Global Warming & Climate Change: Is the Future Vegan?

protect nature and save the planet

Environmental topics have been discussed for centuries. Although it feels like it’s only started to become a popular discussion recently, not only from “hippy activists” but from everyone this time. Not sure if we really needed a worldwide pandemic to finally open our eyes, but it seems like it had an impact on people. My recent travels in Southeast Asia & the Pacific definitely contributed in my willingness to care more, it changed my mindset forever. Avoiding plastic and chemicals in products we use every day, recycling properly, prioritising walking over driving for short distances…etc. All of these actions are great and useful, but are they enough?

Current situation in 2021

Let’s start with a definition of two key terms. “Global warming” is due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Whereas “Climate change” refers to both human and naturally produced warming, as well as the effects it has on our planet. Now let’s move to what’s happening and what will happen if we don’t do anything. The planet has warmed by an average of nearly 1°C in the past century. Human activity is said to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology. So far, these changes have already had drastic impacts on all life on Earth.

If we don’t do anything and the planet keeps warming up faster than the natural process, we will face disastrous consequences. It would mean floods or droughts on various areas, the destruction of rainforests, and even the extinction of many other species. This list is not exhaustive and the speed temperatures are rising is now faster than ever before. To some degree (no pun intended), climate change is a natural phenomenon. But global warming is man-made… Which also means we can do something about it. Do you want to know what your environmental footprint is? WWF will calculate it for you by taking this quick questionnaire.

isolated house on ice melting
Trust me, I wish it wasn’t true.

How our diet impacts the planet

Our diet plays a huge part in our carbon footprint. Food is responsible for a quarter of global emissions. And almost 60% of food emissions come from animal products. Beef has the biggest carbon footprint, by far. And the main issue is the amount of beef that the world currently demands. The global population getting richer only makes things worse. We are asking big agriculture for more meat than we can sustainably produce. In comparison, a portion of the highest-impact vegetable proteins emits less than the lowest-impact animal proteins…

Some figures about what we eat (provided by Friends of the Earth):

  • 14.5% of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production (more than all forms of transport)
  • 50% of habitable land around the world is used to produce food
  • 45,000 early deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if we ate low meat diets
  • Over 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK annually
  • 8 billion animals are killed for meat every year in the UK

These figures are shocking. The fact that half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture should ring alarm bells. Basically, we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter – but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away. Would you be prepared to change your diet for the planet?

What we can do about it

Eating more sustainable meat can already make a big difference. But less meat is nearly always better for your carbon footprint than sustainable meat. It is absolutely essential to reduce your meat consumption to curb climate change. Is going vegan the answer? The climate impact of plant-based foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products. So of course a plant-based diet would drastically help reduce emissions. Switching to veganism (completely plant-based) would deliver the largest emissions savings, followed by vegetarianism (including eggs and dairy) – It’s no surprise. Bearing that in mind, you don’t have to go that far if you’re not willing to. To sum things up nicely:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Michael Pollan

The bottom line

For some people, completely cutting out meat and dairy is not an option. If that’s your case, thankfully there are plenty of other ways to contribute! For example:

  • Go flexitarian
  • Eat vegetarian one day a week
  • Ban meat from your breakfasts
  • Eat more whole and locally grown foods
  • Reduce food waste
  • Eat less junk food
  • Eat smaller portions

I previously shared 3 awesome tofu recipes if you’re willing to give plant proteins a go to help reduce your meat consumption. You could also just cut out beef from your diet. Switching to pork, cod, chicken or soya beans could drastically reduce CO2 emissions. But personally, I do think the future is vegan. It’s a matter of time before consumers force food industries to adapt to the new demands. Have you already taken a step in that direction?

Big Girl x

3 Awesome Tofu Recipes You Need to Try

tofu and soya beans

If you recently discovered tofu and want some ideas about ways to cook it, this post is definitely for you. If you think you dislike tofu, this post is also for you. After all, it used to be the case for me until this year… It’s never too late to change your mind. And if you’re a tofu lover and already an expert, keep reading… You might still be inspired, who knows!

First of all, it’s important to keep an open mind when you try something new (especially when it comes to food). I used to really dislike tofu, but it plays a huge part in a plant-based diet. I had to ignore my childhood’s memories and at least give it another go as an adult. The first time I cooked with it was a complete fail… It took me 2 or 3 attempts before I mastered it. But I persisted, and now I’m glad I didn’t give up so easily.

What is tofu?

