Homemade peanut butter

Making your own peanut butter is so easy and yet so rewarding – I would recommend it to anyone looking who gets through inordinate amounts of peanut butter and wants to reduce the amount they have to buy. This can be made in large batches (I put mine in old 1kg peanut butter tubs) and lasts for a lot time (or not, if you’re anything like me).

I find most recipes on the internet recommend blanched peanuts, peanut oil and honey, but unless you really enjoy ‘Skippy’-style peanut butter, ditch the honey. Vegetable oil works fine – the roasted peanuts is where all the flavour comes from anyway, and using peanuts with skins on gives the peanut butter more texture (not to mention nutrients).

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Peanut butter and cinnamon on soda-bread – heavenly!

 

Ingredients

  • 1kg peanuts (you can use blanched if you prefer a smoother texture, but I like redskin peanuts, or a mix)
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
  • Pour the peanuts onto 2 baking trays, ensuring they are are evenly spread out. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes.
  • Check the peanuts after about 6 minutes and give them a stir to ensure none get burned (this can happen very suddenly so watch out!).
  • When they are cracking and browned, remove them from the oven. The longer you cook the easier it will be to get a smooth nut butter, but you don’t want them burned or it ruins the taste.
  • Carefully pour 75% of the nuts into a food processor (if you want crunchy peanut butter, otherwise add them all) and blend for around 5 minutes until it is the consistency of couscous.
  • Pour in the oil and salt, mix around the blended nuts and blend for a further 5 minutes, or until smooth. If need be, add some more oil.
  • To make crunchy peanut butter, now add the remaining 25% of the peanuts and blend on a low speed until they are roughly chopped – this should take less than a minute.
  • Spoon out in to a jar and you’re all done! Enjoy 🙂

 

If you decide to give this recipe a go, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram so I can see!

 

The Epicurean Club – New Forest

It was my pleasure to be able to collaborate with The Epicurean Club on this blog post, but, as always, all views are my own.

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The New Forest is reminiscent of my childhood – free-roaming ponies, long country walks and an endless sky. I’ve always felt at home in this gorgeous national park, and have recently taken the time to visit it more and more. With over 218 square miles to explore and 141 miles of footpaths, I’ve never felt like it could get boring.

When I heard that The Epicurean Club had listed a number of hotels in the area, I immediately knew that I had to visit again – there’s something about exploring childhood memories as an adult that adds a new magic to them.

The Epicurean Club lists a collection of the very best boutique hotels, pubs and inns across Britain. Each place is situated in beautiful surroundings and boasts superior food (just wait ’til you see) and interiors. One of my favourite features about The Epicurean, however, is the ease in which they allow you to make the most of the local surroundings. We see so many images of foreign lands and white sandy beaches on social media, forgetting, somehow, that we have so much of our own culture and beauty (and yes, white sandy beaches) just on our doorstep. The Epicurean Club hosts experiences in each location, designed to help you get the most out of your stay, be it riding in the New Forest or a helicopter flight over the South Downs. There really is something for everyone.

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Nothing like an evening stroll to relax after a long drive!

The Mayflower, Lymington

Our Epicurean experience took us first to The Mayflower in Lymington, a harbourside inn known for its al fresco dining and delicious local food.

Upon arrival, Fiann and I took a walk around the local wetlands, tucked behind the yacht harbour. It was amazing to see the yachts, but I loved the fact that despite all the wealth, the wetlands were preserved and protected. If you’re a bird-nerd, you’ll love it here.

Our room was beautiful and cosy – who doesn’t want a huge bathtub in the room? Despite the antique feel, everything was beautifully presented and modern, with a traditional twist. Think low ceilings and wooden beams, but walk-in rain shower, huge double bed and espresso machine. Win-win.

By far my favourite part about our stay at The Mayflower was the food. Forget what you know about pub food – this was deserving of a Michelin star! In fact, the hotel has a one-rosette restaurant, which sources many of its ingredients locally – a big selling point for me, as sustainability is something I’d like to see thought about more in the hospitality industry.

If you’re vegan, fear not. We were handed the vegan menu which is extensive (rare for a British pub anywhere!) and aided in choosing a vegan wine. Our waitress really knew her wines, and we ended up with a gorgeous red and one portion of everything on the vegan menu (I’m not joking).

