Thursday, 17 August 2017

Why I Eat Meat Replacements as a Vegan.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like vegan meat replacements can cause a little contention. I’ve heard many a comment (usually from those that aren’t vegan) wondering why one might eat them if you’re so against eating meat, along with why companies feel the need to not only recreate meat, but then name it after meat too (the latter of which I think is down to marketing and wanting to make it seem like a familiar product).

I did put this question out to the Twitterverse and got some mixed responses. Lots of people said they enjoy them as part of their diet, although some prefer to choose whole food options and eat meat replacements occasionally. Some people said that although they might eat them occasionally they find their “meatiness” somewhat uncomfortable and prefer to give them a slightly wider birth. And honestly, I get all those opinions and no one is right or wrong in their choice. I thought that today I’d start a little conversation here on the blog about why I personally choose to eat meat replacements and what my overall thoughts are on them.

Sorry, not sorry if this photo makes you feel uncomfortable. This beautiful creature is the reality of the meat and dairy industry. If you choose meat, this beautiful creature is what could be on your plate.

Admittedly, when I first transitioned to being veggie and then vegan, I didn’t eat that much in the way of meat replacements, and I remember thinking “why would I eat something that’s intentionally pretending to be meat when I’m so against eating meat”. I wonder now whether it was maybe too close to the giant meat habit that I was breaking (I did go totally cold turkey into vegetarianism overnight and although I hate to admit it – I was a massive carnivore). But back then I just didn’t feel the need to eat them, and so I didn’t.

However, as time has gone on I have found myself eating more meat replacement products. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat them with every meal (which is what I used to do with meat), but I maybe eat them 2-3 times per week depending on a) how much time I have, b) how organised I’ve been with my food shopping and c) what I’m fancying on the day.

For me, meat replacement products are a massive convenience. They can make whipping up a quick meal really easy for when I’m in a time pinch or not really in the mood to cook. I had 25 years of meat being the star of the show, and so for me it’s a bit of a fall back, default setting. I know I can always stick some Linda McCartney sausages or a Fry’s burger in the oven and have something tasty with minimal effort – and damn, they’re so tasty. Ok, that’s not the most nutritious meal, but you know, I’m generally eating a far healthier diet as a vegan than I did as an omnivore so I’m personally happy to have the odd slightly less nutritious meal. Life’s about balance after all.

One thing I do think meat replacement products are great for is supporting the transitioning veggie or vegan. Using meat replacement products, I am able to make the majority of the meals that I really enjoyed as a meat eater – sausage casserole, roast dinner, meaty stir fry. All these meals are possible (and in my opinion, don’t taste much different) with the use of meat replacements. They’re also great if you eat meat, but are trying to look at reducing your intake. There as so many wonderful veggie/vegan recipes out there that don’t require a meat replacement and don’t miss that “meaty” component to the meal, but for ease, I think it’s great to have the option of a substitute.

I think as time has gone on, I’ve had more opportunity to try different meat replacement products and realised that I do quite enjoy the taste of them. I quite enjoyed the taste of meat too and I certainly didn’t go vegan because I didn’t enjoy meat, I really did enjoy meat. I just didn’t enjoy the reality that what was on my place was once a living being and it no longer had a life because I’d chosen to eat it.

 I think many people who aren’t vegan see the vegan lifestyle and diet as being very restrictive, but I don’t like to look at it that way. I’m a glass half full kinda gal, and so I like to see all the possibilities -  all the foods that I choose to still eat, which is a far larger group than the foods I choose not to eat. And meat replacements just make that group of foods I choose to eat that bit bigger and could make veganism feel that bit less restrictive to someone on the outside looking in.

I’d love to live in a world where animals aren’t killed for us to eat. Where people see the reality of the cruelty involved in animal agriculture and choose compassion over something that tastes good in the moment. If meat replacements help us on our way there and provide someone with an option to make a positive change for the animals, the planet and themselves, then I am ALL FOR THAT.

And just in case you’re wondering, here’s a little list of some of my favourite, vegan friendly meat replacement products.

Linda McCartney Sausages
These are my absolute staple, I always buy in bulk and have them on hand. I actually start to break out in a cold sweat if I see my stash getting low. I personally prefer the original to the red onion and rosemary and chorizo varieties. Perfect in a sausage butty or my ultimate comfort food, sausage casserole. FYI the sausage rolls are also pretty heavenly.