Tofu is made from dried soybeans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. Then the curdled fresh soya milk is pressed into a solid block and cooled… It’s not far from the process used for dairy cheese, made by curdling and solidifying milk. Except it’s healthier for you! This solid white block comes in varying softness: it can be silken, soft, firm, or extra firm.

Health benefits

It’s a great source of protein, probably one of the main reasons why it’s such a staple in a vegetarian / vegan diet. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as magnesium, copper and zinc. In addition to this, tofu is a valuable plant source of iron and calcium. Can we say it’s healthier than meat? Yes, because just like meat, soy provides an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals – but without the cholesterol and saturated fat. Not to mention it’s a lot lower in calories. Basically, it can replace foods that may compromise your health.

Cooking with tofu

Tofu is pretty bland on its own, which makes it a very versatile ingredient. It will soak in any flavours you want to give it. But it could be a bit intimidating for beginners: how do you learn how to cook with it? Trying with my own ingredients didn’t work well, I had no idea what sauce and/or spice to add with it. So I decided to try a recipe box to give me a good basic knowledge, using Mindful Chef. They have a good range of recipes and you get delivered the exact quantities you need for each ingredient. It’s really convenient when you’re not sure what you’re doing at the beginning.

Below are 3 ways to cook tofu I recently learnt, thanks to them. I have to say I was really impressed with the results. Maybe it tasted even better because I put the effort in… For the 3 recipes below, indicated quantities are always for 2 people. I used the organic super-firm tofu from Dragonfly (300g) each time, which is really easy to find in any supermarket.

1. Tofu & apricot harissa tagine with quinoa

tofu apricot harissa

Here, it’s the apricot harissa that gives the main flavour to the dish. The method is simple: cut the tofu in cubes and add to a pan on medium-high heat with 1/2 tbsp oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes to briefly colour all sides. Then you can add the sauce you mixed beforehand: 2 large diced tomatoes, 2 tbsp tomato puree, 2 tbsp apricot harissa paste and 50ml boiled water. It melts in the mouth and the after taste is the right mix of tomato and spice.

Add a bit of coriander if you like, and 20g of flaked almonds for the presentation. For the sides: 180g of green beans and 250g of quinoa are a good option. Total calories per person: 586.

2. Mexican-style beans with scrambled tofu & avocado

tofu scrambled eggs

Eggs are not part of a plant-based diet, so I was really excited to try the tofu version. You just have to scramble it into small pieces with your fingers. Then cook it in a pan on medium heat with 1/2 tbsp oil. Stir for 10 minutes with a pinch of black pepper and 1/2 tsp turmeric, until it turns golden. Then add in 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and a pinch of chilli flakes. It tastes amazing!

The other ingredients added many colours on the plate and made the entire meal very appealing. You need 1 avocado and 120g baby plum tomatoes mixed with a handful of fresh coriander. For the Mexican-style beans: 240g kidney beans, 1 tbsp Mexican spice, 4 tbsp tomato puree and 40g baby spinach. Total calories per person: 573.

3. Sesame tofu & rice bowl

tofu in buddha bowl

Finally, if you fancy a salad-type meal, this recipe is great and doesn’t require much cooking. Tofu is cooked like in the first recipe but cut in triangles instead (or whatever shape you fancy, after all). For the dressing: peel and grate 4cm fresh ginger and add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp rice vinegar. Mix well and add in the saucepan once the tofu has turned golden in colour.

Simply cook 250g brown basmati rice for the base. And for the rest of the salad: grate 100g carrot, thinly slice 1 baby cucumber and 60g radishes. You could also add some kimchi or anything else you want. Sprinkle some sesame seeds for the final touch. That’s it! Total calories per person: 481.

Do any of these 3 recipes take your fancy?

If you’re convinced about the many health benefits of tofu and want to explore further, you can easily find online tons of other great tofu recipes. Let me know how you cook it!

Big Girl x

Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

Every year since 2014, some people commit to Veganuary by adopting a vegan diet for a month – in January. I would have never considered it in the past but this year I was intrigued… We all have preconceived ideas about the unknown, so why not try and see if they’re actually valid? And if it’s the most effective way to save the planet, it’s probably worth keeping an open mind. But not at all costs! Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I want to keep enjoying it. Sticking to what you know is always easier… So let me tell you the main 3 things I learnt after trying it myself for a month:

1. It’s actually quite easy to eat vegan every day

If your main reason for going vegan is the environment and/or the animals, then it’s not difficult to stick to it. First of all, many popular foods are already vegan (potatoes, rice, pasta, fruits…). Treats and things that are not especially good for you (like biscuits, sweets, etc) are easy to fit in a vegan diet too, if you read the labels properly. Secondly, more and more companies diversify their range to offer vegan options. Meat alternatives are everywhere nowadays (especially in big cities like London) so it’s really not difficult to avoid animal products. They’re not always the healthiest as some of them are highly processed, but they are a great way to help you while you’re transitioning. You won’t have to eat fries everyday to have a clear conscience.

