It’s true, i’m in my mid forties and i’m changing my diet. It’s not a welfare thing as i’ll explain later, nor is it some mid life crisis (geez am I there already…) it’s none of those things, instead its an Environment thing.
I’ve spent most of my life as an adult and parent wanting to do my bit for the environment, trying to inform and educate myself on the best steps to to do this, but my diet has never really been a concern.
As a married couple, my wife and I have the same Environmental views, we’ve tried to buy the most efficient devices and vehicles we could afford, we’ve cut out toxic chemicals from our cleaning cupboards and sanitary products, we’ve shortened showers, Reduced Re-used and Recycled, switched bulbs to Energy Efficient versions wherever we go etc etc, but we didn’t really link our diets to this at all.
Don’t get me wrong we’ve always tried to eat healthily, especially as my wife has medical needs that have made our dietary needs essential, but this was for other reasons, not the environment, and as we weren’t huge meat eaters anyway, we really didn’t think of it as something we needed to improve on.
Neither of us have eaten Beef at all for over 25 years since the BSE Crisis, I say this because BSE is literally the only reason we haven’t. When you remember seeing and smelling the cattle that were slaughtered and piled high in fields everywhere, burning slowly with legs and heads sticking up from the intensely burning pires (see image above) both locally and on the news like a scene from Terminator, its extremely hard to forget and it put us both off for life.
As a young kid, I spent most of my childhood hanging around on my best friends farm. It was everything a young lad wanted, barns to hide and play in, wide open fields, and lots of animals everywhere. But this same place of fun and adventure was also my first real encounter into factory farming versus free range.
Part of the farm was built around Battery Hens, and both myself and my friend hated it. We both campaigned (complained & moaned endlessly as kids do) to his Dad & Grandad that we thought battery hens were wrong and there had to be a better way.
This was made even clearer at that age by the stark comparison between the row upon row of battery chickens in their cramped cages in a dark dusty buildings, and my friends own free range chickens that he kept behind his house in a nice open area with a wee hen house with perches and egg laying areas and trees, hedges and grass to wander through outside.
From the minute I’d seen behind the curtain and seen with my own eyes the conditions the chickens were kept in inside (same as the image above) that was enough for me, i’d seen the reality of where my food was coming from and I was only going to eat Meat or Eggs from good farms that treated their animals well, and I was telling anyone who’d listen to me to switch too.
For me this was shopping / eating with a conscience, we were meat eaters after all, but there was no need for the animals to have anything but a great life first.
As I grew older, this remained my way.
I wanted to know where my food came from and if it was meat, it had to have a good life first which meant shopping around and only buying meat from producers proud to show off their supplying farms. Most around me at the time didn’t really think about their food or where it came from, but that wasn’t for me to push down their throats, so I said nothing unless asked and just went in my own direction.
As adults and adults with a family, we’ve always lived this way. Free range chicken was our main meat with very occasional Pork or Lamb and of course the Free Range Christmas Turkey. Veggie food and even Veggie pre prepped food has always been included as added extra’s just for a change.
Milk and cheese has always been in our diet, as have Free Range eggs, but we’ve also been keen to try new alternatives as they popped up in the supermarkets.
We’ve never really been a huge fan of Fish dishes, but we’ve always had Cod or Haddock (or their white fish alternatives) depending on what was supposed to be sustainable at the time and we’ve occasionally had Line & Pole caught sustainable Tuna mixed with salads, pasta or pizza, as what we thought this was part of a healthy balanced diet and i’d loved Tuna since I was at school.
As the years have gone on and Tracy’s health dictated more changes, our meat consumption naturally went down and veggie options picked up. Annoyingly our diet was affected the most when we found that certain veggies also made Tracy’s Systemic Lupus and other conditions much worse. Potatoes, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and anything from the Cabbage family (Spinach was a firm favourite) were out and explained some serious health reactions over the years including Tracy’s belly swelling to look like she was 9 months pregnant! Yes you can imagine some of the looks we got, the worlds fastest pregnancy going from 0-9months in 2hrs! This really took some figuring out, especially when these were ingredients added to quite a few of our home made dishes, but thankfully we had a great Specialist at the time who helped us get to the bottom of it.
