One year vegan and my eight top tips for going vegan.

In August 2015 I decided to go vegan, six months later still vegan and feeling wonderful, now one year later and of course still feeling great, besides a few non-vegan related health issues, I dread to think how bad they would be if I still ate animal products. For my one year vegan post I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips for those interested in making the change and becoming vegan, I promise you won’t regret it.

  1. Try new things! As children we often develop favourite go to meals and these soon become a staple in our daily routine, hard to break free from, even as adults. It is completely normal to go weeks eating the same meals day in day out or at least very similar. I mean how often do you eat some form of meat and potato? One of the things I love most about being vegan is how open I have become to trying new things, of course my recovery also plays a huge part in this but either way I love how experimental I now am. I remember when I first turned vegetarian I used to hate mushrooms even though I had never really tried them, now I could eat them with every meal, the same goes for so many things. Experiment with new recipes, ingredients and flavours- you never know unless you try. Break your food habits and be open minded- very open minded, especially when it comes to nutritional yeast, lentils and putting sweet potato into a brownie.

  1. Don’t say goodbye to your favourites, make them vegan friendly. I maybe contradicting myself here but as well as trying new things it is important to include your favourites, even your childhood favourites, I guess it is all about balance; new favourites and old favourites. For me vegan ‘meats’ are great for this kind of thing, one of my childhood favourites was chicken nuggets and chips so now and again I like to have fry’s family nuggets. You can also have things like veggie sausage sandwiches, beans on toast- I believe there is now even beans with veggie sausages in them? There really is all sorts of things like this out there, quorn now do vegan options to, just be sure to check for gluten if your intolerant to as quite often they are made with wheat.

  1. Never restrict yourself, if you find yourself craving something, some milk chocolate, a hot chocolate, a buttery slice of toast, a milky bowl of coco-pops or maybe even a homemade cupcake; you can still have it! Just find a way and I promise you there is a way (pinterest is your friend) of creating a vegan friendly version. If you really don’t fancy getting creative in the kitchen then check out Accidentally Vegan UK or #accidentallyvegan there are so many things out there that you would never think are vegan.
  1. Don’t let eating out put you off, always have a handy snack and prepare to search for a vegan friendly restaurant or adapt a menu. There are so many options for eating out vegan, now more than ever, the Happy Cow app is great for this kind of thing, do your research, a quick Google search and you will probably find somewhere. This is often one of the reasons people doubt becoming vegan ‘the social side’; there is no need for it to be a reason, if I can eat out being vegan and gluten free I am pretty sure you can to.

    A few of my favourite UK vegan friendly chain restaurants: Las Iguanas, Wagamama, Pizza Express, Carluccios, YoSushi, Zizis and Pret A Manger.

  1. Remind yourself why. When your struggling to remember why you made the decision to change remind yourself by reconnecting with others, spend some time with your pets, your friends pets, go for a walk and meet some cows, sheep and horses, take a trip to your local animal shelter or petting farm, watch a documentary, research some facts or read a vegan book; do something to remind yourself and re-inspire yourself to make the decision over and over again.

  1. Research! If you are struggling to think of meal ideas, quick snacks, baking recipes, vegan friendly restaurants, shops, make up brands, maybe your bloods have dropped a little in something -they really shouldn’t, mine actually improved but if so do some research find solutions- don’t let what ever it is stop you, be pro-active and change it for the better, remember ‘knowledge is power’. Read books, blogs, websites, watch videos, social media and download apps! There is so much vegan help, support and information out there, fill yourself with it, let it help your journey and who knows you might even pick up some vegan friends on your way.12767750_10153244200871809_1681553039_n
  1. Explore, from exploring your local area, to near by cities and even whilst traveling, find vegan stores, cafes, restaurants, meet ups, fairs and festivals. Exploring is not only a great way of finding new foods but also meeting new friends, sharing information and of course in the long run helping those who need help. It is also a wonderful way to get out and find places you might not have even known were there. Check out Vegfest’s events Calendar for events in the UK and Meetup for vegan meet ups that might be in your area.
  1. You can only do your best and do your best for YOU. Remember we are all different, even as vegans. There is so many fads around these days, don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with them, especially when researching, be prepared to be faced with all of the labels and ‘diets’; raw till four, fully raw, high carb and so on. You have to find what works for you, if like me you don’t like labels or diets then just be vegan, eat what you like, when you like, be cruelty free and just do your best. Never put pressure on yourself, this will just steer you away from being vegan, slip-ups will happen, that’s life but each day we make a difference.

