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!



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