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A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients. A is for…Aubergine

Mr G and I always play some sort of silly made up holiday word game when we are away. Whilst in Istanbul this past weekend, he came up with the idea of an A-Z list of Plantalicious Ingredients.  We did a quick list and agreed that it was such a good idea that I should do a regular little spot on my website.  So here we go….
So – today – A is for Aubergine
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I love Aubergines (Eggplant in the US) as they are such a good versatile veggie.  You can stuff them, cook them in a ratatouille, a moussaka, puree them for a dip, roast them, smoke them.  From a mouth-feel perspective they are quite meaty and satisfying.
Let me share a culinary secret – Aubergines usually take a lot of cooking to soften them and that usually involves oil that they soak up like a sponge.  Often times cooks suggest salting them too. Life is too short for all this nonsense and both can be avoided if you have a microwave. Pierce the skin of the aubergines with the point of a sharp knife here and there and place in a microwave.  Cook on High for about 10-15 mins, depending on the wattage of your machine,  Check them after about 10 mins.  Allow them to cool or plunge in cold water.  They will shrivel up and their smooth outer skin will become wrinkled.  This means that they are pretty much cooked inside.  You can now use them in your favourite recipes or slice and stuff or scrape out the flesh etc.
A simple recipe – grill or griddle thick slices of the wilted Aubergine along with some bell pepper and fill a tortilla wrap for a filling snack.
What’s your favourite Aubergine recipe?
Do you have an Aubergine recipe you’d like given a Plantalicious make over?
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You are not alone on this journey to improving your health destiny. Finding support for your diet, lifestyle and health transformation is easier than you thought.

When I started on this process, I was hungry (when aren’t i?) for knowledge.  I wanted to know all there is to know about plant-based nutrition.  I wanted to talk to others and understand how they had achieved what they had and how.  I did the course at e-Cornell university and then I attended the Farms2Forks weekend.

 

Then I found myself alone.  I wanted to find a Dr who could understand what I was doing and why.  I even sent my own GP a copy of the Forks Over Knives DVD, not that he returned it!

 

I went to Veg Fest, a huge expo in London, and again, whilst I found a lot of people eating a plant-based diet, I still felt that feeling of being apart as I do not identify with being a vegan or a vegetarian.

 

What was I missing?  I was missing a community of “like minded people”, or a mentor that could help to support and guide me on my journey into the unknown where the planned destination is one of a radically improved and changed health destiny.  I wanted someone to pick me up when I fell, or to encourage me when I failed or who would just be cheering me on.

 

Mr G is great, he is very supportive, but he would almost eat whatever I put in front of him.  He likes the results of the WFPB diet as he is looking healthier than ever and is slimmer than ever.  Not bad as he is (coughs) years old.

 

I think what I was looking for is some kind of “support network”.  You know when you first go “on a diet”, you’ve typically got a group of like-minded people, a meeting, or a group of colleagues or friends, all of whom are trying to shed a few pounds.  You may just have a a book, or a DVD, but it is still a source of support and inspiration as well as a reference for the many and varied questions you may have.  It may be that your doctor has recommended that you lose weight for health reasons and he and his colleagues at your local practice are monitoring and supporting your progress.  It may be that you’re working with a personal trainer or your friends at the gym and these become your source of encouragement and support.

 

My community on Plantalicious is designed to provide some of that support.  Join up, meet others who are trying to change their health destiny. You can access it here – http://www.plantalicious.com/members/  It is why I created this aspect of the site.  You can share experiences as well as recipes and ideas, tips and tricks.  Plus reach out for help and support or offer it to others.

I read an article by Jeff Novick on finding a plant-based Dr.  In it he talks about the often asked question of how to find a supportive or plant-based doctor to support you and monitor your progress on a wholefood plant-based diet.  What he goes on to suggest is that you join one of the immersion events that are held across the US just as I did.  However, this is not always practical nor affordable, particularly if you live on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, here in the UK.  What I liked about Jeff’s article is that he goes on to talk about other sources of support and inspiration and provides a comprehensive list that you can use regardless of where you are in the world and for a very reasonable amount of money.  For example, it might involve buying a DVD or a book.