Thank you so much for reading; I hope my eight top tips help you on your vegan journey. Please let me know if they do, your thoughts on the post or if you have any tips yourself please comment and add them to the list.

Nicole

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When baking goes wrong..

Yesterday evening I was baking cookies for my local playgroups coffee morning. I had been planing the recipe for weeks, I bought all the ingredients (vegan friendly) and wanted them to be the best chocolate, honeycomb cookies that had ever been. Without even knowing I was doing it, I was putting pressure on myself to be the best, to be perfect. Over the week this had slowly built up into everything and anything- not just the cookies and so my anxiety grew and low mood crept in. The perfectionist in me was no longer that tiny little part but instead fully grown, wishing myself to be something I am not and wishing the cookies to be more than they could be.  Continue reading “When baking goes wrong..”

Paris, Day Three.

Our last full day in Paris was a full day indeed, with the help from our ‘must see’ list, we saw it all. We started by visiting the Notre Dame, one of my favourite places in Paris, I have only ever visited twice but each time fills me with contentment- only partly because of my childhood favourite, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I lit a candle and gazed at the incredible, bright and colourful glass-stained windows.

Just around the corner from the Notre Dame we went into The Shakespeare and Company, the most beautiful book shop, but don’t get me wrong this is far from just a book shop. We probably spent longer in here than the Notre Dame, browsing through books, reading the quotes past visitors have placed on the walls and of course adding our own: ‘you are strong, you are brave, you are courageous, always believe in yourself’. If you are in Paris please please put this at the top of your to do list, I promise you won’t regret it. After going for lunch, ice cream at Las Vegans and a little gift shopping we made our way to Musee d’Orsay, mainly to walk to the top and look through the clock face, sadly it was just closing- I see this as a sign I will visit Paris again.

Vegans do not get your hopes up, I wasn’t able to find any vegan macaroons however, I couldn’t not go into the oh so famous Laduree and after our busy day coffee was needed, I have hope that one day they will sell vegan friendly macaroons but for now a coffee and soy milk will do. Other than a little more shopping and dinner that was our last day in the beautiful city.

I have no doubt I shall be returning to France in the future but until then,

au revoir mon ami, Nicole.

Paris, Day Two.

The sky was a little grey during our second day in Paris but that of course did not stop us venturing out to explore the city. We decided the Pompidou art gallery as I had never been before, from the look of the building I could have guessed the pieces were to be more modern and contemporary than anything else but I was surprised with the mix of art and exhibitions in the gallery. I found the majority of the collection to be very moving, leaving me feeling very inspired- a feeling I haven’t had in a while. When we arrived the line to get in was rather long but it went down very quickly, we paid €11 for a ticket as we are under 26, our ticket also included going to the top floor, the views are worth seeing. After exploring the gallery we went for a spot of lunch and shopping before heading back to the apartment to get ready for the evening. After our evening meal we went for cocktails at a couple of near by bars one being The Experimental Cocktail Club. I have no idea what our drinks were called but both we lovely, the staff were friendly and the place had such a relaxing vibe, great music, lighting, decor and comfy sofas-bonus.

Bonjour! Paris, Day One.

During our five day visit to Paris my friend and I stayed in an Airbnb, my first ever one! I can not believe I haven’t used one sooner. It was adorable, it had everything we needed-plus a crazy amount of books, we were in a great location and it all felt very homey’, very quickly, so much so, I kind of miss it already. Here are a few photographs from our first day exploring this truly beautiful city and everything a trip to Paris should include; breakfast on the balcony, a walk through the trees next to the Eiffel Tower, a ride on a vintage carousel, walking underneath the Arc de Triomph, relaxing and reenergising under a tree and of course shopping along the Avenue des Champs Elysées. All so perfect, a lovely day to begin a wonderful trip.

All the Parisian delights.

Travelling gluten free- vegan is not the easiest but it is not impossible, as long as you are prepared. On preparing for my trip to Paris I first did some research only to hear that France is no go for vegans, I read this over and over again until I got the ‘Happy Cow’ app. This app is truly wonderful and I cannot recommend it enough, it completely reassured me that I would be able to eat out and enjoy Parisian food free from worry. The app gave me a whole list of vegan friendly restaurants, cafes and shops to. It also gives you the addresses, website, images and reviews. Of course I shall also be using the app for future trips. Here are some of the places I went to whilst in Paris, most of these places I found via the app so pop there and search Paris for more reviews.
On our first night in Paris we found from searching the app for restaurants near by this little fully vegetarian, (vegan and gluten free friendly) sushi-thai restaurant. Not starting the post off great as I have completely forgotten the name of it (oops) but I saw places like these popping up all over the place. Of course rice, veggies and tofu all being extremely safe foods its unlikely you will find yourself being surprised with dairy or gluten, just be careful with the soy sauce, I opted for the hot sauce just to be safe. The two dishes I chose were lovely and fresh, my friend also enjoyed her ‘chicken’ curry.

