Tuesday, 11 December 2018

My Vegan Food Guide to Dubai

I have always had a huge affinity with Dubai since visiting with my family when I was younger. However, since my diet took a huge plant-based shift in January 2018 and one of my best friends moved out to Dubai a few years ago, I have seen a side to this city-state that I'd never explored before - the ever-expanding range of vegan eateries (and ofc, matcha spots).  

Wild & The Moon

With a lot of the restaurants in Dubai, they aren't solely vegan eateries as you often get in London. The plant-based options are usually a section of a menu, which I actually highly rate because it doesn't put off non-vegan friends or family from joining you. They can either choose a totally non-vegan meal or choose a plant-based meal and add animal protein if they so wish. 

1. Surf Cafe
Dreamy chickpea omelette
This has to rate as one of the best vegan brunches I've ever had. I ordered the chickpea 'omelette', which in itself I thought was wonderfully original. It was filled with sliced avo, a delicious EVOO, sauteéd kale, spring onion and courgette. It came with a side of roasted toms and rye bread with an olive tapenade. I then ordered extra thyme roasted mushrooms, which were just fabulous. 

I didn't get a close up of the food here because I was too excited to dig in, sorry. You'll have to make do with the photo of my face and just trust me, it was amazing.

My friend ordered the açai bowl, which looked equally as delicious. It was made of pure açai rather than being blended with another fruit, which I thought was quite unusual (as most açai bowls are more banana 'ice cream' than açai). It looked wonderfully thick, rather than a sloppy mess (the latter being the worst form of açai IMO). She thoroughly enjoyed it and said it was one of the best açai bowls she'd had too. Maybe I'll have one for dessert next time lols.  

2. Amongst Few

Amongst Few: one and a half savoury brunches for me ty
We'd been eying up this brunch on Instagram for a while and it didn't disappoint in taste. We both ordered the roasted portobello mushrooms topped with a chickpea scramble, hash browns, sauteéd sweet potato, greens and half an avo filled with balsamic, soy and EVOO. My only criticism is that it wasn't big enough! 

Luckily my friend has more of a sweet tooth and adored the vegan GF pancakes so not only did I eat my breakfast, I also ate just over half of hers as well lol. The pancakes weren't to my taste. I found them a bit sticky and chewy with a bitter aftertaste from whichever flour they used. However, if your diet is strictly GF then they may suit your palate better than mine. Tbh it just made me question again why the hell people go GF when they don't need to.. I'd trade those pancakes in for all the gluten any day.

3. Gourmet by Kcal
This restaurant is situated inside Le Meridien Hotel. It has a huge range of nutrient dense food options and a whole plant based section, so don't be fooled by the menu online - it's very different . The vegan  section had delicious options such as black bean burgers and butternut squash risotto. However, I actually went for a teriyaki salmon Buddha bowl bc I was feeling like all the veggies. Even though I am around 95% plant based, I do like to keep my omega 3 intake up with salmon once a week too. Before the vegans kick off, I know you can get vegan omega 3, but they're not as easily absorbed as the ones found in oily fish and I'm not ashamed to say I do still love salmon. It's for this reason I'd never label myself vegan either. 

Anyway, back to the food in question. It was absolutely delicious! The veg had so much flavour and the salmon was cooked to perfection. They had some incredible seasonings on the table including a smoky salt and sumac, which totally transformed the dish even further! 

We shared a vegan mezze platter too, which had some lovely dips on such as roasted red pepper & walnut, creamy hummus and moutabel. We also ordered extra grilled veggies and a side of air fried sweet potato fries. The veggies were amazing but the fries weren't crispy at all - rather limp in fact. They also had a strange coating on them, which tasted odd (I still ate them tho so they can't have been all that bad. I just wouldn't order them again). They'd be much better off as a crispy wedge IMO. On the whole though, a delicious meal with loads of healthy options to suit all types of diet and tastes. 

