I recently saw a stream of posts on my social media talking about Netflix documentary ‘What The Health’. The reason this sudden flurry of chatter about the documentary caught my eye was because so many people were writing statements like “Time to go Vegan” or “Wow such an eye opener” and “I’m definitely trying to go Vegan after watching this” and many more comments urging others to go and watch it.
Now let me share a bit of background story about me, I LOVE meat and also dairy in equal measures! A juicy steak, Jerk Chicken or a creamy Yogurt and grilled Halloumi, all foods I absolutely get so much enjoyment from. I am an absolute foodie! I admit it, I’m that chick that will eat even if she isn’t hungry if someone offers up something I really like! Rack of lamb? yassssss hunnay I’m first in line. I admit it, I am that into halloumi that it’s actually borderline an addiction.
So fast forward to 30 seconds after finishing watching “What the health” and my entire perspective had changed. Now, before you start… I appreciate that this documentary is based on the American meat and dairy industry and that it has received some criticism since becoming so popular, but it doesn’t change the information that mostly affected my perspective. Meat and dairy simply aren’t good for you and can cause a multitude of health concerns. So with that in my head I decided from tomorrow I would no longer eat meat, fish or egg and I would become a bonafide vegetarian and also a “Vegan in Training”. My boyfriend also decided to join me as he was of the opinion that any information I had learned that managed to make me of all people stop eating meat must be bad, so he decided to follow suit.
Now the truth, going cold turkey (Excuse the meaty pun) is hard damn work. First comes the meat cravings, then the headaches, then the extreme exhaustion and narcolepsy (I fell asleep mid conversation at least twice), following that you then hit the insomnia phase which happens around the time that you start taking all the correct vitamins, and to top it all off you can become a depressed emotional wreck who will cry at the smell of a bacon sarnie.
Sounds fun right? NOT!
In a nutshell; giving up meat proved to me exactly how many hormones are pumped into the food we eat… why else would I be experiencing such awful withdrawal symptoms? And it wasn’t just me either, my boyfriend Tony experienced the exact same thing as me, I’m pretty sure there was an entire day during this phase we didn’t even say even two words to each other. Another person who found it hard was my younger brother Craig who recently became a complete recluse for two weeks when making the step from Veggie to Vegan. He got so down in the dumps my mum was worried he had legitimate depression and spent a week investigating what could possible be wrong with him. Nope nothing wrong mum! It was simply all the hormones he was used to having in his milk and cheese every day leaving his system and detoxing him from giving up dairy, it made all 3 of us totes emosh! But as quickly as we hit rock bottom, fast forward a few weeks and like a miracle he was happy as larry, as were Tony and I!
So now you feel like a normal human being again what’s next on this wonderful journey!?
So it’s time for the what the F#*k am I supposed to eat phase? The first two months are an absolute myth. You go to Tescos or Sainsburys for your weekly shop and leave with a pile of fruit and cereal bars and not much else! We actually started to have avocado on toast as an actual dinner as we had no clue what to make. I was raised as a meat and two veg type of girl (Get your mind out of the gutter please!) I literally mean chicken, potato, green beans type meals. When you take away the meat it felt like it wasn’t really a dinner so I was lost! But don’t worry because then you get to the everyone wants to buy you a vegetarian cookbook phase Lol…
So I turned Veggie about 4 weeks before my birthday and I received a total of 6 Vegetarian cookbooks for my birthday this year. I have to admit 6 was a little excessive (everyone has the same thoughtful gift idea) however they definitely helped inspire me and show me what a Veggie meal should look like at least. I must admit they did help as all of a sudden I wasn’t so scared of trying to cook meals from scratch that didn’t contain my favourite ingredient…. MEAT! Another thing that really helped was figuring out what supplements to take, I did a lot of research online and came to the conclusion that I needed Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin B complex and Zinc to rebalance my energy, do your own research and work out what you need as it will vary for men and women.