The food was impeccable, possibly the best vegan food I have ever tasted. We ate three courses each, so it was great that the food wasn’t too heavy, but rich enough to be immensely satisfying and warming. My favourite dish was the smoked celeriac and mushroom orzo (centre image above), which tasted so much like a smoked-salmon dish I nearly sent it back. The sorbets could do with tasting a little more natural, but they were the perfect end to a rich and delicious meal.

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We ate dinner in front of the cosy log fire – perfect for a winter’s evening!

Experience

The Epicurean Club’s specialty is the experiences they combine with local stays, chosen to make the most of the surrounding countryside and towns. As Fiann and I are pretty active, we decided to head out on a self-guided bike ride with Cyclexperience.

Booking includes bike hire for a full day, and we were blessed with such amazing weather we took full advantage of this! Jon and the rest of the helpful crew at Cyclexperience helped us choose a sufficiently challenging route and send us on our way, complete with map, GPS, mountain bikes, helmets (optional) and toolkit. Thankfully they provide a breakdown service for free, so it was good to know we were safe if we got lost/anything broke!

We had so much fun exploring the woods and grasslands on the bikes, saying hi to the ponies and, of course, sampling the recommended local pubs (thanks Jon!). It was also nice knowing that the majority of the route was off the roads – as an unconfident road cyclist, I much prefer sticking to trails so our route was perfect.

I love the pictures we took – it was such a fun day and the perfect way to build up and appetite for what was to come!

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Am I a pro photographer now?

The Mill at Gordleton

After handing back the bikes shortly after the sun went down, we headed off to our final hotel stay, The Mill at Gordleton. After hearing from a few friends this was the place to go in the New Forest, it’s fair to say I was pretty excited!

The Mill is beautifully situated next to a river (hence its name as an ex-mill), with ‘secret’ gardens and lovely interiors with ‘country-house’ charm. Our room was the perfect mix of the original 17th-century cosiness and a totally modern bathroom (the one place you maybe don’t want 17th-century vibes!).

We were luck enough to be able to experience a suite in the main building, which had a bedroom, ensuite bathroom and a living room, complete with a smart TV (we spent our time after dinner enjoying some Netflix in front of the fire).

We moved our dinner earlier simply to be able to enjoy more of it, after experiencing the delights at The Mayflower. We were not disappointed!

Sadly the fresh bread on the menu was not vegan, but we were instead offered fresh focaccia and butternut squash ‘bread’ – more like a cake, but who’s complaining. I could have just eaten the bread all evening, but we moved onto starters and mains after devouring the contents of the bread basket.

In contrast to The Mayflower, the food at The Mill did not feel ‘healthy’ as such – it was a great recreation of British pub-food made vegan. We were pleased with the number of options available, and once again got one portion of everything. As someone who prefers some ‘lighter’ options, the meal was a little more fried than I’m used to, but my boyfriend loved it a lot! Regardless of the level of frying, the food was delicious, which is what I’ve come to expect of hotels in The Epicurean Collection! I have to make a special note here to please try (and devour) the vegan ice-cream. It is without a doubt the best I have ever had.

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We were given a ‘taster’ of each of the sorbet flavours, as well as the new vegan ice cream – the best I have ever had!

Our stay in the New Forest was the perfect getaway from city life, and I truly feel like i could return again and again across all the seasons and explore something new each time. Next time I would go horse riding and perhaps head back to my former stomping grounds, Salisbury Cathedral (I was a chorister there for 5 years).

Thanks again to the wonderful and helpful staff at The Mayflower, Cyclexperience, The Mill and The Epicurean Club for making this stay so perfect – I hope to be back soon!

 

Seasonal produce – worth the hype?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about the best diet for the planet – is flexitarian better than vegan? Can you eat meat sustainably? Is fish OK? – but within each of these diets is so much variability that it’s hard to determine one diet that could save the day whilst keeping people happy. Eating seasonally is another ‘lifestyle choice’ that has been touted as potentially being the answer to our sustainability questions, with people singing its virtues and even willing to pay more for it, but does it stand up to scrutiny?

Seasonal eating is not a new idea – in fact, before we had well established trade connections across the world, it was the only way people ate. Foods were restricted to certain times of year, and were almost always locally produced. Nowadays, there’s always something in season somewhere, so it’s hard to know what’s available in the UK (or wherever you live) at the time of purchase.