4. Projeto Açai

The homemade walnut granola was a game changer! 
We stumbled across this place on our quest for good açai and definitely succeeded here. They have two locations - one in the marina and one on Sheikh Zayed Road, DIFC. We visited the latter and went for smaller açai bowls because we were training in an hour so didn't want anything too large. 

They have an absolutely huge menu, which is extremely vegan-friendly. It includes everything from your classic avo on toast to sandwiches on homemade wholewheat sunflower bread and even poké bowls (they do a vegan tofu poké bowl so I would definitely return to try that - yum). 

The açai bowls are made from açai blended with mango, which I thought was a beautiful collaboration of flavours. It was just the right balance of sweetness and wasn't as overbearing as açai blended with banana (which is what I have eaten in 99.9% of other açai bowls). My pet peeve is runny açai/banana ice cream bowls but this was the most perfect consistency! I ordered mine topped with fresh berries and a homemade walnut granola, which was absolutely delicious. I'd highly recommend this place and can't wait to return. My only dilemma would be açai or poké..?! I think I'll just get both. 

5. Wild & The Moon

Average matcha bowl accompanied by friggin' phenomenal matcha latte
Keeping up the açai theme, the specialty of Wild & The Moon are their bowls. This ranges from açai bowls, matcha bowls (I KNOW!), power bowls (which are made of a banana and apple pudding), porridge and granola bowls. 

I was super excited to try their açai bowl, however, even though they had açai in stock, they couldn't use it..?! The exact reason for this definitely got lost in translation so we just accepted our açai loses and opted for the matcha bowls. Tbh I was actually 50:50 on whether I was going to choose açai or matcha bc of my obvious love of the latter. So the waiter chose for me by eliminating all açai possibilities but I really wish he hadn't..

The matcha bowl was literally just a runny bowl of banana ice cream - you now know how much I dislike both overly powerful banana flavour and runny bowls. This was both of those things, sadly. The saving grace was that we changed our toppings from banana (why TF do they need more banana?!) to granola, frozen bloobs and desiccated coconut. The granola saved the day - when does granola not save the day though, let's be honest. 

The highlight of this visit was the velvety matcha latte, but more detail of this in the matcha section..! Their juices and nut mylks also looked delicious so I would pick one up to try next time. Matcha latte and a juice - maybe it's somewhere I'd go for a liquid snack lols (unless they figure out how to make an açai bowl again ofc). 


Wild & The Moon 
This was hands down my favourite matcha in Dubai. It is made with their creamy homemade almond mylk (just look at that above photo in the food section!) and spirulina, funnily enough. I personally love spirulina and couldn't taste it so thought it was a fantastic nutrient boost to add to the drink. I asked for it without the syrup as I don't like overly sweet things, especially not overly sweet matcha and it was just perfect. Creamy, frothy, great quality matcha and yeah, I'm drooling at the thought of it again..! 10/10 from me.


Homemade almond mylk matcha 
This beautiful little spot is set within Jumeirah Emirates Towers.  

I opted for homemade almond mylk in my matcha, which was delicious. It did separate a bit so needed a continual stir, which is always mildly annoying. However, it tasted fabulous. 

We only went for matcha/coffee but glanced at the menu and it actually looked really good. There were several vegan options such as waffles, oats, toasts, desserts and salads. They also had warm mains such as GF VG pasta if that's your kinda thing. I also loved the idea of the 'milk taps'. You could order coffee or granola and help yourself to either soy or dairy options, which I thought was quite cute. 


This was a very surprising find within Dubai Mall! Arabica is a large chain of coffee shops with branches all over the globe; six of them being in UAE. I always thought they were a chain dedicated to coffee. However, by chance we wandered in for a shopping break and I found a matcha..! 
The only sugar free plant-based milk option was soya milk so I opted for that and it was surprisingly good! 

I wouldn't venture out of your way to try the matcha here but if I was out and about and passed an Arabica store then I would definitely get one again. It's good but not so good you'd travel for it. 

It's also handy to know that in a place that does great coffee (or so I'm told), there is a matcha option for those that want it.