A little bit of trial and error and we found a way eventually, for those with similar triggers looking for ways to get started, here’s a few things we switched:
Home Made Pizza – just skip the tomato passata – its just as good if not better without it anyway
Home Made Lasagna – Skip the tomato swap for grated carrot and a white cheese sauce to just cover the mince.
Potato – switched for Sweet Potato in most dishes (except I had proper roasties for my Christmas dinner and made Sweet Roasties for T.)
And that was us, we’ve lived this way for years now.
So what changed?
Two programmes that highlighted things we’d never known or thought about before, and opened our eyes to how our previous rules for buying meat and fish products were seriously flawed.
It was time for a change, and it couldn’t wait, we all felt that we should switch from our next weekly shop.
If at this point your thinking, wow thats a strong reaction, then i’ll presume you haven’t seen either of the documentaries yet.
It’s not for me / us to change your mind, but if you are interested in sustainability and helping / protecting our environment, then i’d say give them a watch, if nothing more than to really see what’s going on. (links here Seaspiracy Cowspiracy)
So this is the beginning of our Veggie switch. We plan on eating the very few meat / fish items that are already in the house, because these creatures were already killed for our consumption and food waste helps no one, but once they’re gone that’s it, no more.
This will probably be tougher for us than most I think, because once you cut out veggies like Potato, Tomato, Mushroom & Cabbages then the Veggie diet can become quite difficult. Pre made foods often add these ingredients just to cheaply add colour, bulk or to stabilise a dish so that’s always something we need to keep an eye on, just take a look at some ingredients lists on packets and you’ll notice how hard it can be for yourself.
But it is possible and really quite enjoyable too.These are some items we already love or have tried and liked so far:
So now you know our plan and even some of our hurdles, lets get into some of the options out there right now. To start with we’ll add a few names of products we already like or plan on trying below, and then as we progress we’ll keep you updated over the coming months and years.
Of course these are just alternatives, but we make plenty of meals without the need for any of these ingredients and if you’re making the same choice you will too.
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No Dairy – switching to alternatives like Oatmilk and Plant Based alternatives
Milk for Cereal: Our current favourite is Oatly but it’s not so good in a cuppa…. Most Supermarkets stock it and the shelf life is great. Just remember with all these alternative milks to give them a good shake every time before use to keep the mixture mixed. There’s no nasties holding it all together, so this is the way with these alternatives.
Hot Drinks: We plan on trying Mylk for our Hot drinks having read the reviews, but we’re waiting for their latest release due any day now. We’ll report back once we’ve given them a try, so as it stands we’re still drinking the Lacto Free milk we’ve been drinking for years now.
No Dairy Cheese: So far VioLife has been great, we’ve enjoyed everything we’ve tried from cheese slices to blocks, but we’ve more to try yet. You’ll find that most supermarkets stock these, so its another easy switch.
We’ve not tried many other cheeses, some of those we have tried I can’t seem to find links for yet, but here’s an alternative list from BBC Food if you want more options.
When it comes to Pizza night in our house and with no Tomato allowed our pizza’s consist of a Pizza Base, No Dairy Mozzerella, No Dairy Cheese and normally Mixed chopped and frozen peppers and or Sweetcorn on top etc. You might think you’ll miss the passata, but we’ve always actually preferred it since switching. Most people think it’ll be dry, but if your using a decent Mozzerella and cheese its actually perfect.
Give things a try, you never know what turns out to be a better switch.
No Dairy Butter: Pure Sunflower Spread We’ve been using Pure Sunflower Spread for about 15 years now, switching back to Lurpack for a short period because we just couldn’t get it anywhere. It seems like these issues have been sorted these days and you’ll find this in all major supermarkets. This is definitely our favourite, its easy to use in cooking and doesn’t leave any weird tastes like some do.
If your switching from a full traditional salty butter, you will definitely notice the change because this is more mellow, but not for long and if you just switch out butter for other things for a few days and then try this, you’ll not even notice, for example switching to Mayo for sandwiches and that sort of thing.
We have tried their Olive Oil version too, but to be honest weren’t as keen. Its clearly a good seller so that’s probably just our personal taste preference.