In fact, a survey by the BBC suggested that whilst 78% of Brits claim to shop seasonally, only 5% could name when blackberries ripen in the UK. In addition, it seems not all of us are even aware what ‘seasonal’ and ‘local’ means anymore, so where do we begin?

Seasonal produce tends to be foods grown ‘locally’ at the time of year that they have traditionally been abundant, without the aid of poly tunnels or artificial heating etc. Typically, there is a glut of this produce at a certain time of year when it is ‘seasonal’, thus driving prices down in that area.

So, is it important that we eat seasonally? There are a number of arguments, not all of which stand up to scrutiny, but let’s take a look at them all.

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Local/seasonal veg boxes are now very much the mainstream

It tastes better. One of the main arguments for seasonal, locally produced foods is that it tastes better, since it is growing in conditions that it has evolved to grow optimally in. Local food should, in theory, also be fresher, as it has less far to travel to get to our plates. It’s hard to determine whether on a blind taste test any of us could truly tell the difference between a local and foreign tomato, for example, especially when cooked into a meal, but when in salads or eaten without too much flavouring, local/seasonal produce may well have more depth of flavour.

It is more nutritious.It is thought that locally produced foods have more nutrients in them, since there is a shorter time between them being picked and arriving on your table. Locally produced foods are also given more time to ripen, increasing nutrient levels further. However, this is not the case with all produce – anything that is frozen tends to preserve more nutrients than fresh counterparts, as they are frozen immediately after being picked. Similarly, more ‘hearty’foods such as apples, oranges, grapefruit and carrots are able to retain their nutrients even if they travel long distances.

Purchasing locally produced food helps support the local economy. Since much seasonal produce is also grown locally, buying seasonal helps support local farmers and aids the local economy. If you are also buying from small farms, you’re likely to get a variety of produce you might not find at your local supermarket. Buying from local farms may help boost the economy in the area.

It’s more sustainable. Or is it? It is true that if you were to grow your own vegetables in season, they would be about as sustainable as you could get (growing veg at home is historically very important too!). Thankfully, the energy demand for UK grown vegetables is generally lower than their imported equivalents, aside from a few notable exceptions. Aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes in the UK are often grown in heated greenhouses, which are extremely energy intensive. In these cases, transporting the produce from Europe over long distances consumes less primary energy than cultivating them in the UK, provided they are sourced from Europe and transported by road and sea, not air. Cabbage, celery and Brussel sprouts are environmentally the most sustainable veg we can eat in the UK, and asparagus the least.

It’s cheaper. Whilst ‘locally produced’ produce doesn’t have the same ‘premium’ price point of organic produce, people are still willing to pay more for it, despite the fact that intuitively it should be cheaper. Because of this, although intuitively it should cost less this is not always the case.

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Historically, local produce has been very important!

So when is it best to eat seasonally?

When eating raw/fresh produce, local and seasonal vegetables may taste noticeably better and may even be more nutritious. Foods that are able to be picked when fully ripened (as opposed to harvested early so they can be transported further) may be higher in nutrients, and thus have a better flavour. If you are eating a lot of foods raw or unflavoured, this difference in flavour may mean it is worth picking up local produce over imports.

Cabbage, celery and Brussel sprouts are the most sustainable UK produce you can eat, and should always be consumed in season if possible. Aside from that, importing vegetables grown in unheated greenhouses in Europe has a lower impact than UK vegetables cultivated in heated greenhouses (e.g. aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes), despite the transportation.

Air freighted vegetables have around a five times higher impact than domestic produce, so in the case of a choice between locally produced vegetables and those air freighted, always choose local produce.

It is important to bear in mind that despite all this information, eating vegetables is always more environmentally friendly than eating red meat, and the confusing nature of food labels should not put you off eating a plant-based or plant-heavy diet. Despite any complications, plant-based diets are the best suited to fight climate change.

In addition, food waste is one of the worst culprits for increasing food impact on our environment. Reducing food waste overall, rather than focussing on purely buying local produce, may have more of a beneficial impact on our environment. 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food and drink is wasted each year in UK households, worth £12.5 billion.

Wasting food and drink hits our wallets and is a financial drain on local authorities who have to pay for food waste collection and treatment. It has a detrimental impact on the environment, wasting the materials, water and energy used in its production. Rather than spending more on local produce, try wasting less of the produce you already have.