What didn't make the cut?

Comptoir 102
Smaller than the size of my palm (and I have small hands)
Now, this was probably the biggest disappointment of all my food experiences. Hyped up to be one of the best healthy eateries in Dubai, yet I could not wait to get out. I chose to order the special, which you'd think would be spectacular bc it's the special, right? Wrong. It was roasted aubergine and buckwheat with feta, so obvs I swapped out the feta for chickpeas bc dairy, eww. When it arrived it looked like a starter portion (and if you know me then you know I live for voluminous meals). I reluctantly went with it and just accepted that I'd go home and eat again. However, the aubergine was like rubber. It was so tough that I couldn't even cut it with my knife! You expect roasted aubergine to be gooey and full of flavour, yet this was none of those things. 

Of course, I sent it back and did actually specify that if all the aubergine was like this I'd swap to the vegan quinoa salad. Turns out they failed to listen and returned to me with the aubergine looking exactly the same but the chickpeas burnt to a crisp. Far from ideal. Full of frustration and hanger, I sent this back again and clearly specified for them to bring the vegan quinoa salad. When this sad looking half-empty bowl of quinoa and 1/4 of an avo arrived, I decided to pack it up and just head home so I could pair it with other food to make a proper meal. That was one expensive side dish..

My friend had a juice here and did mention that it was nice. So the conclusion of Comptoir 102, is that if you're not hungry and don't mind repeating yourselves a few times to the staff, go for the chilled vibes bc the candle shop and outdoor space is cute (bar the fact it was full of people smoking). I, however, will be swerving this one for the foreseeable future bc a gal needs to eat, you know?

Other vegan spots that I didn't get a chance to try this time around but definitely will next time:
  • Vibe 
  • Urth 
  • Poke & Co 
  • Ultra Brasserie 
  • Tr!beca Kitchen and Bar 
  • Circle Cafe

So that's my round up of vegan Dubai thus far. Hopefully I'll be back to UAE in the spring to try all those other spots and let you know whether they're worth the careem fare..

Jess x


Thursday, 1 November 2018

I've *finally* gained my level 3 PT! Part 2

Over 65 hours of online learning and five full weekends of physical training complete, I am so happy to say I've finally gained my level 3 PT qualification! If you have no idea how we got here, take a look at Part 1 of this journey here. I've since had a few questions about what the qualification entailed and what I thought of No1 Fitness Education as a course, so here it is.

The course
To be honest, the hardest part was getting through the online learning! It was quite repetitive but they do have to cover all the basics too, even the things that are common sense (which means yes, you have to read about the potential hazard of slipping on wet grass when training a client outside..) You can complete this at your own pace though and it's fairly easy to do on the go as it's all online. It was ideal for me to do between patients!

The five physical sessions, however, went a lot faster. It was a great opportunity to put all the online information into practice and reinforce things such as technique for the major lifts. We were also able to programme sessions for each other and learn about all the different systems of training, which is something that is much easier to learn in person than it is to do online. 

One thing I would say the team at No1 Fitness were great at was the support and reassurance they provided for us. A Whatsapp group was set up, where we could voice any concerns we had and bounce questions off each other. They also sent us some mock papers and made sure we were thoroughly prepared for each exam, which is obviously ideal.

Another perk at No1 Fitness was the chance to use the gym whilst completing the course. Everyone had full access to both studios and can join in a class or train themselves whenever they wanted to, which I thought was pretty cool.

Just finding out we had passes our level 3 practical exams with the group - the best feeling! 

The exams
Apart from the exams at the end of each online learning section, there are a few other exams along the way that we had to sit in person. The first lot were for our level 2 gym instructor exams. These involved:
1. An anatomy and physiology MCQ (multiple choice question) paper
2. Writing a programme for a client
3. Coaching a client through several exercises as requested by the examiner

I was super happy to get great feedback and results from my examiner about my level 2 exams, which motivated me to crack on with the level 3 studying! Level 3 exams were comprised of the same structure as above, but at a more advanced level. The MCQ also covered a much broader range of topics as we were tested on everything we had learned throughout the whole course.