Basically, if your health is not the main reason, the switch will be relatively easy. It’s when you want to have a healthy and balanced diet (as you should) that things can get a bit more complicated… Especially if you’re a fussy eater like me. But even that turned out to be a lot easier that I anticipated.

2. A vegan diet is very varied and not boring at all

If you asked me several months ago what I thought about a vegan diet, I would have said I wasn’t interested in eating lettuce everyday. I didn’t understand how you could enjoy life with “boring” food. I thought it was a sacrifice not worth doing. It was made worse by the fact I’ve always disliked vegetables (especially the green ones…).

Now I wish I did it sooner

Take it from someone who had a lot of negative opinions about veganism not so long ago. Someone who would never willingly put vegetables on their plate… I realise how ignorant I was to have never tried most of the foods available! Don’t get me wrong, it seems daunting to remove from your diet all products derived from animals. Because they’re literally everywhere. But I can honestly tell you I eat a lot more varied now than I ever have in my entire life.

I’m always looking forward to my next meal

I now feel I have almost too much choice when I prepare the food plan for the week. Before it was a lot easier to plan our meals, it was always the same thing (roast chicken, beef burger or salmon, with either rice, fries or pasta). Now I feel like I should do a food plan for the entire month, just so I can fit in everything I fancy. And my cupboards have never been so full of varied things!

In fact, I added so many things in my diet by going vegan. Things I didn’t even know existed. Things I’m now willing to try because I realised I don’t even know what it tastes like. It also forces me to play more with spices and sauces, giving amazing flavours to every meal.

3. Eating cruelty-free makes food more enjoyable

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that no animals have been killed to feed me… But something makes the whole eating experience very rewarding. You know when you feel guilty after eating too much for example? It’s usually because you know it’s not good for your body to overeat. But I wonder if it could also be because most of the time food industries control what you eat, not you. By cooking with plants I don’t experience that guilt anymore. And eating used to make me feel a bit lethargic after each meal… Like I would need all of my body’s energy just to digest it. That feeling is gone too.

Eating vegan also makes cooking more enjoyable, because I don’t have to deal with what used to put me off before: blood from a steak, nerves from chicken, fat from bacon, etc. When I cook with raw ingredients only involving plants, the smell in the kitchen feels a lot more “natural”. I eat more for less calories and feel full for longer, without any sluggish feeling afterwards. It means I have more energy and feel “lighter” at the same time. It’s a win in all aspects!

Other things I discovered:

  • Because I eat a lot more fibre than I used to, my digestive system has improved a lot (my guts are happier)
  • I haven’t missed meat at all, not once…
  • Cooking with tofu is actually quite fun, it’s such a versatile ingredient and an excellent source of proteins
  • I would pick a plant-based burger over a beef burger without hesitation
  • Cauliflower can be an amazing snack
  • Cashews are used a lot in vegan meals to give a cheesy flavour
  • We can “learn” to appreciate healthy food and even thrive for it
  • I get to be more creative with my cooking skills and it makes me feel proud when my partner enjoys a home-cooked meal – I can’t wait to invite friends & family to try
  • There is so much more to vegan food than simply tofu, cauliflower and cashews… These are my personal favourites for now, but I still have so much more to experience and discover (a month is far from being enough!)

Going forward

I considered Veganuary like a test and I passed it. So I’ve decided, I’m not going back to my previous diet! Why would I even consider eating meat again with all the benefits I discovered from a plant-based diet? Long term, the only thing I may find hard to never eat again is salmon. It’s difficult because it’s an obvious source of omega-3 and also it tastes great (I especially love salmon sushi). It’s still an animal product though! And if we don’t do anything, our oceans will be empty in the next few decades. It’s as simple as that. Making the wrong choice would be a way to contribute to this huge killing machine that is destroying our planet.

Would you not consider changing your eating habits if it meant saving the planet, the animals and yourself at the same time?

