Year of 2016+
Whilst writing this I am still completely plant-based. I haven’t had any non plant-based foods since arriving back home after my travels. No ‘cheat’ days, no ‘cravings’ and no ‘missed’ food. What I learnt is that there is a LOT of processed plant-based food out there and people will often tell you it is worse for you than meat or dairy. To an extent this is true however I will dive into what I went through transitioning to a plant-based diet.
Alternatives to Meat
Prior to travelling I was an absolute carnivore. I didn’t know what a salad was nor vegetables. I would eat meat for lunch and dinner whilst changing it up between chicken, beef, pork or seafood. If there wasn’t meat on the plate, it wasn’t worth eating in my eyes. Looking back at it I was always bloated and felt weighted down. I was also generally sick a lot more often. My first replacement for meat was tofu. When tofu is prepared correctly, it absorbs the flavours from the existing dish and provides it with a taste. I loved dishes like Lemon Chicken, Mongolian Lamb, Teriyaki Beef and Satay Chicken. I used tofu to replace the meat component of these and it did an outstanding job especially when deep fried. I started incorporating tofu more and more into my life until I started reading that it was filled with estrogen and that many soybeans grown today are genetically modified (GMO). I ended up reducing my intake of tofu and found alternatives such as mock meats with brands like Quorn, Fry’s, Linda McCartney’s, Beyond Meat and Impossible Meat. After more research I didn’t like the sound of Beyond Meat or Impossible Meat particularly after trying it and figuring out how they made it taste so real. I stuck with Quorn, Fry’s and Linda McCartney’s however still tried to reduce the consumption of these because they really were processed. Figuring out what to do next I turned to beans and legumes with my main staple becoming chickpeas. Chickpeas again were a versatile food and depending on their preparation, could be incorporated into many dishes. I went from lots of fried dishes to more curry and soup dishes. Butter Chickpeas (my own take on Butter Chicken) became a favourite as well as Moroccan Tagine, Mushroom Stroganoff and Green Curry. You can make chickpeas taste like anything with the right spices and seasonings added and as such the chickpeas stuck around.
Alternatives to Dairy
Before my adventure to Macedonia I had already cut out milk or heavily reduced milk to foods potentially containing milk solids. I couldn’t stomach the fact that I was drinking breast milk from a cow and how unnatural the entire pasteurisation process was. The stories I heard about what it contained were also shocking and threw a few punches in the gut (literally each time I drank it). A bit like the meat, the first replacement for milk was soy based products. I drank soy milk regularly and incorporated this as the one and only replacement for cows milk. I used it in milkshakes, protein shakes and cooking. It again was a staple until the soybean saga clicked for the tofu and soy milk was replaced by almond milk. Almond milk was fantastic and did the trick. It wasn’t as smooth or a neutral flavour as the soy however I definitely knew it was healthier. Cheese was a bit different as most of the store bought vegan cheese was made from coconut oil so I didn’t think too much of that and thought it was much better than soy. The only major issues were that most brands didn’t melt however Notzarella and Dairy-Free Down Under were the two main brands that did.
Blood Type diet
Interestingly enough years later I discovered that there was a blood type diet which tells you what foods you should eat and what foods you should avoid depending on your blood type. What puzzled me the most is that I was following this diet just by following my gut. I continued to remove certain food groups from my diet including wheat and gluten products. Day by day incorporating this diet with a plant-based lifestyle I believed peak performance was slowly being reached. The only problem I faced was alcohol. Alcohol was my weakness in life and never thought what happened next would.