Helping each other through the last stages of the exam..!
What will I do with my qualifications?
I was pretty confident with what I was doing in the gym but this course has given me a much deeper level of understanding of the 'why' behind what I do. I understand the training systems so much more and the ideology of training antagonistic (opposite) muscle groups together instead of just picking random exercises.

I have something very exciting planned for January 2019, which involves one of my favourite training methods - pilates! It will involve both group and one-on-one training with myself in some absolutely incredible facilities, which are still under construction. So keep an eye on my Instagram @jesssriv as I'll keep this updated with the progress of any personal training or classes that I teach.

Jess x


Thursday, 16 August 2018

*finally* gaining my Level 3 PT: Part 1

Hi friends. I'm back! It's been a little while since I blogged and it's about time I started again tbh. It actually feels quite odd writing on here. Odd because it's strange to write informally after spending the last year completing the dissertation for my masters. I've finally finished it though and I'm not ashamed to say I'm super proud of myself for doing so. Not only for finishing the three-year masters but achieving a distinction overall and also for my final dissertation on Botox to treat chronic migraine and temporomandibular joint disorders. 

With that under my belt, of course, classic Jess, I felt a gap in my life without having something to study for. This is when I finally realised I had time to do something I always wanted to do and further my education in the field of personal training. 

Now, I've already mentioned this on my Instagram and I've had a few messages asking if I'll be changing careers to become a full-time PT. In short, no. No, I will not be throwing in the towel after eight years at university studying dentistry and facial aesthetics (lol). The main reason for me always wanting to gain this PT qualification is because health and fitness is a huge passion of mine, as is my love for helping people to become happy and confident in themselves. In my mind, it all comes under the huge umbrella term of aesthetics. For the last three years, I've adored helping people gain confidence in their smile or their skin. But what about their body? 

I'm always getting questions about training and lifestyle and even though I know what I want to say to people, I am forever holding back because I'm not actually qualified to be giving advice in that field. Hence, I jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the Level 3 PT course with No1 Fitness.

I'm sure snacking is proven to increase studying productivity...

Why No1 Fitness?
All PT courses have to cover the same syllabus, however, the way in which it is delivered at No1 Fitness with their eight years of experience really stood out to me. They also came highly recommended from friends that had completed their course last year. 

As I've mentioned before in my nutrition diploma post, online learning is extremely useful for me whilst working at my dental and aesthetic clinic during the week. No1 Fitness allows me to gain a good understanding of anatomy, physiology and training online via their e-learning platform before five consecutive weekends of intensive physical sessions. 

My thoughts so far..
At the moment I am half way through the e-learning. I know this is the part that most people hate but the geek in me is loving it! It was actually quite exciting re-visiting human biology (a topic that I hadn't covered since my first year at dental school). I've always loved cardiology in particular and fun fact - if I had my time again I likely would have done medicine at uni and specialised to be a cardiologist. I just find it fascinating! 

I'm super excited to get into the gym for the physical sessions starting mid-September. I will report back with a part 2 to this blog post to let you know how I found it and *hopefully* by then I will have my Level 3 PT qualification! 

So, for now, dentistry and facial aesthetics will remain my bread and butter, but who knows where my career will take me in the future. There's only one way to find out and that is to complete my journey with No1 Fitness! 

See you on the other side 
Jess x


Sunday, 11 March 2018

The only [energy] balls you need in your life

I’ve tried lots of energy ball recipes and they were all loaded with either far too many dates or nuts and not enough protein, if any. This is why I came up with the following recipe – it saves me spending a fortune on less than ideal energy balls and has turned out to be the perfect sweet treat or snack to take on the go.

It took quite a bit of playing around with and the milk ratio varies a lot depending on what protein powder you use. I use vegan protein, which is super thick (so needs more liquid). However, I recently discovered that when making these for one of my friends using her beef isolate protein, it needs virtually no liquid as the beef protein causes everything to miraculously turn to water (oatmeal included! Sad times).