Vbites Meat-Free Duck Pieces
I much prefer the Vbites mock duck to the LM shredded version as it’s bigger chunks and personally I think it tastes nicer. I used to be a big lover of duck, especially from the Chinese takeaway and I can honestly say that the taste and texture of this is so similar – it’s like wizardry. Whack it in a stir fry or in a spring roll and you are on your way to food heaven.

Fry’s Burgers, Escalopes and Meaty Strips
I’ve tried lots of the Fry’s products (burgers, escalopes, schnitzels, strips) and honestly, I like them all. The burgers are succulent and juicy and taste amazing. The escalopes, chicken style burgers and schnitzels make for an excellent katsu curry addition a la Wagamamas, and their meaty strips pimp up many a dish including pastas and stir frys.

Seitan
I’ve only ever made my own seitan, so I can’t compare to shop bought, but seitan is pretty easy to make and great to have on hand. It’s made from wheat gluten and so is high in protein and makes for a wonderful stroganoff or even a donner style kebab. With seitan it’s all about the flavourings, and if you’re making it yourself you have full creative control of how you want it to taste.

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to know your thoughts on vegan meat replacement products - are they a yay or a nay for you? Also, if you do choose to eat them, what are your recommendations? I'm always looking for new things to try so send them over either in the comments below or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan.

Monday, 14 August 2017

My Guide to Balance.

My Guide To Balance- My General Life


Balance. I have talked about balance on the blog before, but it was a little while ago and honestly looking back at the post now, I don’t feel that it’s as informative as I’d like it to be. And so I thought I’d take another crack at it. I received some really positive responses from my self care post last week (thank you so much!), and so I thought I’d try to tackle balance in more of an in depth, useful manner. Because really, what is this blog doing if it’s not giving you something useful?

I think that this guide on balance follows on nicely from my self care post as the two, I feel, are closely linked. I hope that each of them will allow you to feel more empowered towards enhancing and taking control of your own health and wellbeing, something I am keen for this space to promote.

WHAT IS BALANCE?


Well, in the context of this post, I’m referring to balance being more of an equilibrium of your daily activities and demands, rather than being able to balance on one leg or on your hands (although wouldn’t being able to handstand with ease be an absolute joy?). 

I think, like I discussed with self care, it’s hard to put a concrete definition to balance as it’s such an individual concept. What constitutes balance for one person, might be complete imbalance for another. And although time use and daily activities are important considerations for balance, it’s also important to consider individual values and attitudes alongside the socio-cultural environment as these too will influence balance and perception of balance.

When doing a little further reading for this post, I came across an article that discussed balance being more akin to being centred with a stable base rather than the traditional analogy of a scale. I like this way of looking at balance as life is generally not about balancing out two separate things, it’s a dynamic process and usually consists of far more than that. The disturbance of a stable base can be far less severe than that of a scale and can allow you opportunity to decide what to ride out and take some instability for, whether it be for good or bad, and what to let go of.

WHY IS BALANCE IMPORTANT?


Balance, in my opinion, is very closely linked with self care. In fact, I believe that being mindful of balance in your daily life is indeed one large act of self care. Although hard to fully define, in it’s essence it’s about creating some stability and equilibrium in what you do and why you do it in order to enhance your overall wellbeing.

I’m sure we’ve all had periods of time where we have felt that we’re doing too much of one thing and not enough of something else. Be it working extra hours, or being unemployed and having a lack of productive tasks to focus on, or not feeling that you have enough time to pursue your leisure interests because of other commitments. Or even, as I discussed in my self care post, being so bogged down in the daily grind that you lack opportunity to take care of you.

IS BALANCE EVEN ACHIEVABLE?


Balance itself could be viewed as an idealistic concept. One that we strive for but very rarely reach due to ever changing factors. And even if we do reach it, it may only be for a fleeting moment.

What I feel is important is taking what you do and trying to align it with your values, beliefs, attitudes, resources and socio-cultural environment. This is where, I believe, a true sense of wellbeing will come into play, through the alignment of action and values. Because there will be things in life that you don’t have control over, that are non-negotiable time commitments, such as work or looking after family/children. It might be easy to allow these non-negotiable commitments to flip you into a state of total imbalance, unless they align with your values and with your beliefs and allow you to live with integrity. Now it might be that you can’t fully align your actions and values overnight and that this is something that requires a little work, development and consideration.