Big Girl x

Veganuary: A Great Way to Start the Year

Veganuary, A Good Way to Start the Year

Veganism is on the rise… Could it be because of 2020 events, leading many people to realise the effects of climate change and/or the importance of being healthy? I don’t know about you but that was definitely the trigger for me. I started doing more research about our impact on the environment and how we could save the planet. David Attenborough contributed a lot in people’s awareness with his movie “A life on our planet” where he advised everyone to adopt a more sustainable diet based on plants. Veganuary (Vegan + January) aims at educating non-vegans about veganism by creating a community of people who will share their feedback, tips and recipes throughout the month. Veganism is actually way more than just a diet but I’m going to focus only on food & nutrition in this post.

Why is it a good idea to take part in Veganuary?

It gives you the opportunity to try something new

If you eat a lot of meat and dairy (like I used to), it seems daunting to stop consuming any products derived from animals. You’re probably thinking: “It includes too many foods I love, how can I be happy eating lettuce every day? I want to keep enjoying food and have a normal social life! It’s not worth such a huge sacrifice”. Veganuary is here to give you the opportunity to be open-minded and try a vegan diet just for a month, with the help of people who have done it before. How many times have you had a strong opinion on something before even trying, then changed your mind after you finally tried?

It’s the right time to do it

There are 3 possible reasons why someone would decide to become vegan (even for a month): for the environment, for the animals, and/or for their own health. I think it’s extremely important to know and remember why you’re doing it. To me, it would be all of these reasons. Not everyone would find this diet suitable (and that’s fair enough), but at the very least everyone should open their eyes on what it’s really about. Switching to a diet powered only by plants is like re-learning everything you thought you knew about food & nutrition. It’s quite difficult in a non-vegan and extremely industrialised world where meat and dairy are everywhere. My main concern is how it will impact my social life when eating out. But we are being locked down anyway (at least in England…) so it’s actually the perfect time to do it!

There is a huge community online here to help

This month, more than 500,000 people committed online to do Veganuary and we can expect even more people doing it by themselves without signing up. It breaks the record of 400,000 people who registered in January 2020, across 192 countries. It means the food industry has to follow the trend and offer more interesting no-meat options, more restaurants will offer additional vegan meals, etc. There are tonnes of vegan recipes online and advice on where to start, but what’s better than a community of open-minded non-vegans who share their own tips & feedback on their findings? It’s not always that obvious what’s vegan or not, so there are also some mobile apps and tools online to help you check if you have any doubts: isitvegan.net, doublecheckvegan.com or barnivore.com (for alcoholic drinks).

The impact it had over the past 7 years is powerful

Since Veganuary was created in 2014, this is the impact the previous one million participants had on the planet:

  • 103,840 tonnes of CO2eq saved – which is equivalent to driving around the world almost 15,000 times
  • 405 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) saved – which is the same as 1,645 tonnes of sewage
  • 6.2 million litres of water saved – which is the same as flushing the toilet almost half a million times
  • more than 3.4 million animals were saved

Even if you’re not prepared to make such a drastic change in your life, think about how much positive impact it would already have to do it just for a month! And who knows, you might feel healthier too.

vegan food platter

Becoming aware takes a lot of intellectual humility

There are many preconceived ideas when it comes to veganism. I would know because I was among the ones who thought they would never be converted… ever. And yet today I’m writing about veganuary and why you should do it too. Everything changed in my head after I did my own research and found out I was wrong. Until then, I made the mistake to automatically discount any information that was conflicting my own beliefs, even if it was objectively more credible. So I wanted to share 3 important facts:

You don’t need to eat meat to get enough proteins

“Where do you find your proteins?” is a very common question, because we’ve been told our whole life that proteins only come from animal products. Now I know it upsets vegetarians & vegans and I finally understand why. Plants do have all the essential amino acids we need in our daily protein requirements. Think about it this way: if all creatures need protein to live, then where are the plant-eating animals (such as cows, bulls or oxen to name just a few) getting their protein from? The answer is simple: plants.

You don’t need to drink dairy milk to get enough calcium

Most of us were encouraged to drink milk to get strong bones, because it’s a great source of calcium. It was definitely a big part of my childhood, until I realised I didn’t digest it very well. Not surprising, given the fact that 70% of the global population is indeed lactose intolerant. It strikes the question: do we really need dairy milk? I don’t think so, especially if we look at the many alternatives we have available that are way healthier and at least as rich in calcium than dairy. I compared 4 vegan milks in this post if you’re wondering which one you should go for.