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How various vegetables impact the environment looking at different factors 

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The overall energy consumption of various vegetables (PED MJ/kg)

TL;DR

  • Local/seasonal produce is generally seen as superior in multiple ways, from taste to sustainability to economically.
  • When choosing produce, buy British except in the case where heated greenhouses are used.
  • Avoid air-freighted vegetables always. Opt for sea and land-freighted vegetables when imported.
  • Plants are generally better than meat, especially red meat.
  • Reduce food waste. If you do one thing to eat more sustainably, stop throwing out so much food.
  • Want to know the best seasonal veg boxes to get in more greens? Check out this article I wrote for Bustle.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any thoughts on locally/seasonally produced foods. It’s not nearly as simple as I was expecting! 

Protein – how much do we really need?

Are we whey too obsessed?

One of the questions I am asked most frequently when people learn that I am vegan is ‘but how do you get enough protein?’. It’s an understandable query – the last few years have placed so much emphasis on protein as the answer to all our health and fitness queries, it’s hard not to believe that the more protein we eat, the healthier we are.

But is protein really the be-all and end-all of a healthy diet? How much protein do we really need and what are the best sources? Are protein powders good or a waste of money?

Contrary to popular belief, if you eat a wide variety of foods containing plenty of wholegrains, meeting your daily protein requirements as a vegan is not too difficult. One argument against veganism is that there are very few ‘complete protein sources’ (protein sources containing all nine essential amino acids we need in our diet. Whilst complete proteins sources are primarily found in animal products, such as meat and eggs, consuming a mix of plant-based foods means it’s possible to consume all essential amino acids in a vegan meal, e.g. peanut butter on toast, or rice and beans.

It was indeed once thought that vegetarian and vegan diets couldn’t supply adequate amounts of the necessary amino acids, but updated views suggest that “protein from a variety of plant foods eaten during the course of a day typically supplies enough essential amino acids when caloric requirements are met”.

The protein shake market has been booming for several years now – check my last promotion of protein supplements from a year ago below! 

 

Supplements or food?

Protein supplementation is big business – in the UK we spend more than £66m a year on sports nutrition products, and research suggests that around 25% of us have consumed some sort of sports nutrition product in the last year. Thanks to this market boom, there are plenty of great protein supplements out there (as well as some really, really bad ones), but protein is thought to be best consumed primarily in food rather than supplements for a number of reasons.

According to Euromonitor figures, which cover ready-to-drink beverages, protein powders and protein bars with a minimum of 20g of protein, the sports nutrition market has grown by about 160% since 2011. Another market analyst, Nielsen, said there was a 63% rise in sales of protein bars in 2015, compared with the previous 12 months, while Mintel figures, published in August, said there were 40% more launches of high-protein products in 2016 compared with 2015 – The Guardian.

  1. Protein powders lack vitamins, minerals and fibre that you get from eating food, which are important in every diet
  2. Many protein powders contain artificial chemicals, such as sweetener, which may have some negative health effects if consumed in large quantities, and taste kinda weird.
  3. Excess protein is either excreted in urine or stored as fat and can lead to weight gain. Just because shakes are drinks, it doesn’t mean they don’t contain calories. It is harder to overeat on a meal, which is usually much more satisfying.

Having said that, protein powders can make a quick and easy ‘snack’ after a workout, which is why so many people take them. If you struggle to hit daily calories, they can be a useful way of increasing them, but using them in lieu of a meal, for example, can lead to decreased overall nutrient intake, which is best avoided.

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How much protein should I be eating?

The recommended daily allowance of protein is somewhere between 0.8g and 1.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Certain factors can push you towards the higher end of this, such as having a very active lifestyle, and older people also have higher protein requirements, but the majority of people are fine towards the lower end of the scale. In fact, some evidence suggests that reduced protein consumption is linked to increased longevity. However,there is little evidence to suggest that eating excess protein is harmful for an otherwise healthy adult, but excess protein cannot be utilised by the body, which is why protein supplements are possibly more fuss than they are worth: excess protein will go straight though you, so you’re literally flushing money down the drain!

 

So what are the best plant-based sources of protein?

Tofu

Tofu is derived from soya (another great source of protein) and can be cooked in many ways, taking on the flavour of whatever it is being cooked in. 100g tofu provides 8g protein and is also incredibly low in fat.

Oats

While you may think of oats as a carbohydrate, they are also one of the best vegan protein sources. Oats pack a protein punch at 10g protein per 100g! Buy whole or steel-cut oats rather than instant to get the full benefits.

Quinoa

Whist not extremely high in protein (4g in 100g cooked), quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein. Contrary to its appearance, quinoa is actually a seed, but makes a great alternative to other carbohydrates.

Pulses

Pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are not only extremely healthy, but also cheap and easy to chuck into any meal. Chickpeas come in at 7g protein per 100g, lentils at 8-9g protein per 100g and peas at 7g per 100g. These should make up a large proportion of any plant-based diet.

Peanut butter

Although high in fats and therefore best consumed in moderation, peanut butter contains 25g of protein per 100g, making it also an excellent (and cheap) source of protein. When combined with wholemeal bread, it acts as a complete protein source (i.e. all essential amino acids are present).

 

Summary

What’s important to remember is that you don’t have to eat a steak in order to consume adequate amounts of protein. All foods contain a mixture of fats, protein and carbohydrates in differing ratios. Eating a varied and wholegrain-rich diet is a simple way of ensuring you are consuming enough protein (and vitamins and minerals) everyday.

Eating a healthy plant-based diet doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, and even if you are extremely active, you can rest assured that you are probably consuming enough protein day to day.

For what it’s worth, I consume protein powder from time to time. If there’s a chance it’ll make my DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) better after an intense workout, I’m happy to try it. Having said that, when I run out I rarely bother buying any more, because I know the benefits are marginal. Some protein powders taste great though, so they’re nice as added flavouring in cereal, smoothies etc! Just bear the above in mind if thinking about purchasing some.

What are some of your favourite vegan high protein meals? Do you take protein powders?

Header image by Caylee Hankins featuring Rickel White, my boxing coach (who doesn’t take protein as far as I know)! Check them out and come and find me on Instagram.

Sustainable fishing – what’s the catch?

Whilst not everyone who follows me may be plant-based, I think the vast majority of people who choose to follow my life are at least aware of the fact that we should all be cutting down red meat in our lives in a bid to save the planet. I was pescatarian for 18 years before I chose to move to a plant based diet, which I did for a number of reasons, not least because I studied marine Biology at university and it put me right off.

Before we get started, let me emphasise that I think whatever you are doing to help the environment is a good thing. Whether that means starting with meat-free Mondays or going cold turkey on meat (pun intended), you’re doing what you can and that’s great. My view is that education is always good though, so if I can teach you something new in this post that might encourage you to look at your food in a different way, that’s also worthwhile.

If everyone in the UK switched just one more red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it would cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road. Every step you make is worthwhile.

Why eat fish?

Fish is generally assumed to be good for you – it’s even recommended in the dietary guidelines that we eat 1-2 portions of oily fish a week to lower risk of various diseases, such as heart disease and dementia, thanks in part to the high levels of omega 3s. Fish consumption could also replace meat consumption, which could have positive environmental impacts, especially if it is red meat that is being replaced. White fish is high in protein and low in fat, so what’s the catch?

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Is fish as healthy for the world as it is for us?

The state of our oceans

It’s no secret that our oceans are struggling. From ocean acidification to over-fishing, we are all to quickly becoming aware that our actions on land do affect even the vast expanses of the ocean. Our oceans are struggling, and the delicate ecosystem is struggling with it.

Fishers remove 77 billion kilos of fish from the seas each year – continuing at this rate will lead to a point of no return for many species, and perhaps our entire ocean ecosystem. Whilst fishing quotas have been implemented in in many areas of the world, these have issues of their own, due to many fish already being dead at the time of being thrown back into the sea. So are there ways to enjoy fish sustainably, or is it an industry that has already taken things too far?

What about Sustainable Fishing?

Fisheries rely on a set turnover of fish per year. Each species of fish has a particular time it takes to breed, number of estimated young and total (estimated) population size. With these figures it should be possible to estimate the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) – the maximum number of fish that can be removed from the ocean without negatively impacting stocks and causing a collapse in any one species. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with this method, which was calculated in the mid-20th century.

  1. MSY ignores food webs. If we have X number of fish we can remove rom the sea each year, this is removing X amount of prey for a number of predators. Unfortunately (for us and for the fish), a lot of fish we catch also rely on other fish we catch (e.g. tuna eats herring, both of which we eat). Removing too much herring means tuna can’t feed as much, which in turn means less tuna.
  2. MSY is under pressure from governments. If there is a 20% margin of error, fisheries will be inclined to take the maximum amount they can (because this is their livelihood, and profit is important). However, this could mean taking 20% more than the ecosystem can sustain. A continual 20% loss doesn’t leave much room for stock replenishment. Governments want to give their people more jobs, so there is little inclination to ‘play cautious’ when it comes to MSY.
  3. MSY doesn’t take into account the age of a fish. Older fish are more productive breeders, and yet as the largest fish, they are also the ones fished out first. This means that whilst healthy fish stocks may be able to produce X number of young per year, a heavily fished population may only produce half that, meaning stocks can never be replenished.
  4. Unknown and lesser known fish have not enough known about their biology. The orange roughy, a popular and hugely abundant deep-sea fish in the late 70s and 80s, was thought to breed at a rate equal to fish of a similar size. Unfortunately, only after stocks collapsed thanks to trawling almost entirely did scientists realise that the orange roughy can live up to 150 years, and don’t produce any young until around 20 years old.

Pressures from governments for more fishing jobs, high prices for rare meats and inaccurate methods of measuring fish populations, MSY is no longer a reliable indicator of how many fish we can remove from the oceans. The fate of the Orange roughy and, more recently salmon, tuna and cod are all examples of this.

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Cod stocks (along with many other popular fish stocks) are taking a nose-dive

Farmed fish are marketed as a more environmentally friendly way to eat fish, because they do not plunder wild stocks – the fish are bred specifically for eating, in a similar way to farm animals. However, due to the high density of fish (leading to disease and thus open water antibiotic use), high levels of waste escaping into the surrounding water and lack of regulation, fish farming using our current methods has a high number of issues too. See below for a summary, and watch this BBC Panorama documentary for more information on the UK salmon farming industry.

Atlantic, sockeye and pink wild salmon populations crashed in the late 2000s (and for multiple subsequent years), thanks primarily to local fish farms. These farms had over 80% prevalence of parasitic sea-lice, a common infection in farmed fish, which infect local wild populations, leading to a 99% reduction in susceptible fish. In addition, due to the release, or escape, of some farmed fish, native populations are interbreeding or being outcompeted, reducing genetic diversity (and thus resilience to threats such as climate change and disease) of native wild salmon populations. The exact same things has happened this year on our own coastline, in Scotland, in part due to sea lice from fish farms.

Essentially, the growth of fish farms to protect wild salmon populations may end up leading to their extinction. 

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So what seafood can I eat?

It took me 18 years to become vegan after turning pescatarian – I realise that changing to veganism or even vegetarianism immediately is not feasible for everyone, for a number of reasons, but it is possible to always be conscious about what we eat. Here are my top tips for eating seafood as sustainably as possible, but it is important to bear in mind that eating less fish is always better for the ecosystem, especially where it is currently so vulnerable.

  • The Good Fish Guide tracks stocks of fish globally, and gives advice for fish to avoid, down to the location it is caught and the catching method. Use this to check whether certain fish are abundant or struggling.
  • Avoid any fish without the ‘sustainably sourced’ blue tick on their packaging (see image below). Currently Anchovies, Seabass (farmed and wild), Bream, Cod, Eel, Lobster, Marlin, Mullet, Plaice, Pollock, any rays and skates, Salmon (esp wild caught), Swordfish and Sardines (baby pilchards) should all be avoided.

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  • Avoid anything that has been caught by trawling, drift nets or purse-seine and instead go for hook-lining (not long-lining) or spear caught. Trawling (especially bottom trawling) is incredibly damaging to the ecosystem and catches large amounts of ‘bycatch’ – animals that are not intended to be caught, but often end up dying before being thrown back in the sea. This includes turtles, sharks, dolphins, seals and other fish species.
  • If you are able, avoid unnamed ‘white fish‘, any smoked fish and fish fingers. On average, 30% of fish is mis-labelled, increasing to 82.4% for smoked fish, meaning making sustainable choices becomes considerably more difficult. Terms such as ‘rock salmon’ hide the fact that you are, in fact, eating shark (this is another name for the endangered dogfish, a type of shark), and ‘white fish’ could be any number of endangered species. Buy whole fishes where possible to avoid this.

