's Fisheries
67 Otley Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire BD18 2BJ
Available: On request
www.facebook.com/pages/McNics-Fisheries-Shipley/

Quayside
7 Pier Rd, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 3PU
Available: Every day
www.quaysidewhitby.co.uk

East Midlands
x 3

Crispins Fish & Chips
34 Kent Road, Upton, Northampton NN5 4XB
Available every day
www.facebook.com/pages/Crispins-Fish-and-Chips/

The Jolly Fryer
94 Low Moor Road, Kirkby in Ashfield, Nottingham NG17 7BJ
Available: On request
www.facebook.com/pages/Jolly-Fryer/331828313504385

Crest Of The Wave / Ripley's
1 New Street, Ripley DE5 3BN
Available: Friday and Saturday, 12pm - 2pm and 5pm - 7pm
www.crestofthewave.co.uk

West Midlands
x 0

Wales
x 4





















Top Gun Fish Bar
33 Merthyr Road, Cardiff CF14 1DB
Available every Sunday
*'Specials' of the day also available GF
www.facebook.com/TopGunCdf

Younger's Fish Bar
73 Caerphilly Rd, Birchgrove, Cardiff CF14 4AE
Available: First and third Monday of most months
www.youngersfishbar.co.uk/index.php/gluten-free-nights

Weeks Fish & Chips
12 Albion Square, Chepstow, NP16 5DA
Available: Last Sunday of every month, 12pm - 4.30pm
www.weeksfishandchips.co.uk

Penaluna's Famous Fish & Chips
35a / 36 High Street, Hirwaun, Nr Aberdare, Rhondda Cynon Taff CF44 9SW
Available: Periodically - Details in the newsletter and on the website.
www.penalunas.co.uk/index.php/2014-06-02-11-45-48/gluten-free

Eastern Region
x 0

South West
x 9

Clifton Village Fish Bar
4 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4BP and
Stoke Bishop Fish Bar
13 Druid Hill, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 1EW
Available on the 1st Monday of the month (evening only)
www.cliftonvillagefishbar.co.uk

Farrows Fish and Chips
146 Wells Road, Totterdown, Bristol BS4 2AG
Available every day. Phone ahead to have your order ready for your arrival - 0117 908 5511
*Sausages, pineapple fritters, fish cake and curry sauce also available
www.farrowsfishandchips.co.uk

Fairbanks Traditional Fish and Chips
23 Flaxpits Lane, Bristol BS36 1JY
Available every day except Friday and Saturday
www.facebook.com/pages/Fairbanks-Traditional-Fish-and-Chips/

Kingfisher Fish & Chips
6 Glen Road, Plymouth PL7 2XS
Available every Monday
www.kingfisherfishandchips.co.uk

The Fishmongers @ Greendale Farm Shop
Sidmouth Rd, Nr Farringdon, Exeter, Devon EX5 2JU
Available once a month, check on Twitter for dates
https://twitter.com/thefishmongers

Stein's Fish and Chips
South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8BL
Available every day
www.rickstein.com/eat-with-us/steins-fish-chips/

Simpsons Fish and Chips
73-75 Priors Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 5AL
Available on the last Monday of every month (except December) between 4.45-9.30pm.
*Sausage, fritters, onion rings, mushy peas, curry sauce and more also available
www.simpsonsfishandchips.com

The Big Fish
166 Bath Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL53 7NF
Available every day
www.facebook.com/bathroadbigfish

South East
x 3

Whistler's Fish and Chips
Westbourne - 1 The Grove, Westbourne, PO10 8UJ
Available: Monday and Saturday
Menu
Hayling Island - 47 Station Road, Hayling Island, PO11 0EB
Available: Wednesdays
Menu
Fareham - 141a West Street, Fareham, PO16 0DU
Available: Every day
Menu

London
x 3

Olivers Fish and Chips
95 Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, London NW3 4RL
Available every Wednesday
www.oliversfishandchips.com

Brockley Rock
317 Brockley Road, London SE4 2QZ
Available every Tuesday
*Fried and grilled fish and a range of salads
www.brockleysrock.co.uk

Maddy's Fish Bar
397 New Cross Road, New Cross, London SE14 6LA
Gluten free batter used for fish as standard
www.maddysfishbar.com

Friday, 23 January 2015

Gluten Free Adventures on Park Street, Bristol

If you're ever in central Bristol looking for a gluten free meal, the key thing to remember is - the nearer you are to Clifton, the better your chances. So unfortunately, it's time to change into flats, plug in your music to drown out that clicky hip and head straight up Bristol's Misty Mountain, AKA Park Street.
 