I’ve therefore included a range with the almond milk so adjust accordingly depending on what protein you’re using. I originally made these with vegan vanilla protein but tried it with chocolate and think it's just as delicious. So I've included two variations – one vanilla and one chocolate. How original..!

Vegan vanilla and cinnamon balls

(makes 8 balls)
  •  1 scoop protein of choice - vanilla or chocolate 
  •  ½ cup oats
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  •  4 pitted ‘normal’ dates or 2 pitted medjool dates as they’re much bigger
  •  2 tbsp almond butter
  • ¼ cup almond milk if using vegan protein OR 3 tbsp almond milk if using beef isolate protein (I haven’t tried using whey as I don't consume dairy but if you are using it I’d imagine it’s around 4 tbsp. If anyone tries it with whey, let me know!)
  •  Extra desiccated coconut to roll the balls in afterwards

FOR VANILLA: add ½ tsp ground cinnamon
FOR CHOCOLATE: add 1 tbsp raw cacao powder

This is the texture you're looking for - see point 3 below for more detail 

  1. Firstly decide on if you’re making vanilla or chocolate!
  2. Then place all relevant ingredients into a food processor depending on which flavour you’re going for.
  3. Blend until the mixture looks like a crumb but enough so that there are no lumps of date left (see above photo). You don't want to over-blend it so that it turns into a paste. The mixture shouldn't stick to the sides of the food processor or the blade. It should, however, be easy to pick up and stick together when pressed.
  4. Once you have the right consistency, wet your hands and begin to form the mixture into small balls. Wetting your hands stops any mixture sticking to you and saves so much mess!
  5. Make sure you press each ball firmly together and then roll into a bowl of the extra desiccated coconut.
  6. Place on a plate and then refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up.

You’ll be addicted from first bite so apologies in advance..! Let me know if you make them and tag me on insta @jesssriv!

Jess x

The perfect cakey consistency. Because who doesn't love tea and cake..?

Saturday, 10 March 2018

15-minute red lentil dhal

This is my go-to vegan protein source when I haven’t had time to soak any beans, chickpeas or other lentils etc. Red lentils don't need to be soaked but they DO have to be rinsed thoroughly. That, I do have time for as it takes about 3 minutes to do and increases the ease of digestion so much more. 

I have made this recipe countless times and it always seems to go down really well when I make it for other people too. I often cook a whole 500g packet of lentils and it’ll then last me a few days. This recipe, however, is for 3 people or 3 meals but it can easily be doubled. 

For any left over lentils, I store them in a tupperware. They will solidify on cooling so when it comes to reheating, just place them in a pan with enough water to regain the correct consistency and voila, you've got another amazing meal!

  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Few grinds of pink salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of fresh coriander, finely chopped 

The perfect vegan dinner party set up: red lentil dhal, sticky tahini brown rice and garlicky sautéed veggies
  1. Thoroughly rinse the lentils in fresh water and keep repeating until the water runs clear. It’ll start off very cloudy but after about 4-5 rinses it’ll begin to look clear.
  2. Mix up the vegetable stock and add to the rinsed and drained lentils along with the turmeric, cumin, chilli, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are completely soft and all the stock has been absorbed.
  4. If at any point in the cooking process the lentils begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, just add more water. The exact ratios of stock/water to lentils doesn't matter as much as it does for rice IMO. So adding some extra liquid in mid-cooking isn’t an issue at all.
  5. Whilst the lentils are simmering, heat the olive oil in a clean frying pan.
  6. Add in the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions have softened and browned.  
  7. During this time the lentils should be cooked. Add them to the frying pan and stir well so that everything is nicely combined.
  8. Once cooked, add in the fresh coriander and serve. I like to have mine with brown rice and veggies (as shown above).

Enjoy and let me know if you try them on my insta @jesssriv!