“People should know where their fish was caught, how and when, and what species it is. If you don’t know those things, you can’t make informed choices on whether you can eat a fish with a clear conscience”.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2196872-a-third-of-fish-sold-is-mislabelled-heres-how-to-avoid-being-duped/#ixzz5x9grD14g

  • Save fish consumption to times when you are by the sea and can see the fish you are eating whole at a restaurant, or consume fish you’ve caught yourself. The chances are it’ll be local, potentially sustainably caught (although this is not a definite) and you are supporting local fishers, who struggle to compete with the huge commercial trawlers.

 

Summary

Fishing is not intrinsically bad for the environment, especially where fish consumption can replace/reduce red meat consumption, which ultimately has the most negative impact on the environment. Ethics notwithstanding, fishing is an industry that supplies over 3 billion people with a major source of protein, and over 90% of fisheries are small scale, with around 50% of workers being women.

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However, the methods in which we fish on an industrial scale are undoubtedly failing in their job to preserve the world’s largest ecosystem. There are ways in which we can help, primarily by avoiding all fish that are unsustainably sourced, and cutting down on our overall fish consumption. Avoid smoked fish, processed fish and unspecified ‘white fish’. Buy whole fish where possible and know where it has come from.

To be clear, the majority of people in the West are eating too many animal products and I believe that the best way to counteract that is to go vegetarian or vegan. It is possible, I believe, to fish and farm sustainably, but as it stands we are so far from this becoming a reality. It doesn’t seem fair that some people should have to go vegan to make up for the people who won’t make small changes, but this is the world we live in, and I think that’s the way it has to be.

“So long as we largely consume protein from animal sources, our obsession with protein is also likely to be bad for the planet.”

To find out other ways in which you can reduce your environmental impact, watch this vlog – ‘Top Tips to Save the World‘.

 

Further reading:

If you’re looking to learn more about the issues of the illegal shark fin trade and by-catch, the documentary Sharkwater Extinction is both excellently filmed and eye opening.

If you’re interested in learning more about fish farming, and why it perhaps isn’t the ‘eco friendly’ version of fishing it purports to be, watch this BBC Panorama documentary (UK only I believe).

 

Come and find me on Instagram and YouTube, where I talk more about these things. Thanks so much for reading! 

The Amazon Is Burning

What on earth can we do to help?

It shocked and saddened me to the core when I heard a few days ago about the huge fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. Not only had I heard nothing about it on the news, I was also totally at a loss as to what was causing it and what I could do.

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The extent of the fires is so great you can see them from space. Source: NASA, Aug 13

 

I know I’m not alone in this – as more and more people have been sharing the news across social media, I have seen the same comments time and time again. ‘This is so tragic, but what can I do to stop it?’. Whilst Notre Dame had to be saved by private billionaire donors, we’re lucky that each and every one of us can have a part to play in the preservation of the lungs of our world.

 

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Some facts

  • The Amazon rainforest is key to fighting climate change on our planet. It produces much of the world’s oxygen and acts as a carbon sink, and without it there is no way we can expect to fight climate change.
  • The fires are often started intentionally, in order to clear land for the growing of crops and grazing of cattle. Weaker enforcement by authorities mean that farmers have been able to organise ‘fire days‘ without legal consequence.

Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates (Nepstad et al. 2008). Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and is the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one quarter of the global market.

  • Brazil has had more than 72,000 fires this year, an increase of 84% on this time last year. Brazil houses 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
  • The fires release both Carbon Dioxide (228 megatons so far this year) and Carbon Monoxide, a toxic gas, which is being carried beyond South America’s coastlines.
  • The deforestation rate in the Amazon has increased markedly since July, with areas the size of Manhattan being cleared daily, partially due to encouragement by the new far-right president, Bolsonaro.
  • If deforestation continues at its current rate, the trees will not be able to regrow, and much of what was forest will become savannah, with devastating effects on biodiversity and the future of the planet.

Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo, said the surge in deforestation was taking the rainforest closer to a tipping point at which swaths of the usually humid forest would become a dry savannah, with dire consequences for the climate, wildlife and forest dwellers.

Amazon burning

 

That’s depressing. So what can we do? 

Human-made fires are especially hard to stop, but there are some things we can do to help, both immediately and moving forward.

1. Donate to one of the below charities, all of which aim to raise awareness and actively protect the Amazon rainforest (edited list courtesy of cnet, which has more information, and CBS News).