I was lucky enough to work on The Triangle just before Christmas and we ate out often, so here is my round up of gluten free eateries on Park Street and on The Triangle.
 
First up -
 
Mission Burrito
62 Park St, Bristol BS1 5JN
www.missionburrito.co.uk


 
My corn tortillas

Mushy goodness

Boy, beer, burrito

We make our own tortillas quite a bit so it was such a treat to have them made for us. The GF option is 4 mini sized corn tortillas with a choice of fillings (all are GF). I went for a few different fillings so I got to try everything and it was all fantastic. Really comforting, slow cooked goodness and guacamole! I spoke to them afterwards about cross contamination and they said they are looking into covering the tortillas before they go on the grill to make them extra safe. The décor is functional and a bit uncomfortable. When I told people we were eating there, they said 'oh, the takeaway place?' However, it won't stop me from going back! I am a Mission Burrito convert, like so many other Bristolians.

Browns
38 Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RE

Chicken liver & brandy parfait, rhubarb & tomato chutney, salad instead of toasted sourdough bread

Pan fried seabass fillets, sweet potato, chick pea & spinach curry, yoghurt & caper dressing
 
I was well looked after when I went for lunch at Brown's. What a treat lunch at Brown's is - beautiful architecture and a serene atmosphere, dishes that linger on the palate and flawless service. I chose what I wanted on the menu and the waitress assured me she would ensure any gluten items were substituted. My seabass main has become one of my favourite dishes in a restaurant ever! I even tried making it myself at home.
 
Bill's
69 Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1QL
 
Lunch at Bill's was a slightly different experience. Our waitress kept misunderstanding our requests which was comical at first but worrying when ordering anything free from. I asked about GF and she gave me a booklet with 'allergy advice'. Lunch options were green curry, wild mushroom risotto and the 'Pan-fried sea bass, chunky tomato, avocado and caper salsa with a crispy spring onion and parsley potato rösti' - which is what I went for. On the whole it was very tasty (thought I would have left off the avocado), I just felt miffed that I was surrounded by people with amazing looking burger and chips! 
 
Friska
70 Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1QU
www.friskafood.com
 
 
 
Gluten free Pho - what more do I need to say? The picture doesn't do it justice either. I got a great big container of Pho, full of fresh veg, slow cooked pork and herbs and lots of lovely extra bits. I also got a coffee with almond milk! Friska always have gluten free cake on the counter and a selection of handmade cold salads, like Pad Thai. The décor is modern, cosy warehouse chic and there is a record, book and vintage clothing shop upstairs. I have a crush.
 
CAU
74 Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1QU
www.caurestaurants.com

Good service, attentive staff. Décor is clinical, cow field chic. Steak was badass. And I hear the Margaritas are great.

Bottelino's
85 Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1QS
www.bottelinos.net

Bottelino's offer gluten free pasta (penne) and you just need to speak to the waiter to find out which pasta dishes are GF. Servings are enormous and I can recommend the Rioja.


Other restaurants with an allergen menu/'GF' marked on the menu/offering to adjust meals to be gluten free.
Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to try these places out, though I'd love your feedback if you have.

Starts from the bottom to top of Park Street/Triangle.

