I tried being Vegan for a week

Yes I decided to go vegan for a week, and no I didn’t die of malnourishment.

I’ve always been interested in trying out different diets I hear about (Banting, Paleo, Vegetarian, Mediterranean you name it). Except I’ve always had a hard time with veganism.

For some reason the stereotype of the vegan diet being bland, boring and difficult to cater for has always put me off. This past week, I decided I was only allowed to judge it once I’d given it a go, and try being the all-scary, waiter-frustrating, plant-based eating, VEGAN.

Sunday DAY ONE

I’ll start here by admitting that the vegan diet was meant to start yesterday (Saturday). However come Saturday lunch time, with the all-good intentions of being vegan, I bought Dal and Naan from an Indian shop I wasn’t familiar with. When my food arrived I found the Dal was made with creamy ghee butter and the Naan was smothered in cheese. With my steaming Dal and gooey, cheesy naan staring up at me, I decided veganism would have to wait until Sunday.

Hint 1: When ordering out at new places, always ask what ingredients are in dishes.

Sunday, my first day of being vegan. My boyfriend and I went out for brunch at a local cafe that does the generic big brekkies, bircher muesli’s, porridges, pastries etc. for breakfast. Perusing the menu (naively expecting to find multiple vegan-friendly options) I was shocked to find that not one of the twenty-or-so dishes were vegan.  I had to Build My Own Brekkie and ordered half an avo, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a slice of toasted sourdough (no butter please) for AU$12.50.

For dinner, I went out with a friend to Coco Cubano, a restaurant that serves flavour-packed Cuban food, including Fajitas, Nachos, Pressed Sandwiches, Burgers, Burritos, Churros and exotic cocktails (reminds me of an up-market Guzman Y Gomez). I went with their quinoa salad – and opted not to have a topping of chicken/steak/haloumi – with a side of guacamole and plain corn chips. My problem: The meal was delicious, but I was still peckish afterwards. I had to have a handful of roasted cashews and almond milk tea to save me rolling about with hunger pains all night…

Monday DAY TWO

I didn’t have any big plans today (eating-wise) but I did have my weekly Game of Thrones night with my friend, where she always cooks dinner for me. I have to admit, I did feel a little uncomfortable mentioning that I was Day Two of my vegan streak, and when I sheepishly mentioned my diet restrictions I realised I had to bring a dish along so as to not inconvenience her.

Hint 2: Perhaps offer to cook/bring your own dishes to others houses, if you’d like to be invited back.

Tuesday DAY THREE 

I had work all morning and decided to treat myself by going out for a late lunch afterward (a habit that’s become a little too regular lately). Usually I would head for Guzman Y Gomez, Sushi Train, or Grill’d, but I spotted a restaurant that’s recently opened up, called Nudefish Poké. I chose to go with the Down to Earth poké bowl which hosted tofu, mushrooms, beetroot, pickled carrot, ginger, snowpeas, radishes and tamari almonds, brown rice and avo in a salty-sweet soy sauce. I definitely wouldn’t have usually chosen this option, but it turned out to be a delicious choice I’ll definitely go for again.

Wednesday DAY FOUR 

I was off to uni today, which meant I needed a big, filling breakfast if I was going to last the day without breaking the budget and splurging on another bought lunch. I put together a homemade brunch, taking inspiration from Niomi Smart’s Butternut Cashew Wholemeal Pasta (she calls it vegan Mac n’ Cheese), which filled me up all the way to 4pm.

I realised here that I was half way through the diet. Had I noticed any changes in my mood/appearance/health? To be fair, I was only four days in, but I had noticed my skin had mysteriously cleared up – it was looking a lot fresher and livelier… could cutting out dairy and animal products be working?

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Brunch ~ Homemade Butternut Cashew Pasta, kale salad, roast tomato, 1/4 avocado

Thursday DAY FIVE 

Thursday was a full on day of work and uni, but I managed to squeeze in a quick dinner at Sushi Train with a couple of close friends. Straying away from my usual sashimi, soft shell crab and tuna/avocado rolls, I went for the avocado seaweed salad (with soy sauce dressing), a large bowl of miso soup packed with creamy tofu, and edamame beans. The meal combo was so good, that I’ve decided I’m going to go for it the next time I’m there, regardless of being vegan or not.

Friday DAY SIX

I’m coming to the end of my seven days, and I’m in shock that I’ve almost made it… I thought I’d definitely slip up with the temptations of baked goods, Gelato, creamy sauces and chocolates that had been staring at me from shop windows all week.

On the way home from work I stopped by at McDonalds, to check out if the menu had any vegan options – I was expecting to be told that I would only be able to have a glass of water. To my surprise, that was not the case.

Hint 3: The sodas, apple pie, bread, hash brown’s and juices are all vegan approved.

Saturday DAY SEVEN

I’ve come to the end of my vegan week, and went out with a bang with dinner at my favourite Indian restaurant, Cumin. I went with the Dal Tadka (a staple favourite of mine), knowing that it was 100% vegan and 100% delicious. A perfect end to the week.

The Verdict: I have to say, as much as I would have liked to come out of this week as a hardcore vegan promoter, I just don’t think I could keep it up. I had a wonderful week exploring new food options and meals, and I genuinely respect the lengths vegan’s go to, to protect animals, their health and the environment (read more here). However, the limitations with ordering out, and the guilt I felt inconveniencing others when I ate at their houses were major drawbacks for me. 

However, noticeable changes in my mood, skin and weight (after just one week) has motivated me to look for more animal product alternatives (nut butters, nut milks, soy milks and egg replacers) and to cut down on my meat intake. 

Do you have any diets you swear by? Let me know xx

Healthy Almond-Cacao Protein Balls

Despite being flat out with uni exams at the moment, this Sunday I’m going to share the easy recipe I use for my cocoa protein balls. Unfortunately, my phone camera doesn’t do them justice – they look more like dung balls here – but trust me, they are delicious.

Protein balls are fantastic as a filling, healthy snack. Just try not to go crazy on them (they are very moreish). I use coconut oil because it much more filling compared to lots of other cooking oils, and seems to help stick them together.

Each ball has about 205 calories and is dense with healthy fats and protein to make it the perfect snack.

My recipe makes 5. You will need:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 50g sultanas
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Method:

  1. Put all dry ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth
  2. Put peanut butter and coconut oil in the microwave for 1 minute
  3. Pour peanut butter/coconut oil mixture into dry ingredients and mix with spoon.
  4. Using your hands form the mixture into 5 little protein balls
  5. Place in fridge for an hour
  6. Enjoy!

xx

Let me know if you try the recipe out!

5 Go-to Healthy Snacks

Hey guys!

I am the number one culprit when it comes to getting hungry when I’m bored.

To stop me from standing in the pantry and eating everything in sight, I have five healthy snacks that I go for when hunger strikes.

These are:

  • Carrot sticks & Hummous – carrot has to be my favourite veggie because of its sweetness, and Pilpel Hummus is my go-to bought hummus because it has so much flavour but doesn’t have garlic in it.
  • Dried fruit/nut mix – handful of pecans, pepitas, dried apricots, sultanas and walnuts. The fruits satisfy that sweet craving and the nuts fill you up.
  • Carman’s Nut Bar – Carman’s does such a great range of healthy muesli bars, if your local supermarket stocks them I would definitely recommend checking them out. They are the perfect snack, and funnily enough I got up at 2am the other night because my stomach was rumbling, and a Carmen’s nut bar was the perfect fix to send me back to sleep.
  • Popcorn – try to avoid popcorns that are doused in butter, just plain corn kernels will do the trick.
  • Sugarless banana & oatmeal cookies (my own recipe) – note that ‘sugarless’ just means free from processed sugar – but they make up for that in maple syrup and fruity flavour.

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Sugarless Banana/Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

I have been making batches of these for longer than I can remember because they are the perfect moreish snack, especially when I’m on the go.

You will need:

  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 3/4 cup self-raising flour
  3. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  4. Sprinkle of salt
  5. 1/4 cup olive oil (be ready to add more in case your mixture is too dry)
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 cup sultanas
  8. 2 soft bananas
  9. 1/3 cup pepitas
  10. 2 tbsp maple syrup
  11. Handful of pecans (to decorate)
  12. Feel free to add chocolate chunks if that’s your thing – I LOVE Pico Super Dark chocolate to bake with.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Mix the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, sultanas, bananas and pepitas together in a large bowl. Then, add the olive oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup and stir to combine.

Add extra olive oil until the mixture is cookie dough consistency. Roll into small cookie sized balls and whack in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

I hope you enjoy these great snacks.

xx

Flourless Banana Pancake Recipe

I love pancakes.

If asked what one meal I would have for the rest of my life – I say warm, fluffy pancakes.

And I wouldn’t get sick of them, because there are just so many different ways to do them.

This week, I was craving a simple, healthy, flourless recipe for pancakes.

I’ve come up with oatmeal-banana pancakes –  the banana acts as the perfect sweetener, instead of cane sugar.

You only need 3 ingredients for the batter and this recipe makes around 3 medium sized pancakes. Each pancake is very filling, which saves you from snacking for the rest of the day.

You will need:

  •  1/2 a very ripe banana
  •  1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal

Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse together until smooth and runny. Add a dribble of milk (I use almond) if mixture is too dry.

Then pour into a hot pan, greased with coconut oil, and fry until golden brown.

Lots of toppings are delicious with this recipe, but I usually go for a tablespoon of vanilla yogurt, shaved almonds, and garnish with chopped blueberries or strawberries.

This is a perfect fix for breakfast in bed, and is a much healthier and more filling alternative to conventional flour-based pancakes.

Enjoy!

xx

My Travel Work Out Routine

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Keeping up the motivation to workout every day is tough and it’s even harder when I’m traveling.  Usually, when I’m on holiday all I want to do after a day of sight-seeing is crash on the hotel bed.

However, exercise makes me feel so good that I try to squeeze in at least 3-4 sessions into each week of travel. Of course, there’s the excuse of not having a gym. If I don’t have a hotel gym or a gym nearby I use YouTube workouts or, if I feel like a lighter workout to get my body moving I do Tabata training.

Tabata training is a Japanese workout method that features doing high intensity interval training for short periods of time, with shorter rest. There are lots of different Tabata workouts, but I like the one I have created because it works my whole body:

For each set (each number), there are 5 repetitions, 20 seconds each with 10 seconds rest.

  1. Star jumps
  2. Push ups
  3. Sit ups
  4. Tricep dips
  5. Lunges
  6. Jumps (getting your knees to your chest)

This whole workout is quite short, which is perfect for squeezing in when travelling, and can be done in your hotel room in front of the TV because it doesn’t rely on equipment. If you want to work yourself for longer, obviously you can do more reps or do the whole workout twice through.

If I am feeling like a more intense workout or I need a source of motivation I use a video I have downloaded onto my phone from Youtube.

Again this workout doesn’t require any equipment, which is essential because who wants to fill up their suitcase with 10kg of weights.

I know that sometimes it does get really tough to exercise on holiday but I find it does leave me feeling happier and healthier, and more excited to try all the exotic meals I’m buying.

xx

Healthy Mulled Wine Recipe

Okay so wine’s wine, and it’s never going to have the health benefits of kale or broccoli. 

But, it is Christmas and time to treat yourself after a successful year, so I’d love you to try out my healthier Mulled wine recipe to celebrate the festive season.

The recipe substitutes using sugar, with dried fruits and spices.

To me, if Christmas had a scent, the warm, cinnamon-y aroma of Mulled Wine would definitely be it.

You will need:

  • 1 bottle of red table wine
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 grated nutmeg
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 chunk of ginger

Bring water, raisins, cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, orange rind and ginger to the boil in a saucepan. Then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the red wine and simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain the mulled wine and serve immediately. I like to put little orange peel curls or cinnamon sticks in each glass for decoration and extra flavour.

Merry Christmas Eve!

xx

A Delicious Alternative to Restaurant-Bought Butter Chicken

I just love Butter Chicken, so I developed this recipe to enjoy the dish without sacrificing a thousand calories.

All I use is chicken thighs, store bought curry paste, tomato paste, sliced almonds, greek yogurt and coriander.

After mixing everything but the chicken thighs and yogurt together with a fork, chop the chicken thighs into small pieces and mix them in with the paste you just made. Then fry it all up with olive oil on a high heat, and once the chicken is done just stir through the greek yoghurt.

It’s as easy as that!

I usually serve this with some falafels or brown rice, but you could definitely pour it onto Basmati rice or Garlic Naan if you want more carb-y flavour to supplement the dish.

xx

The Perfect High Satiety Breakfast

Hey guys!

I have been working on this recipe for a while, trying out all different styles of breakfasts (muesli, toast, bacon & eggs, avo on toast, pancakes) to try and find a yummy, low calorie breakfast which is also very filling.

So here it is, the perfect breakfast to fill you up and keep you feeling good throughout the day:

  • 2 poached eggs cooked in 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 piece of multi-grain toast
  • Black tea with almond/soy/cows milk (or herbal tea e.g. peppermint)

This meal has healthy carbohydrate in the bread, good fat in the avocado, protein in the eggs, part of your daily dairy requirement in the tea and a touch of flavour with the tomatoes.

Don’t feel guilty about the eggs (if you’ve ever heard anything negative about them), they are one of the healthiest and filling foods you can eat.

To avoid getting tired of having the SAME meal every day (I change my mind about what I like, like my underwear), mix the meal up by replacing the egg with 50g of fish, such as tuna, trout or cooked salmon. Or, you can try different breads such as wholemeal, rye or sourdough. Or, if you are feeling like a bit more flavour you can add some mushrooms or a small piece of grilled haloumi or tasty cheese. It’s up to you!