While striving for a more balanced life can be important and helpful in promoting overall wellbeing and ensuring that you are taking opportunity to care for yourself, it’s also important to be flexible in your approach in order to ensure that the act of striving for balance doesn’t take over and prevent you from enjoying the moment.

Remember the stable base analogy? This analogy allows for flexibility, it allows for movement forward, backward, side to side, up and down. You create your stable base, your balance, by aligning your actions with your values and then when life throws you a curve ball, you can take it and adjust your base accordingly.

WHAT CREATES BALANCE/IMBALANCE?


As we’ve discussed, balance is pretty subjective, changeable and, at times, idealistic. But it allows us, within reason, to strive towards a life that promotes our wellbeing and allows us to live with integrity.

So what promotes balance or throws it off kilter? Well we’ve already discussed about aligning your actions and activities with your values, for me this is a big one in promoting balance. I think it is also important to highlight your priorities and the activities/commitments that are most important to you and your overall wellbeing. This enables you to make a conscious choice around what you do or don’t engage in, because doing it all just isn’t sustainable option in the longer term. Balance isn’t about doing more or trying to squeeze more activities into your day. It’s about being selective with the time you have, with what is important to you and what will help to promote your overall wellbeing.

When you think of imbalance, I’m sure all of us can conjure up an image of what that might entail. For me it’s feeling like I must stay late after work every day to get everything done, not being able to take part in my hobbies/leisure time and feeling totally overwhelmed by the housework I’ve let build up as a result. I think with many circumstances, finding the negative is always that bit easier than finding the positives, but we can use this to our advantage when we’re considering what will promote balance in our own lives. Because if you know what imbalance looks like, then you can clearly see what you don’t want/need. You can identify the circumstances in which your actions and values don’t align and how this might impact on your overall wellbeing.

HOW DO WE WORK TOWARDS IMPROVING BALANCE?


I’ve mentioned throughout this post that balance is individual and subjective, and so improving balance isn’t going to be a one size fits all job. But I’ve put together a few tips to help you on your way.

IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES

First and foremost, I think it’s important to spend some time reflecting and considering where your values lie and what is important to you. Consider your current circumstances and resources, your belief systems, your future goals and expectations and how all of this links together to create your current values. Also remember that values can change, and that’s ok. I’ve have a huge shift in my values and beliefs over the last few years, which has hugely altered my life. There’s also nothing to say that those values won’t continue to adapt and change in the future as I gain more life experience and perspective.

TAKE STOCK OF YOUR ACTIONS

Take time to consider the activities that you participate in throughout the day/week. Consider which of these are non-negotiable and which are through choice and have the potential to be flexible. This, alongside your identified values will allow you to start creating a picture of what balance and imbalance looks like to you and how you can start to adapt or make any changes needed to work towards this.

SET YOUR INTENTIONS

Once you have a clear idea of where your values lie and what your daily/weekly activities look like, you can start to set some intentions around how you want to progress towards a more balanced lifestyle and work towards aligning your actions with you values. Your intentions don’t need to be huge, nor do you need to have multiple intentions if you don’t feel that this would be effective for you at the current time. If needs be, prioritise one intention and focus on working towards that, gradually adding further intentions when you feel you have the space to do so.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION

Balance is a journey and a potentially wobbly one at that. Give yourself permission to explore and take time to find out what balances/imbalances your life and how you might adapt or change this to align with your values and current circumstances.

REMEMBER: IT’S YOUR JOURNEY

As we’ve touched on throughout this post, balance is subjective and individual. Try not to let what others are doing or not doing influence what’s important to you and where you wish to progress to. It is up to you to create a balance of what is meaningful and important to YOU!

My Guide To Balance- My General Life


I hope that you will find this Pinterest friendly graphic helpful, if you hover over any of the images in my posts it gives you the option to save it to one of your Pinterest boards so that you can easily find or reference the post again in the future.

I have really enjoyed pulling a longer, more informative post together and putting some of my knowledge to good use. I hope that it’s helpful to have more information together in one place so that it’s easier to find and allows the post to become more of a guide than a discussion post.

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to know how you try to promote balance in your life and how you work towards aligning your actions with your values.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan.