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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – I Is for Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce is sort of the black sheep of the lettuce family. It’s one of those most ignored foods, so often taken for granted and stuffed in a bun with a burger to make it “look healthy”.  As a child, it was a staple in our house, along with tomatoes and cucumber for a “British Salad”.  So why does it get honorable mention in our A-Z list? Do we just not have anything else that starts with the letter I?

Actually, iceberg lettuce has plenty of nutrients. It just doesn’t have quite as many as some other forms of lettuce. The fact is though that iceberg lettuce is tasty, and it has a delightful crunch that can be just what you need when you are craving an unhealthy snack.

Take this as an example of the benefits of eating iceberg lettuce. Just 2 cups of iceberg lettuce on a daily basis can help you to get about a third of the vitamin K that you need each day. This vitamin is important for clotting and for bone health, and that’s just one of the benefits of this type of lettuce that gets a bad rap.

Check out these facts about the nutritional benefits of iceberg lettuce:

  • It’s a low calorie food. An entire cup of iceberg lettuce only has 11 calories.
  • It may be able to help keep you regular thanks to a high dietary fiber content.
  • Iceberg lettuce contains minerals such as magnesium (also good for the digestive tract), potassium (excellent for hydration and for your heart), manganese, calcium (important for teeth and bones), and phosphorus.
  • High iron levels help your body to produce red blood cells. That makes iceberg lettuce a nice pick me up in the morning.
  • It’s also good in the evening. Iceberg lettuce helps to relax the body, especially the eyes. Some have used iceberg lettuce as a natural cure to insomnia.
  • A serving of iceberg lettuce will get you 9% of the vitamin A that you need for the day, 4% of your vitamin C needs, and provides as much as 2% of other vital vitamins like B6 and thiamine.
  • Pregnant women can benefit particularly from iceberg lettuce because it contains folate. This along with vitamin A are important in preventing eye problems which can accompany pregnancy.

So given this, don’t leave it on the shelf.  Pick one up, chop it up, add some other veggies, a few nuts or seeds, some avocado and a splosh of balsamic vinegar for a delicious and healthy, filling and fibre full Plantalicious salad!

Another idea is to use the natural shape of the leaves as serving cups – just load them with some finely chopped veggies, maybe some chinese vegetables with water chestnuts and a drop of tamari or soy sauce – YUM – Plantalicious canapes!

 

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Get the Plantalicious 3 Day Challenge e-Book for free (save £6.99)

If you have not heard already, I have produced an e-book that is a handy guide as a starter for those new to, or curious about a plant-based diet.  Maybe you just want to reduce your meat intake by one or two meals a week, or you just do not know what to buy to get started.  Well now you do.  Download a copy of my e-book!

 

You can also refer friends to the download site if they are interested to know more about a plant-based diet.  The book contains recipes for 3 days including breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as snacks and some basics.  It also has a shopping list so you know what to stock up with to make the recipes.

 

To download the e-book just visit this page of my site – http://www.plantalicious.com/buy-the-plantalicious-ebook/   to save yourself the cost of £6.99, simply sign up for the Plantalicious Newsletter and “hey presto” you will then be able to download the e-book for free.  How about that for plant-based magic?

 

If you are already a news letter subscriber, please just email me – Barry@Plantalicious.com and I will send you the e-book by email.

 

Please let me have any comments and feedback on the book.  What you liked, what could be improved and what you’d like to see more of.  You can comment here on www.plantalicious.com of ping me an email.  I’d also love to hear how people get on with the 3 day Plantalicious Challenge – how did you feel?  How did you find the recipes?  Did you miss anything?

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“That is not what I ordered” – Getting Plant-Based food in restaurants

I’ve been meaning to write this article for quite some time.
The longer I leave it, the more information and more disappointment, I have to share. It is not difficult, I do not eat meat, fish, or dairy.  in other words anything that has a face or mother. When I eat out, which I do quite often, I make this perfectly clear and ask very politely for either something on the menu that suits my dietary choices or for a small modification to a dish in order that it works me.