No Dairy Yoghurt: ALPRO Plant based Yogurts have been our favourite for a long time now and we’ve tried quite a few because cereal with fruit and yogurt is T’s favourite breakfast (& now mine). The thing with plant based yogurts is that quite a few products have strange after tastes. This isn’t the case with alpro and so its our go to for yoghurts. We both actually prefer ALPRO to normal yoghurts.
No Dairy Custard: ALPRO Plant based Custard now custard isn’t a huge part of our diet, but it is one of my favourites in winter with carrot cake or something similar. Alpro’s custard is great and tastes more like a proper home made custard full of vanilla than an off the shelf carton, definitely worth a try.
Egg Free – switching to plant based alternatives
I can’t say I know much about this subject, i’ve always eaten Free Range eggs so this will be a switch for me personally, but so far i’ve not really missed eggs. Still if we want to bake or cook dishes that normally require eggs then we’ll definitely need to do more research on this one.
No Egg Mayo: Hellmans Vegan Mayo We’ve just tried this and its perfect, in fact I think I prefer it. The Ingredients are basically the same as standard Mayo, but with the removal of egg. There’s also no Gluten or MSG’s and it Meets DH 2012 salt targets.
No Egg EGG: Crackd No Egg EGG We’ve not tried this yet, it popped up when I was searching for mayo, but it looks like an interesting product with recipes for all sorts using this on their website, so we’ll let you know what its like once we’ve given it a go. If you’ve already tried it, add your thoughts to our comments.
No MEAT / Meat Free – switching to plant based alternatives
I can’t say we’ve really eaten much meat in the last 10yrs or more anyway, and we’ve been subbing things for quite a while, which makes you realise just how many new non Meat alternatives are available or popping up in the main Supermarkets these days.
Before these things became available, we would end up swapping meat for things like Halloumi cheese or plant based options like Tofu or Mushrooms.
In our case it turns out mushrooms are another veggie option not tolerated, so we’ had to keep looking for alternatives. If you do have food intolerances either from an illness or they just don’t work for you, make sure you read the meat alternative ingredients lists carefully. Personally we found quite a lot had mushrooms, potato or tomato as added ingredients which are just not suitable for T.
Coming back to our list, sometimes you just fancy an old school sausage casserole on a winter’s night or a lazy alternative, or a treat meal. The great news is, there’s lots of suppliers now looking to fill these areas and a lot of them are doing a fantastic job, so you’ll find plenty of options easily available from your local supermarkets.
Here’s some of our current choices.
Meat FREE: Cauldron Sausages & Other things Our Favourite Sausages have to be the Lincolnshire Sausages, great for shoving on our worktop griddle, cooking in a casserole or BBQing these veggie alternatives will not let you down. We’ve enjoyed these for a while now as we looked to mix our diet up with new things as they appeared in the supermarkets. Ordering them has been difficult at times, especially during lockdown, but it appears they’ve got this all sorted and you’ll find them or the Cumberland version in most Supermarkets.
Cauldron also make a whole host of different things that we’ll probably be trying as we go.
Meat FREE: Moving Mountains Sausage Burger This was a new Treat to try last weekend and we loved it. Its a no meat Sausage patty that’s great for breakfast rolls, or as a burger alternative, but could also be great for a number of other dishes as a meat alternative. We cooked ours on the griddle and it is quite juicy, so probably more of a treat food, but what a treat it is. Moving Mountains also make Hot dogs, Sausages and Meatballs, but we’ve not tried these yet.
Meat FREE: Flat / Square Sausage & Other things To anyone outside of Scotland, you’ll probably no know what this is, but if you go to a cafe and order Sausage on a Roll (Sausage Bap, Sausage Butty etc etc) then what you’ll actually be served is a meat version of this. Normally made with beef and not sausage meat at all. Flat or Square Sausage is a Purely Scottish breakfast roll. This Meat Free version is great for those cheat days / weekend morning rolls or full cooked breakfasts for those who fancy them but don’t want the meat. Simon Howie also do Veggie Black pudding and Haggis too.
And that’s it so far!
Let us know how you get on with these or offer up some of your own favourites in the comments below and leave us a link so we can all give them a go.