 

Alternatively, it might mean investing some time in watching articles and videos on You Tube.

 

Have a look at Jeff’s article “How To Find a Plant-Based Doctor” by Jeff Novick, MS. RD.

You can read the full article here: http://jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2012/8/6_How_To_Find_A_Plant-Based_Doctor.html  I think it’s probably one of the best that I’ve seen in addressing this question, and in helping those of us who don’t have a ready-made local support network.

Good luck and I hope to see you on the Plantalicious Community soon!

 

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I could have eaten a chocolate covered desk leg – but there wasn’t one in sight! Have you experienced sugar addiction?

Have you experienced the symptoms of sugar addiction?

I was attending a conference in Amsterdam this week and had some weird feelings and cravings for foods that I would usually avoid.  I could not work out what was going on.
At first, I wondered if I was just hungry.  I’m one of those people who is often hungry all the time, although since I have been following a WFPB diet, this has happened a lot less as I find that due to the calorie density of the foods my stomach is full plus the water content of vegetables means that I usually feel nice and satisfied.
Imagine my surprise to find me reaching for the “empty calories” of biscuits at break times and eating sugary deserts at lunch and at dinner.  I’d have eaten the leg of my room desk had it been covered in chocolate at night when I retired to my room.  I also noticed my mood was altered and i experienced some extreme swings in feelings. .
What on earth was going on?  Why did I feel like this?  Am I just a greedy piggy?
So yesterday morning, I think I found one of the main culprits.  I was getting my breakfast.  In hotels I usually have some kind of oat based cereal like a granola or dry museli with some fruit and then have either soy milk if available or apple juice instead of milk.
Imagine my surprise to find that the cereal that looked like it had raisins in it as part of the oat based granola were not raisins at all.  They were in fact pieces of milk chocolate.  I rarely wear my glasses at breakfast but maybe I would have noticed had I had them on.  That’s a lesson for sure.  for a moment I felt smug, as I had not selected the particular cereal as the colour of the oats looked as if they had something added to them.  Cocoa I now guess.  I had chosen the cereal where the oats looked a natural colour and they were combined with slivers of almonds.
Almonds? Oh really?  On further investigation, the almonds were not almonds at all.  No, they were in fact white chocolate!  Every day for my “healthy start to the day”, I had in fact been filling my body with sugar and fat.  In fact that sugar had probably been the cause that I was then craving the chocolates and mints that the hotel put alongside the notepads in the conference room that I devoured eagerly morning and afternoon.
I find that when I eat sugary foods made with refined sugars rather than natural sugars contained in fruits or maple syrup, date paste or agave, once my body processes it, it just seems to want more.  I know that there is a lot of science behind this which you can find more about here:  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-sugary-foods-addictive/
So what has your experience been?  How does refined sugar affect you?
If you see me gnawing away on a chocolate covered desk leg – then just walk on by!
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Video Blog – WFPB whilst travelling – An update

This is my first ever video blog.  The idea was suggested by my lovely colleague, Steve.

 

The video has a few seconds at the start where nothing happens – that’s me – just checking the camera was on!  I will do better next time.

 

This accompanies the post i did on staying WFPB whilst traveling – See here – http://www.plantalicious.com/?p=2994

 

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The challenges of maintaining a No-added Fats, Whole-food, Plant-Based Diet whilst traveling.