After getting to grips with being a Vegetarian I decided to cut 50% of my dairy intake so I switched cow’s milk for coconut milk, cows yogurt for coconut yogurt and then dairy butter for avocado oil butter, I even started eating dairy free chocolate.
BUT THEN THERE IS CHEESE!
Cheese substitutes are not the one… to me, they taste how a stinky armpit smells. I just couldn’t do it, so as it stands today I have drawn the line at cheese hence the “Vegan in training” status.
Here is a list of my favourite substitutes…
Try Koko Coconut milk
Try Koko Coconut Yogurts
Try Tesco’s Avocado Oil Butter
and finally if like me you love your chocolate & sweets M&S do some wonderful dairy free chocolate
and gelatine free sweets…
Then there is eating out! Well well well… aren’t the majority of restaurants bloody lazy when it comes to veggie options? Mushroom Risotto , Pesto Pasta & Halloumi skewers is that the best you can do guys??? If i’m honest pre Veggie life my staple meal on a night out was an ‘STK’ juicy rib eye steak with chunky chips or Mac & Cheese with a variety of vegetables on the side, or failing that a juicy burger from ‘Burger & Lobster’. Fast forward to my new lifestyle and I basically had to start again when it came to eating out so here is my number one restaurant so far for newbie veggies who miss flavourful food. My number one restaurant choice has to be….
Mint leaf is an indian restaurant in the heart of London that is the perfect spot for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. I recently visited the Mint Leaf with my friend Lara for her birthday and we had the best time. First of all the ambience in this place is perfect for a girly catch up, a business dinner, date night or a family meal…
We went on a wednesday evening so it wasn’t as busy as it would be on the weekend but it still had a sociable vibe and a buzz about it, with cafe de mar chill out style music playing in the background, mood lighting and a cocktail menu to send your taste buds into a spin as well as perfect service we knew immediately it was going to be an enjoyable experience at Mint Leaf.
But let’s talk about the food; before turning vegetarian I don’t think I had ever in my life opted to go to an indian restaurant or even ordered an indian takeaway to be entirely honest. I had it in my head that I didn’t really like the indian spices and flavours but Mint leaf just blew my mind. First of all the menu had soooo many options for me and I actually loved every single thing that I tasted. Secondly I have a nut allergy and the menu hardly contains any nuts and the staff were very helpful when it came to navigating my dietary requirements.
The menu was just as exciting to read for the the me the veggie as it was for Lara the meat / fish lover which is rare under one roof! I’m not even a huge lover of broccoli but the chilli cheese chargrilled version that they served literally had me munching it down like I had never been fed before.
The Kurkure asparagus is a firm favourite of mine along with the Garlic chilli paneer.
My friend lara opted for the Patrani Macchi which was Sea bass wrapped in banana leaf with coriander, chilli and coconut and she said it was delicious and she also loved the chilli calamari dish. The food was fresh, cooked to perfection and full of flavour the presentation was elegant and simple, instagrammable yet you didn’t mind ruining it by scoffing it down.
This is my number one spot for anyone wanting to experience fine dining and truly tasty vegetarian cuisine. And did I mention the deserts are pretty awesome too?
To say becoming a vegetarian is easy after spending my entire life loving meat would be a lie. But I love how I feel knowing that I am treating my body with more respect and knowing I’m no longer eating food with a face is a good feeling! That doesn’t mean that whenever my mates have fried chicken or a juicy steak I don’t ask to have a sniff for old times sake though! Lol (yes I do this regularly and they’ve finally stopped looking at me like “are you serious woman?!?” As they know I most certainly am! I think it helps to make the change with a family member or a partner for moral support, also to find good spots to eat out like Mint Leaf that give you plenty of tasty options so you never feel like you’re missing out on the good stuff! (Follow Mint Leaf on social media @MintLeafLondon)
If you’re thinking of becoming veggie and need a little encouragement, simply comment on my latest post on Instagram and I will be sure to get back to you!