Jess x

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Veganuary: my experience

If you've followed me on Instagram you'll know that I took part in Veganuary (vegan January). This involved cutting out all animal products - not just the obvious meat, fish, dairy and eggs. The good news - I'm still alive and haven't died of a protein deficiency as many people seemed to be worried about.. So straight to the point with what you want to know - how did I find it and am I staying vegan?

One of my fav meals to cook at home - black rice, yellow split peas and greeeeens

As you may have gathered from my previous blog posts and Instagram, I started becoming more plant based during the last few months of 2017. This definitely made it easier when it came to participating in Veganuary because I was used to cooking beans, lentils, chickpeas and rice etc. and making them exciting to eat. Before this though, I had thoroughly researched plant proteins so that I could do what I did with meat and fish - eyeball a portion so that I roughly know what a cup of lentils looks like and therefore know that in one serving there is around 18g protein.

It still amazes me how many people are uneducated when it comes to plant protein (myself included until around September 2017). But truth be told, if you know you can easily get your protein from animal sources and you've been doing so the whole of your life, I can understand that the motivation to change isn't there. However, personally, I am SO glad I invested time into re-educating myself. Never in a million years did I think I would be walking past the meat and fish counters in Waitrose and heading down to pick up a bag of chickpeas and rice for dinner.

Delicious black rice bowl at Electric Members Club (I was hungry when I left though so had to eat again lol)

At first I was very conscious that I needed to consume 'complete proteins' and even wrote up a table of incomplete proteins together with which amino acid they are low in (this is my OCD shining through). For example lentils and black beans are low in methionine so ideally you want to consume them with brown rice, which is high in methionine. However, I have since read some more papers and watched a few lengthy YouTube videos from nutritionists (one of my favourites being Derek Simnett, who is a vegan nutrition practitioner). These state that you don't actually need to consume the complete protein in one meal. The elimination of amino acids from the body isn't fast enough that you would be deficient in them if consumed on different days let alone different meals! Obviously do your research but this is something that made my meal choices a lot easier and took the stress away from thinking I was going to be amino acid depleted! To be honest I still consumed legumes with rice anyway because it's delicious lol. BUT it's always good to know that either way I would be getting a well balanced nutritional profile. 

I also came to realise that if you're at all 'carb phobic' then a vegan lifestyle is going to be very difficult for you to get your head around. You have to accept that your meals will be higher in carbs than protein - I'll admit this was a challenging concept to grasp for me initially too. It's hard to undo years of brainwashing by the media that you should be very conscious of your carb intake otherwise you'll be obese before you know it. But you know what? F that. I have more than doubled my carb intake from what it was a few months ago! And the result? I look leaner, eat more, have more energy and I am a hell of a lot happier!  This leads me onto a few of the main pros that I found:


  • MUCH cheaper. One 500g pack of beans, chickpeas or lentils provided around 5 meals for me (depending on how much rice/bulgar wheat/bread/quinoa etc I had with it). That equates to your main protein source at each meal coming in at around 38p! Compare that with a fillet of salmon at £5-6... hmm you do the math... 
  • More energy. The initial increase in carbs had my energy levels through the roof! I was training more than I previously wanted to just because I actually had the energy to do so. Eating at home meant I could load my plate up with food. Eating out, however, often left me hungry with my energy levels going the other way (but more about that in the next section).
  • Clearer skin. This may be TMI but for the first time in my life I didn't have one breakout around my period. Normally without fail I will always always get at least one big spot, which drives me insane. But this time, nothing! It literally felt like a miracle. 
  • Inches lost. So as mentioned on my initial Veganuary Instagram post, I don't actually own any functioning scales anymore (they broke summer '17 and just cba replacing them). So at the start of the month I took measurements of my waist, hips, each leg and each arm (as idk about you but my arms and legs are different sizes on each side?!) My intention was never to lose weight but I just did the measurements out of curiosity. I lost 1/2 an inch from every single area, which actually really surprised me. Maybe this will help people realise that carbs aren't the devil when it comes to weight loss after all..!
  • Increased food volume. idk about you but I LOVE big meals. I know some people hate them and prefer eating smaller meals (weirdos) but I have never ever been like that. As plant foods are much less calorie dense, you can literally live the dream (or my dream at least) and EAT. ALL. THE. FOOD. It's important to make up those calories from removing animal proteins - so to know that you can pile a massive plate FULL of food and let your portion sizes literally go out the window is such a good feeling. I genuinely had to go out and buy bigger plates..!! Obviously I'm no nutritionist and saying that you can disregard portion sizes may not be the most sensible thing to say to some people. BUT of course, I'm talking about piling the plate full of whole foods rather than Oreos... Use ya common sense here hun.
  • Health benefits. This was my main motivation for adopting a plant based lifestyle. There are countless papers backing up the evidence that a vegan diet can help to lower cancer risk, improve cardiovascular health, lower mortality rates and protect against chronic diseases. Seems like a no brainer. 
  • Faster recovery. I found my DOMS were a LOT less than they usually are. I normally take quite a while to recover after heavy weight sessions. However, I found my muscle soreness diminish and climbing the stairs after leg day didn't seem as hard! I did some research into why this may be and apparently animal protein can cause a build up of uric and lactic acid in the body, which in turn impairs muscle recovery... Interesting! 
  • Doing your bit for our planet. This is often many people's motivation to adopt a plant based lifestyle. One month as a vegan saves an average of 33,000 gallons of water, 500kg of grain and 30 animals lives. WOW.

So it wasn't all plain sailing. The biggest hurdles I came across were during eating out. A lot of restaurants that are not solely vegan often have a very limited choice of vegan options, which are far from what I would consider a healthy or balanced meal. For example, some were just a bowl of white pasta and tomato sauce or rice and vegetables. To me, neither of those are complete meals. So when I did go out and get lumped with these poor options, I had to come home and eat again as I was still hungry! 

I even found myself having to eat at home after my last meal at Farmacy, which was pretty shocking. Not only do they charge you £15 for a dish you can make for £1 at home but I had to send my food back because it was cold. It was also one of the blandest meals I've EVER had in my life. Such a shame because it's so close to where I live and seems to have a bizarrely good reputation. However, every time I've eaten there either myself or someone I've been with has had a problem with the food. Plus the portions are tiny - fine if you want to go there and just take pretty photos; hashtag vegan, hashtag health. But if you actually want to eat and feel satiated - avoid IMO. 

vegan burrito DREAM at Wulf and Lamb

On the other hand, this meal above was literally my favourite of the whole month! It was the 'open burrito' from a vegan restaurant in Chelsea called Wulf and Lamb. Comprised of a soft wheat tortilla topped with cashew cream, sautéed ackee, black beans and red rice. So so delicious and I'd 100% recommend it to anyone looking for good, filling vegan food. 

The one downer here was that I was super excited to try the vegan mac and cheese but it was terrible. I used to LOVE regular mac and cheese and it was one of my favourite comfort foods before I cut out dairy. Therefore, I'd like to think of myself as a somewhat mac and cheese connoisseur (lol). If you have also cut out dairy but remotely remember what cheese tastes like OR you still eat cheese then you will be disappointed with this. It has an awful bitter aftertaste from the nutritional yeast (and I actually like nutritional yeast!) So yeah, it's a no to the mac and cheese but a big fat yes to the burrito.

I know that some of my friends found eating with other non-vegan friends quite challenging. However, in these situations my friends were really understanding and non judgemental, which was amazing as it didn't make me feel embarrassed or awkward at all. I even went to a dinner party where they served up roast pork. However, as we all brought a dish, I cooked some lentils and had that as my protein source with all the other veggies that were there. Turned out to be a delicious meal and everyone else loved the lentils too! Win win. 

Will I stay vegan?
I don't think I will ever put a label on my diet or lifestyle. Just because the day you slip up or want to deviate, everyone is too quick to criticise or make you feel awful for your decision. 