La Tomatina - 2-4 Park St, Bristol BS1 5HS www.latomatinabristol.co.uk
Bristol Folk House - 40A Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JG www.bristolfolkhouse.co.uk
Nandos - 49 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5NT www.nandos.co.uk
Goldbrick House - 69 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PB www.goldbrickhouse.co.uk
Gourmet Burger Kitchen - 74 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JX www.gbk.co.uk
Jamie's Italian - 87-89 Park St, Bristol BS1 5PW www.jamieoliver.com
Pizza Express - 31 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HP (just off Park St) www.pizzaexpress.com

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Review - Venue 35, Bristol

Soya Latte
 
The Back Dining Area
 
Fish and Chips
 
Close Up

Onion Rings
 
I finally visited Venue 35 on Saturday. They are based way outside of central Bristol, in an area I never have a need to visit. I've been told that Westbury on Trym is quite a well-to-do area and as we drove around we found some lovely looking spots for a bit of people watching in the sunshine. We found the café nestled in a small row of drab 70's style shops, surrounded by charity shops, off licenses and hairdressers, which was a little disappointing. As we walked through the front door, we were taken aback by how busy it seemed. The place appears to be popular with young families and although we try to avoid children en masse, I was happy that the place was buzzing.

We sat down in the back room which was much quieter but the only small table available was dirty and there were no menus to be found anywhere. There were clusters of sofas and coffee tables which seemed pretty impractical for dining and they still had some Christmas decorations up.
My husband went to get menus and drinks. I had perused the gluten free menu on the Venue 35 website many times so I was surprised that there was no separate menu in the café itself. The menu was marked with 'GFO' after many of items and I was happy to see that many of the items I'd lusted after online were listed. It was now a choice between a burger or fish and chips. Either way, I was having onion rings, which I hadn't eaten for many, many years!

My husband ordered at the bar and when he came back, we flagged down a waiter to clean down our table. A long while later, I checked on the time and 45 minutes had passed since ordering. Finally the food arrived and the plates were piled high. My husband's lasagne was pretty substantial but we both did our very best to clear our plates! My food was good, the batter was crisp and not oily but it was a little flavourless. Likewise with the chips. Maybe a nicer oil would help things along?

Overall, a slightly unusual experience at Venue 35. Food in large volumes with minimal customer care. That said, I am happy to go back if I'm ever in the area again. There's still a lot more to try - gluten free breakfast, Sunday roast, a choice of burgers and a range of desserts that includes a cider infused apple crumble!

Venue 35
135 Stoke Lane,
Westbury On Trym,
Bristol,
BS9 3RW

 www.venue35.co.uk

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Going Gluten Free and Vegan

My 'normal' diet is what I call 'Meagan', I avoid eggs totally (hereditary intolerance) and all dairy except for cheese (and the occasional bit of milk chocolate!). I try to eat as little meat as possible so I have accidental vegan days quite often.
At first I decided to do a gluten free vegetarian trial, then thought that I might as well go the whole hog (excuse the pun) and go vegan for as long as possible/practical. I love animals and as a strong advocate for animal rights and former animal fosterer, I welcomed an excuse to give our animal chums a break for a little while.

 
As for eggs and dairy, I am actually thankful that they cause me problems because I am now educated about the egg and dairy industry. Both industries have their issues, but the main issue for me is that the egg industry considers male chickens as 'waste'. Likewise, the dairy industry considers male cows as 'waste' (the 'organic' or 'free range' industry included.) Not many people want to know about what happens to the 'waste' but as a consumer, I believe that we can't ignore the facts and hope they go away.

Male chicks will be crushed or suffocated to death


And of course, there is the grimness that is drinking cow's milk.

Peta: The Dairy Industry

Health Concerns About Dairy Products - A Study

 
My vegan and gluten free week revealed many things to me, some expected and some very surprising.

Making choices in the supermarket - I realised that I instinctively went for the option with meat in, without paying much attention to the meat free version i.e. tinned soup. Why have winter veg when you can have pea and bacon? The bacon option sounds tastier, right? I had never thought about how both can be the same price....the origin of the meat in such products is never considered. We'd buy an organic chicken but also a 'pepperoni' pizza without a second thought.