I have been traveling a lot recently for both work and pleasure, including a recent trips to Johannesburg in South Africa and my holiday in Estoril, Portugal, made me realise how difficult it is to maintain a no-added fat, whole food, plant-based eating plan when you are not buying, preparing and cooking your own food.
I’ve written before about some of the challenges of eating a Plantalicious diet when traveling, but I think I missed a few things out.
Firstly, on these trips I realised that few people know what WFPB means, so instead I use the V word. I say I’m Vegan. As you may know from previous articles I’ve posted, the two are not the same and as a result I get food that does not conform to my nutritional standards. On these recent trips it meant that I had a lot of refined carbohydrates in the form of white pasta and bread. A lot of the food also had added fats such as olive oil etc.
I’m now wondering if I should be more assertive and be more specific about WFPB and what I do and don’t eat. The dilemma that this presents is that in a number places I’d really only be able to eat the soups, vegetable side dishes or salads. I’d miss my pastas etc.
While I am on the subject of pasta; it brings me to added fats and salt. I recently had a dish of pasta with porcini mushrooms. I’d checked the ingredients listed on the menu and they seemed ok. What I had not expected, would be how much added fat and salt would be in the dish. I also think that there was cheese in it, which was not listed on the menu.  Given that I am often sitting with colleagues and clients, now here’s my dilemma, what do i do?  Make a fuss, or just suck it up and eat it?  What did I do?  I ate it!
Another example was at the BA lounge at Heathrow where I had a delicious proper slow-baked jacket potato. The flesh was soft and buttery. Perfect. Reminding me of the ones we had as kids as a treat on bonfire night that had been wrapped in foil and baked for hours. One of the choice of toppings was a “ruby coleslaw”. Shredded beetroot, carrot, white cabbage and onion. Lovely but bound in a thick egg and oil based mayonnaise. It was delicious, but it wasn’t plant-based nor was it vegan, it was vegetarian. I know I’m not on a diet and that I can eat whatever I want, but if I want to stick to this for the majority of the time, I may have to trade-off simple/bland or boring food choices with foods that go against my nutritional principles.
This brings me to another peril. That of fried foods. Twice during the week in South Africa and numerous times in Portugal, I had a major dilemmas, over fried foods. Firstly in a Thai restaurant. The only thing on the starters list that did not contain meat or fish were spring rolls or samosas. Both of which were deep fried. Hardly no added fats! All of the veggie burgers in Portugal were served with chips.  Hmmm.  What’s a greedy boy to do?  They were all lovely, but again they did not conform to what I am trying to do. Another day I had veggie sandwich which came with chips. I was brought up not to waste food so guess who ate them like a little starving piggy?  Believe it or not, this was the best option that my hotel restaurant could offer. It’s also hard to discuss my dietary needs with staff who have little or no English. Asking for whole meal pasts or brown rice in South Africa usually results in a huge smile and a “yes sir”. What gets brought to you is usually exactly what is on the menu and usually is refined carbs loaded with fat. Drat.
In London last week I ate at one of my favourite restaurants with clients. They were splendid in accommodating my requirements with a black radish salad without the buffalo mozzarella but just as wonderful with teeny tiny micro tomatoes and blackberries. A perfect autumnal starter. Then a risotto without butter or cheese but made with wild rice
Finally there’s the issue of refined carbohydrates.  White rice, white pasta and white flour – all vegan and vegetarian but not WFPB.  In Portugal as in South Africa, that is another challenge, where a lot of dishes are made with refined carbohydrates.  We had a lot of lovely pastries in Portugal, delicious, but again not WFPB.  Veggie risotto sounded like a healthy treat, but made with white rice, lots of added fats and undoubtedly some cheese, it was a nutritional nightmare.
So it is time to be a bit more assertive.  Time to be more picky.  I know, I do not have to do this, but I want to in order to be able to be healthy.  Time to ask more questions, “can you tell me, what is in this in addition to what is listed on the menu”, making choices that avoid refined carbohydrates.  Stipulating that I want wholemeal bread, ordering soups made with veggie stock and salads with the dressing on the side or just balsamic vinegar.
In summary – time to be more assertive and less British in my food choices.  It’s my body and it is my choice and in my power to decide what i put in it.
Take a look at my first viideo blig – here for a short update on this topic – http://www.plantalicious.com/?p=2996
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Shocking – EU Gives go-ahead for food industry to state that Fructose is “healthy”!

I had to share this.  I’m utterly outraged that the EU would allow the food industry to state that Fructose is a healthy option if it replaces more than 30% of the sugar in a fizzy drink.

 

See the article on this in the Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/oct/17/obesity-experts-appalled-eu-fructose-health-claim-approval

 

Can you believe that given all of the evidence from the US that the EU would allow this?  Whilst I am not a conspiracy theorist, I do feel strongly that the food industry will be laughing all the way to the bank as it suggests at the end of the article.

 

What do you think?

 

 

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