Increasingly, I found that this seems to be too much to ask in many situations. I don’t know why, but certain organisations seem to make very heavy weather of providing me with the food that I’m looking for. Here’s some recent examples:

ITSU (http://www.itsu.com/) -the well-known food chain in the UK. It promotes itself using the tagline “eat beautiful” with pictures of lithe half naked bodies and also through their sponsorship of England Beach volleyball tour 2014-2017. Despite this, they seem unable to provide clear training to their staff and clear labelling on a number of their products. Mr G and I have bought this to their attention and to be fair they are doing something about it. However, be really careful as the miso soup that is used in some of the noodle pots has fish in it, so be sure to ask a vegetable miso.  There is even fish seasoning in their rice sidedish. This is a bit disappointing for a company with the tagline eat beautiful!
Some time ago, I suggested that they change the rice used in the hip and healthy salad to brown rice rather than using white rice. I was told, at the time, that they would use the existing supply of rice and then look to replace it with brown rice. I think that was about 2 years ago.  When I bought one of the salads last week, it still contained white rice. It does seem as if my suggestion had fallen on deaf ears.
The next company that seems to ignore my requests is EAT http://www.eat.co.uk/index.php). Again it’s a chain, and provides some really appealing products to its customers. Eat’s tagline is “the real food company”. So it may be, but what I want is the food as promised on the pot. I was at Paddington station some weeks ago, when I ordered one of their vegetarian dumpling and noodle pots. Imagine my surprise and disgust,  when eating the 1st dumpling, I discovered that rather than the tofu that I’ve been expecting, that it was actually chicken. I went back to the counter and reported this and was greeted with a mixture of derision and incredulity. It was implied that I must be wrong and that the contents must be vegetarian. I explained that I have very good taste buds and I can tell the difference between tofu and chicken. After some remonstrations, I was eventually assured that the offending pot would be sent back to head office for analysis, and the other pots would be removed from sale and that I would be hearing from them.
I did hear from them, however in the letter to me, I was basically called a liar. The company outlined its totally infallible processes to ensure that it was quite impossible for me to have eaten a chicken dumpling when I purchased a tofu/vegetarian one. I obviously must be an idiot and have no sense of taste whatsoever. I persisted in following this up, only to be told that the offending item had been destroyed, (rather conveniently), rather than being sent back to head office for analysis, as I had been promised. This dialogue took place over the last 3 to 4 months. All I wanted, was an apology, and an admission that they are fallible and the mistakes can happen. This seemed all too difficult for the “real food company” who are obviously infallible and frankly think their customers are idiots, liars, or both, as in my case. After several exchanges of emails, I did get a rather tepid apology although it came in a letter that was headed “without prejudice” as they were obviously concerned that I was planning to sue for some kind of compensation.
I can understand chain organisations such as itsu and Eat, who produce food in vast quantities for their outlets potentially making mistakes.  What astounded me was to visit one of my favourite Indian restaurants in London and to order a vegetable masala only to discover that what been cooked and served was (you’ve guessed it…) a chicken dish. I find this really irritating that people don’t bother to check thoroughly what has been ordered. Fortunately, I don’t have some kind of terrible allergy to meat that would result in anaphylactic shock.  Regardless, the same care should be taken when taking an order from somebody who is vegetarian or vegan, as it would if they were allergic to nuts or gluten, which can have very serious implications indeed.
It’s not just getting the order wrong or making mistake with the food sometimes, as I found out a week ago, you can order something that you think is going to be healthy and suitable only to be disappointed by what is put in front of you.  I was at a restaurant with some colleagues in Swindon – The Weighbridge Brewhouse, (http://www.weighbridgebrewhouse.co.uk/). It’s place I’ve been too many times before and have always really enjoyed the ambience and the food. I ordered a vegetarian dish from the menu and asked that the goats cheese that was an ingredient listed should be removed. I was really looking forward to a beautiful medley of sauteed mushrooms and slices of Jerusalem artichoke with a plum tomato sauce. Imagine my disappointment to be faced with a plate that was swimming in approximately a quarter of an inch of fat, mushrooms that had absolutely no flavour and a sauce that had split so badly and resembled a masala sauce rather than anything to do with the tomato and again, very high in fat. Whilst I appreciate that I hadn’t asked for “no fat” the ingredients didn’t list “half a pound of butter and a cup of olive oil” as two of the ingredients, it simply said that the vegetables would be sauteed. I ate some of the dish, as I was hungry and rather than make a fuss at the time, as I was with some colleagues and rather pressed for time, I called and gave my feedback in the evening.  It was cordially received, but no one bothered to take my email or phone number to follow up which seemed to indicate to me that they did not really give a damn. That was a shame and bad staff training as I am loathed to go back to somewhere that doesn’t really care about it’s customers.
It massively disappoints me that organisations such as those listed above cannot simply provide food for all of their diners as requested.
What’s been your experience? Please feel free to sharing comments on the community.
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Should I apologise for my “Special Diet” when eating out? Is this Culinary Racism? What do you do?