The stats mentioned above in the 'positives' section are pretty amazing IMO and have convinced me that I will definitely try my hardest to remain vegan as much as possible. 

However, as I mentioned, I found eating out the hardest part and would never want to distance myself from social situations because I feel like I can't eat there. So in all honesty, when the vegan options are poor, I would much rather opt for a wild salmon fillet for a good boost of omega-3, than be stuck with some greasy vegan option lacking in excitement and nutritional value. 

At home though, I can't see myself ever buying animal products again. I have become a lot more experimental in the kitchen and saved SO much money this month (handy when you've got all that tax to pay). As long as I'm prepared with soaking my beans etc then being vegan at home is easy!

As for the long term effect on my health, it might be great now, but I want to be sure that I am never deficient in any vitamins or minerals such as B12 and iron being the main two. With my predisposition to iron deficiency as found out in my recent DNA test (you can read about that here) I may need to consider iron supplementation along with my already supplemented B12. 

If you are vegan, have tried veganism or are thinking of trying it, I'd love to know how you are getting on either here or on my Instagram @jesssriv.

Until next time, 
Jess x


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

An insight into food waste with FoodSaver

Everyone has their own reasons for becoming plant based. I will be 100% honest and say my initial 'why' when taking on the Veganuary challenge was not because of the environmental damage around us, it was because of my health.

However, this has definitely changed and I have since become much more aware of the impact that we have on our planet. New research carried out by the FoodSaver team backs up why we need to start thinking more about our actions and the easy things we can change, such as minimising our food waste. 

The Facts

Brits throw away nearly 2.5 billion food items a year. With each person throwing away an average of four food items a month, surveys showed that adults waste around 3000 food items in their lifetime. 

The most commonly wasted food is lettuce as over a 1/3 of our population regularly dispose of it. However, possibly a good thing is that the surveys showed that 87% of people disregard 'best before' dates, which let's face it - many vegetables often last far beyond this. Although 87% is a huge portion of our population, we are still wasting so much food. So why is this?

Sealing up the remainder of my crushed potatoes using FoodSaver Fresh

Interestingly enough, one of the biggest reasons for food waste is due to the confusion over how to store it correctly. Some of the top MYTHS were:

  • food should be left to cool before storing (73%)[1]
  • fresh, raw carrots are more nutritious than cooked carrots (61%)[2]
  • if food smells ok, then it's fine to eat (35%)[3]
  • 'five second rule' is true..! (25%)[4]

How do people think that the 'five second rule' is true?! 

On the other hand, even I was convinced that food should be left to cool before storing! With this being the biggest misconception, it was interesting to find out that leaving food out at room temperature actually encourages bacterial growth. Research shows that food should not be left out for longer than two hours as after this time bacteria begins to multiply rapidly. If you are worried about putting hot liquids such as soup in the fridge, then they suggest to transfer it to several smaller containers to help it cool more quickly. Makes sense. 

Another fun fact was that a quarter of Brits admitted to having arguments with their partners about how to store their food?! Wow. Talk about first world problems..! 

Whatever your motivation for reducing your food waste (even if it is to reduce your domestic arguments) one sure way to help is using FoodSaver Fresh vacuum sealing storage system. 

Quick lunch: smoked salmon, all the veggies and mashed parsnip
FoodSaver Fresh

If you haven't previously read my posts about FoodSaver Fresh then you can do so here. I go into detail about what it is and how it's been a huge help in my meal prep and food storage, as well as helping me to save so much time and money.

And if you're looking for more meal prep inspo or how I use it to keep food fresh for up to twice as long, then take a look at my week of food here.

So this is just a tiny insight into food waste, which focuses on an easy way that we can minimise what we throw out by using vacuum storage. Of course there are many other avenues we could look at and I'd love to hear yours! Let me know either in the comments or on my Instagram @jesssriv.

Jess x



N.B. This post was kindly sponsored by FoodSaver but as always, all opinions are my own and 100% honest 
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