Vegan choices are not necessarily healthy choices - like with GF, people assume it is a healthier lifestyle, but I found myself getting excited over vegan alternatives to things, which ended up containing a long list of unrecognisable ingredients. I also ate a lot of fried food (as frying seems to be the easiest way to give something flavour) and using flavour enhancers that I didn't feel should be consumed on a regular basis. On this note, vegans eat a lot of gluten and soy products. Seitan anyone? A diet high in refined wheat products and unfermented soy makes me feel pretty uncomfortable.

The vegan diet requires a lot of forethought and preparation - GFers think that they struggle to eat on the move, eat out or plan lunches - veganism is on a whole new level. GF and vegan felt almost like a prison sentence. No more eating out, no more dinners with family, no more lunch with colleagues. Nothing. It's a brave move. If you've done it out of choice, all hail to you! If you have no other option, you have all of my sympathy.

Like the GF diet, veganism can be expensive and requires visiting numerous shops and websites to get all the bits you need. A friend of mine recently went vegan and couldn't believe how expensive his weekly shop became. Before I tried this diet, I thought that sounded ridiculous - surely removing meat from the shop shaves loads of money off? But man cannot live on vegetables alone - one simply gets bored. After day 3 of vegetable bake, vegetable soup, vegetable pasta, vegetable stir fry, you long for some variation. Suddenly that vegan omelette recipe you saw doesn't seem so silly.
As I'd only removed meat (and cheese) from my diet, I hadn't expected to see any difference to my digestion. At the beginning, I was using the loo several times a day. I worried that I had taken things too far and might make myself ill. And then that stopped and I felt great, healthy, lighter and full of energy, On one of the days, I actually boinged around the house like Tigger, while my husband looked on bemused. How many 33 year olds can honestly say they 'boing'? My sleep was like a heavenly slumber. I lost 3 pounds and my IBS perma-pooch was almost flat.

So what did I actually eat?

Breakfasts - not much change here, fruit, porridge, cereal with almond milk, toast with Vitalite.

Lunch - Leftovers from dinner with salad and egg free mayo, Uncle Ben's rice pouches, vegetable soup. On the weekend, hash browns/waffles, mushrooms, tomatoes, smoked soya cheese, (the Tesco one is actually great), baked beans.

Dinner - Pizza (make your own base with polenta, sweet potato or spinach (Check out Mila's amazing recipes) with vegan cheese, sundried tomato puree base, jalapenos, mushrooms, sweetcorn.
Spicy noodles (check out the Vegan Black Metal Chef's Phad Thai!), tortilla wraps with refried beans, guacamole, vegan cheese, chillis and roasted peppers, chickpea and mushroom curry, veggie chilli, Mexican soup with black eyed peas instead of chicken and something I invented called 'Chick cakes' - slightly blend a tin of chickpeas and an equal amount of sweetcorn (I found frozen veg very useful) with a tablespoon of GF flour, fresh coriander and seasoning/spices of your choice. Form into patties and shallow fry until brown on both sides. Cook up a batch and eat them in a bun, with salad and 'slaw or have for breakfast with baked beans.

Full Fried Breakfast

Spicy Noodles with Veg and Peanuts and a Crispy Tortillas Feast

 
Cheese, potato and mushroom cakes with salad and a batch of 'Chickcakes'
 
A further tip I learned; cook up batches of tortillas, hash browns, savoury rice, bean burger type things, refried beans, daal - anything that you can keep in the fridge and dip into when you're hungry. Hunger is definitely the enemy when you go vegan!

At the end of one week, although I felt great, I had a niggling feeling that the diet wasn't as healthy as my usual diet. I would recommend it if you have disturbed sleep, bad skin, mood swings - anything unexplained that has been niggling away - as I know loads of people who have found going completely herbivore helpful for all of these things. The diet affirmed to me that my hard won diet, the one that keeps me pain free after much trial and error is the one I want to stick with. However, it has helped me to look at meat in a different way, to go for the veggie option whenever I can and to try to add flavour to meals in other ways instead of relying on meat. If recent studies are to be believed, this won't be a choice for us for much longer so maybe I'm just getting a head start!