Once again, I am travelling and today I am taking clients out to lunch.

The clients chose the restaurant and suggested that I check in advance what veggie options they have as they know that I eat a WFPB (whole food, plant-based) diet.   I checked online and whilst the menu had some choices on the starters that work for me, the main courses were all meat and fish with only a few salads and side dishes that looked ok for me.  So, I called the restaurant and realised during the call, that I was actually apologising for my diet and food choices and any inconvenience that it may cause them.

Why did I do that?

  • Is it my natural British politeness (not always evident, especially when tired from travelling)?
  • What was I apologising for?
  • As a paying customer, why should I apologise for what I choose to eat?
  • What is the worst that they can do – Make me a salad?  Serve me vegetables?

If I am a meat eater and I do not like red meat or I do not like lamb, I do not call up ahead and apologise, or grovel to the waiter.  I just make another choice that suits me.  My issue is that due to not eating fish, meat or diary there are occasions when there is nothing suited to me, listed on the menu.  I guess that I may be seen as an oddity by the staff and so I typically apologise that I have a “specific diet” and explain that I do not eat meat, fish or diary.

I actually think that by asking for something specific you are driving a change in what is provided.  I am happy to apologise if I am being an inconvenience but maybe I am being an “inspiration”?  Maybe, I am leading the way in what the eating out public will be wanting in the future – I believe so.  Just look at vegetarian options.  For many years there were few options for vegetarians on menus, now almost everywhere in the UK offers numerous vegetarian options on their menus.  I have noticed a trend with some younger chefs particularly to offer some interesting whole-food, plant-based options too.  (To much applause from me).

I also hate the idea that seems to be more prevalent in the US than the UK, that if you are vegan or vegetarian, then you should go to a specifically vegan or vegetarian restaurant.  Isn’t that “culinary racism”??? Should Lebanese food only be eaten by the Lebanese or Indian by those from the sub-continent?  Of course not, then why should vegans and vegetarians not eat with their friends at any restaurant of their choosing?

My tip….

What I have found is that if I say what I do or don’t eat ahead of time, the kitchen team and chefs are usually happy to provide me with something that works for me.  Calling ahead certainly avoids any embarrassment especially when I am entertaining clients.  A lot of chefs are happy to make something special as long as it is not asked for with a minutes notice during a busy service.  Calling ahead is polite and respectful and with most places having either their full menu or sample menus online you can easily check if you need to call ahead.

As Audrey, my darling Mother used to say, “You can’t get if you don’t ask” and “What’s the worst thing that can happen?  They might say No!”

 

Just don’t upset the Chef!

So what do you do and have you experienced culinary racism?

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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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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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At last – Research into nudging adolescents into eating more plant-based nutrition.

Just seen this article that some research is going to be undertaken by Leeds Metropolitan University on nudging adolescents to eat more plant-based nutrition.

Ok so it’s funded by the alpro foundation who obviously have a vested interest but good to finally see some UK research being undertaken.

http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/news/research-grant-to-investigate-healthy-eating-behaviour-in-adolescents28102013.htm

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