The feature image is one I captured this morning when I went out with a friend (Burnt Orange cafe Mosman). I ate about half and then asked for the rest take-away to savour for lunch.

xx

What I Eat in a Day, after getting a Dietician

You can read about it in detail the About Me section of my blog, but basically after stopping swimming last year, I picked up quite a bit of weight from uneducated eating habits.

This year, I decided to get a sports dietician to help me with the transition from an athlete’s diet to an active 18 year old’s diet.

Below is what I ate yesterday, and it’s a good depiction of a healthy eating day for me.

Obviously I still have treats (especially when I go out with friends), and I’ve found that I enjoy them so much more because I’ve re-focused my normal diet around wholefoods, good carbs, healthy fats and protein.

***

I started off the day with a mix-and-match breakfast. I wanted to make sure I had healthy fats as well as a good lot of protein in there.  So, I had 1 poached egg, cherry tomatoes, 1/2 avocado, 1/4 cup diced bacon fried in coconut oil.

I broke up the morning with some honey & ginger tea and a mandarin.

Then for lunch I made my green bean & bacon fry, Mmm..

To make this you will need: 

  • 1/2 cup chopped green beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • sultanas (weird I know, but trust me)
  • chopped walnuts

Place the walnuts in a fry pan on a high heat and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Place a cover over them for 3 minutes, then add in the rest of the ingredients and fry up.

Afternoon tea was one Natalie’s Health Honey Cinnamon Cookies – I made the batch at the start of the week. I use 1/2 cup stevia instead of the 3/4 cup coconut sugar.

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Dinner was sweet potato and chickpea curry.

The recipe for this is basically the title – I just roasted some sweet potato, and threw it together over heat with coconut milk, quinoa, chickpeas, and spices.

Eating like this has made me feel so better inside and out, and allows me to really enjoy eating some of my favourite treat foods like chocolate and waffles.

xx

Green Tea Smoothie? Getting Your Greens the Yummy Way

Summer or winter I love a good smoothie (keep in mind I live in Sydney, Australia so winter isn’t really a winter).

After lots of trial and error, I have created the perfect smoothie with ingredients that have different benefits for clean eating.

1

You will need:

1/3 Cup brewed green tea
Green tea is nature’s power drink, packed with anti-oxidants whilst carrying 0 calories. The low doses of caffeine keep you stimulated and awake without the negative effects that excessive amounts of coffee can bring. Green tea has also been shown to increase fat burning when drunk before exercise and prevents chances of cancer, infections, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Incorporating it into your diet is very recommended, but as I can’t stomach the taste of pure green tea, I like to add it to my smoothies.

1/4 cup Jalna pot set natural vanilla yoghurt
I love to add a small amount of creamy Jalna yoghurt to give my smoothie the taste boost that makes me love it. Don’t be fooled by half-fat yoghurts, advertising the benefits of a lower fat diet, remember that less fat means more sugar and the lack of satiety provided will make you want more.

Handful of frozen blueberries
Blueberries are little bursts of nutrients, full of fibre and important vitamins. They help prevent cancer and cholesterol problems and have also been shown to prevent heart disease. Adding a couple of handfuls to your diet each week is essential to clean eating.

1/2 a banana
Banana’s are wonderful for a low-calorie snack which still fills you up. They are associated with numerous health benefits, but perhaps the most poignant is that they have been shown to preserve memory. The brain is arguably the most important part of the human body, so including foods which boost its power is fundamental.

Heaped teaspoon of chia powder
Chia seeds have dominated the ‘clean eating’ industry since it began, with almost every superfood recipe including them. Their popularity is due to their anti-ageing properties, their help with digestion (keeps you feeling fuller longer and reducing sugar cravings), bone strength and how they help with building muscle and losing weight. This last feature of the seeds is because of their ability to absorb 10x their own weight in water, meaning they prolong hydration and improve nutrient absorption of electrolytes.

1 teaspoon of acai powder
Needless to say, acai powder is a recently discovered (by the health industry) superfood. If you haven’t seen acai powder on almost every health food restaurant menu, it’s basically a powder made from acai berries found in South America. Having all of the properties (and more) listed above for chia seeds, they are mostly associated with weight loss as they oxidise cholerestrol preventing it from clinging to arteries.

1 cup of almond milk
I love almond milk! A lot of my friends have told me its an acquired taste, and although it may be, after about a year of drinking it I think it tastes like a chocolately, nutty brew. Using unsweetened almond milk is a reduction of 40% of your calorie intake, over drinking cows milk. Although you don’t want to stick solely to almond milk (builds up lactose intolerance), incorporating it into your diet where you can is important.

xx