Reflecting on a Year of Plant-Based Eating

I started this blog almost a year ago, to celebrate my love for plant-based eating, and to share some of the happiness it’s brought me. As it’s also been over a year since I’ve embarked on a fully plant-based diet, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some of my thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Why did I go fully plant-based?

Back in February 2016 I started learning more about plant-based eating, in the hope it might heal my chronic stomach problems. I’d already cut out dairy after being diagnosed with an intolerance – a change that had alleviated, but by no means eliminated my symptoms – and was inspired by discovering Deliciously Ella, whose plant-based diet had helped her manage a rare autoimmune disease. At the same time, I came across a book called How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger. Having already been interested in nutrition, I picked it up with an eager and open mind, and was soon convinced of his message advocating a plant-based diet. The nutritional science coupled with Ella’s infectiously positive take on food, life and plants were the perfect catalyzing combo for this diet shift.

During my uni holidays that February I worked my way through Ella’s recipe books, discovering a love for kale, tahini and chocolate avocado ganache cake that made me as excited about food as I had never been before. From then on, I’ve been almost exclusively plant-based [on a holiday in Greece late June/early July 2016 I had some seafood, as options for balanced plant-based eating were very limited where we stayed; I haven’t had any animal products since] and absolutely loving it.

 

What was the hardest?

In terms of giving things up: yogurt and tuna. Plain yogurt was a staple item for me, as part of breakfast or a snack, and soy yogurt, unfortunately, didn’t make me feel good. When I gave up dairy I first started having banana overnight oats with hemp protein for breakfast, until I discovered smoothie bowls (see my first ever recipe post) and never looked back. And as to tuna: I stopped craving it once I got absorbed with all the other amazing things I was cooking and creating.

I also have to say that my stomach was not at all happy at first, due to the sudden influx of new, fibrous foods. In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend having big bowls of raw kale salad every evening, eating bread made out of pretty much only seeds, and overindulging on chickpea blondies. (This will probably be obvious to many people, but I was just too excited to try all these new things). Thankfully, my body soon adjusted.

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Mmm chickpea blondies (I remember, it was so hard stopping myself from eating the batter) This is the recipe I used.

 

What has been the best thing about going plant-based?

Definitely the excitement and happiness the things I now eat give me. Smoothie bowls loaded with peanut butter for breakfast, when I’m not having the most indulgent-tasting chocolate mousse or delicious pancakes (what can I get you: chocolate tahini, banana almond butter, or purple sweet potato? 😉 )- and maybe I’ll have pancakes for dinner, because, why not? Full of fiber and healthy fats and antioxidants – they can be a balanced meal instead of empty calories that leave you feeling sluggish, and maybe slightly guilty. I love how food can taste incredible but also be so good for you – there’s no need to compromise. I’ve also discovered a passion for creamy hummus, sweet potato falafels, decadent bowls of oatmeal, crepes, (sweet and savory), and have realized that you really can have your cake and eat it too (see e.g. these gooey feel-good squares) 😉

Because I still do struggle with my stomach, the fact that I can still get enormous enjoyment from my food, even if my appetite is not quite there and I’m experiencing discomfort, has been so enriching.

Also, creating my Instagram account (blueberrysmiles22) where I share some of my meals has allowed me to meet some incredible people and (sorry if this is getting [cashew]-cheesy) to feel part of a loving, inspiring community. Being able to engage and connect with people who share this love and excitement has been truly amazing.

 

How do I feel about plant-based eating now?

What I’m not going to say is that a fully plant-based diet has given me boundless energy, made my hair grow ten times faster and been a general panacea. I’m all about being honest with whatever I share, and I have to say that there have been times when I’ve questioned whether it is, in fact, the healthiest way of eating for me.

Having done my research, I started taking B12 supplements right from the start, and soon also started taking microalgae-based Omega 3 (DHA and EPA are components of Omega 3 that – unlike ALA, which you find e.g. in flaxseeds and walnuts – are not easily available on a vegan diet), which is combined with a source of vitamin D. I’ve also started taking an iron supplement, as, a few months ago, I started experiencing unusual tiredness and a ‘fuzzy head.’ I went to get my blood tested as I was preparing for exams and needed to be able to focus, and was told to take a supplement, as my iron levels turned out to be mildly below normal (despite eating lots of leafy greens and legumes). Since then my energy levels have been up again, and I feel fine.

 

To sum it up: Changing my diet to a fully plant-based one has, without a doubt, improved the quality of my life, bringing more enjoyment, satisfaction, indulgence and variety with it. It has also been a fantastic creative outlet, and connected me with amazing people around the world. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that it is not necessarily the easiest diet for providing the body with all the nutrients it needs in the most easily-absorbed form (iron from plant sources, e.g., is less easily absorbed than that from animal sources – with, however, the benefit of not being inflammatory, like the latter) – a challenge I accept by trying to get as much nutrition into my meals as I can.

I’ve had a wonderful year of eating a fully plant-based diet and will happily continue eating this way as long as I am thriving on it, and it feels right to me.

Hope you enjoyed reading!

xoxo

Here is the celebratory meal I had at Farmacy – the first plant-based foodie spot I visited when I moved to London in September. 

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