For lunch on our first day we popped into to ‘EXKi!’ a café chain very similar to Pret, here there were salad boxes, hummus, avocado, quinoa dishes, soups, rice pots, wraps, smoothies, juices, fruit pots and yogurt options, not to mention sandwiches, cakes and bars to. Here was one of the places that actually stated ‘vegan and gluten free’. I chose to have a rice wrap filled with salad, hummus and some sort of dressing, it was a perfect stop for a quick lunch before we got moving again.

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Thank you to the Happy Cow app to leading my friend and I to ‘Las Vegans‘, a vegan café found at 30 boulevard Bonne Nouvelle. A holiday is no holiday without ice cream and here we found the most deliciously sweet vegan friendly ice cream, in a variety of flavours and served by the friendliest of staff.

I chose to have two scoops of the chocolate nut flavour and topped with a few vegan marshmallows (yes that’s right- vegan marshmallows!), my friend also had the chocolate nut flavour along with the caramel biscuit. All so delicious, I wish I could have bought some back home. I urge to go here!

On our last day we were so tired we decided to go to the nearest place we could find, which was ‘le pain quotidien’ again, similar to Pret but only a little more evening suited with hot meals as well as cold. I ordered hummus, avocado and olives on gluten free bread however they were all out of the bread so decided on this chickpea, quinoa, veggie bowl of goodness, it was a lot better than it looked. Here they serve both vegan, vegetarian and meat options and have a good understanding of gluten free. Like ‘EXKi!’ these also seemed to be quite popular along the streets of Paris.

Saving the best for last with a visit to ‘Hank Vegan Burgers’, a 100% vegan burger restaurant found at 55 Rue des Archives. Not only are all the burgers vegan but also all the sides, condiments and desserts are to, there is even melty vegan cheese! Of course mine was slightly adapted to be gluten free, not that I could have noticed, with even a gluten free burger bun and crispy potato wedges- each bite truly delicious. There are a variety of burgers to choose from, I chose to have the ‘smoked barbecue sauce and pepper’ sauce with the gluten free vegan burger, bun and wedges. Each mouthful was as good as the next, it is that good I think I would return to Paris for this alone.

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Other than those few restaurants I visited I wanted to share with you a couple of tips I use to make sure I have a free from flare up trip. Take snacks and maybe something for breakfast- nothing huge just a few little options to fall back on. We were self-catering and each morning we would enjoy breakfast on the balcony, I took a bag of gluten-free oats with me and bought some soya milk from the local supermarket. I found the supermarkets great for options and noticed that most dairy and gluten ingredients were highlighted like here in the UK. I also bought dark chocolate and fresh fruit to top my oatmeal. For snacks I made sure I always had a couple of cereal, nut bars, crackers or crisps in my bag but not to worry if you find yourself snack-less there are plenty of supermarkets around.

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Main street restaurants were a little trickier to order at. To prepare I tired to learn a few phrases but the only one that stuck was ‘sans gluten’ aha. Most places do not have vegan or gluten free options, however, I found it okay and did not have any accidents. I found it best to stick to what I knew, ordering salads, oil roasted vegetables, quinoa and sides of rice and potatoes minus the cheese seemed to work for me.

Take out, if you are traveling with non vegans or intolerant friends you might find it hard to find places to cater for both, popping into a cafe or a restaurant and asking for a take-out meal is a perfect solution to this. I did this at ‘Bobs juice bar‘ we would have eaten in but it was super busy, it seems Bob is quite popular amongst the Parisians, I can see why to. I ordered a take-out noodle dish and sneakily ate it in Starbucks whilst drinking a coffee.

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What is the worst that can happen? Of course this varies for everybody but I found reminding myself that if I accidentally eat a little gluten I will be ill and have symptoms for a week or so- worst case. If I eat a little unknown dairy- I will feel awful but I will remind myself that all I can do is my best- worst case. Both worst cases are nothing to be stressed or upset over, unfortunately life happens but luckily I had a wonderful free from trip. I was not restricted nor did it play a huge part in out trip, only in the good way.

I hope this post helps a little if you to are planning a trip to Paris or a gluten free, vegan trip of your own. Please do ask if I can help with anything at all, Nicole.