Vegan food is actually very varied

The main reason I always discarded a vegetarian, or even worse, vegan diet, is that I’ve always been a fussy eater. I dislike most vegetables like mushrooms, broccolis or any sort of green leaves, which I don’t think I’ll ever like. But by going through all ingredients that could be part of a very healthy vegan meal, I have to admit I haven’t tried half of them yet. For the ones I’ve never been forced to eat when I was a kid, there is a chance I will actually learn how to appreciate them as an adult. I’m actually excited to learn many new recipes and find new flavours I like! So far, I have loved every vegan meal I’ve had!

Somehow it seems to make me feel fuller without the heavy, sluggish feeling I used to have after eating meat. I also feel happier and proud to make a positive contribution to all living beings, as well as my own health. But doing it at home is easy. I will use the extra time in lockdown to become knowledgeable enough to keep doing it in social life (the hardest part), among meat lover friends, colleagues and family. I even considered opting for a flexitarian diet for that reason, but making exceptions whenever suits me is probably not the right way to fully commit to it. Plus I don’t really have any excuse, I live in London, the most vegan-friendly city in the world. If others can do it, I also can!

colourful fruit bowl vegan

Educate yourself before making your mind up

Doing your research is the only way to understand why some people would give up on all animal products. Are they crazy? I will let you be the judge of that. Below are some useful resources so you can make up your own mind with a much better knowledge.

Documentaries:

Books:

Blogs:

Hopefully this is useful to the curious minds among you! But if you’ve adopted a plant-based / vegan diet already and have any more advice or recommendations to give from personal experience, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Big Girl x

Which Plant-Based Milk Is the Best for You and the Environment?

It is particularly difficult to be dairy-free these days, because dairy milk is literally everywhere. We’ve all been told to drink milk to have strong bones and up until a few years ago, I didn’t suspect it could actually harm my body. I did a food intolerance test to confirm what I suspected and dairy was at the top of my list. Did you know that almost 70% of the population in the world is lactose intolerant? Some people probably are and don’t even know about it. So here it is, even Santa will get a glass of plant-based milk this year.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I stopped drinking milk and avoiding dairy products. As a cheese lover, this is not always easy but my guts have been thanking me and I decided it was my priority. When you think about it, why would we even drink something that is naturally designed as a growth hormone for baby cows, not fully grown humans? Also, dairy milk production has a huge negative impact on the planet, on top of being cruel to cows. There are many reasons why I think every adult should choose to consume plant-based milk instead, it’s definitely worth considering and at least trying (more research needs to be done for children though). From all options you can find in most supermarkets, the main ones are: soy milk (the original plant-based alternative), almond milk, rice milk and oat milk. Let’s go through a quick comparison:

What alternative is best for me?

Soy Milk

Pros: high in protein, fortified in calcium and potassium, source of vitamins B2, B12 and D, available unsweetened or flavoured (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla), contains all the essential amino acids, easy to find in supermarkets.
Cons: soy is one of the most common allergens, and not everyone likes the taste.
Best for: baking, cooking

Almond Milk

Pros: contains more calcium than dairy milk, high in vitamins A, D and E, high in monounsaturated fatty acids (considered helpful in weight loss and weight management), low in calories, has a popular nutty taste.
Cons: low in protein compared to other plant-based milk, nuts are also a common allergen.
Best for: cereals

Rice Milk

Pros: contains as much calcium as dairy milk, has a naturally sweet taste, non-allergenic so it’s a good option for people with dairy, soy and nut allergies.
Cons: low in nutrients, rich in sugar, high in carbohydrates.
Best for: smoothies

Oat Milk

Pros: good nutrition and includes more calcium than dairy milk, good source of soluble fibre (which supports heart and digestive health), fortified with vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.
Cons: high in calories (as much as dairy milk) and unsweetened options can be hard to find, not suitable for gluten-free diets (unless specifically labelled as such).
Best for: coffee, tea

What alternative is best for the planet?

Now let’s have a look at the impact it has on the environment. The production of a plant-based milk cuts the water use by at least half compared to dairy milk, the emissions by at least two thirds, and significantly decreases the land use too :

From the article: “Climate change: Which vegan milk is best?” – BBC UK

It’s time to make the switch!

From what I gathered, soy milk and oat milk seem to be the best alternatives by far. But no matter what plant-based milk you pick, it will always be a much better option than dairy milk, for the planet but also for yourself as an adult. What’s your favourite milk alternative and why?

Big Girl x