The highlighted bullet points are charities that receive the highest ratings on Charity Navigator, a non-profit that evaluates financial health, transparency and accountability in charities – if you can only donate to one, make it one of these.

  • Donate to the Rainforest Foundation, which is committed to making sure donations made reaches projects such as supporting environmental defenders, indigenous advocacy organisations and deforestation monitoring.
  • Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
  • Amazon Conservation Association accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward –– whether it’s planting trees, sponsoring education, buying a solar panel and preserving indigenous lands.
  • Donate to the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres. 
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada) works to protect the  species in the Amazon and around the world.
  • Donate to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the rainforest, defends Indigenous rights and works to address climate change.
  • Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower Indigenous peoples. 
  • Amazon Conservation accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward. You can help plant trees, sponsor education, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, preserve Indigenous lands and more.
  • Donate to One Tree Planted, which works to stop deforestation around the world and in the Amazon Rainforest. One Tree Planted will keep you updated on the Peru Project and the impact your trees are having on the community.

2. Cut your beef consumption. Much of our processed meat, e.g. burger meat, is sourced from the Amazon, and Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef. Although many people argue that soy is a leading cause of deforestation, as much as 80% of this production is to feed farm animals, requiring 10x the amount of land than if we were to eat the soy directly. Avoiding soy from the rainforest still might not be a bad idea either, but giving up beef (at least non UK-raised beef) is your best course of action.

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Livestock farming is an important driver of deforestation, and not just in the Amazon

3. Use Ecosia instead of google as your preferred search engine

4. Sign petitions such as the below:

5. To ensure responsible logging, only buy wood products with the FSC logo, or buy second-hand. Much of the world’s trade in wood is from illegal logging.

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A deforested plot of the Amazon near Porto Velho on Aug. 21. Image: Reuters

 

Please do share this far and wide if you can – we are not helpless, even where we are unable to douse the fires ourselves. Collective action is powerful – find me on Instagram and let me know what you’re doing to help!

EDIT: My friend Sophie Hellyer, who recently spent some time in the Amazon, mentioned two further organisations helping out on the ground, Instituto Socioambiental and Peoples of the ForestLocals that she worked with suggested these, but I have not vetted them. Woth checking out regardless!

 

Running essentials – supplements

Supplements are a bit of a contested issue, thanks to the flogging of many, many supplements that have no evidence of improving anything. Because supplements aren’t registered as drugs, they are often allowed to be sold even when they do not have any strong evidence of their effects, and are only removed if deemed unsafe. However, there are a few supplements (especially if you include sports supplements) that have some proven benefits, and others that are strongly recommended for certain groups of people. I try to stick with supplements that have proven benefits, although with sports supplements the evidence is usually a bit mixed, if if you’re looking to take something new make sure you’ve done your research!

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Some supplements are necessary if you live a certain lifestyle. Pic by Caylee Hankins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but sometimes in northern latitudes (hello UK) the amount we can get during the day is not sufficient to keep reserves topped up. It is recommended that everyone in the UK (or further north) takes vitamin D to contribute to bone and muscle health. The darker your skin and the less sunlight your country gets, the more likely you are to be deficient in vitamin D. Supplements are not strictly necessary if you have a varied diet, but for me I find vitamin D supplement helpful, especially in winter! I also have a sun lamp that I use to work under in the morning. Don’t fancy supplements? Beanies have produced a coffee with vitamin D in it! Liquid sunshine 🙂

Iron 

Iron supplements have been recommended for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially women. It is possible to get all the iron you need from these diets, but a supplement can help, especially if you are prone to anaemia. Foods such as pulses, nuts, left green vegetables, wholegrains and fortified cereals are high in iron. Even though I have a varied diet I find it helpful to take iron supplements to support my very active lifestyle.

B12

Vitamin B12 is a little contentious in the vegan community with some saying it can be found in adequate amounts in foods such as seaweed, and others saying vegans should definitely supplement their diets. Even according to the Vegan Society, “The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements”. Since the effects of chronic B12 deficiency are so severe (e.g. irreparable nervous system damage), I find it helpful to supplement with B12. Some plant based milks and cereals are fortified, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

Beta-alanine

Not a vitamin supplement but a sport performance booster. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly. I swear by beta alanine in my shorter distance races and strength-based exercises, but only take it very infrequently. Read my post on sports supplements and the evidence behind them if you’re looking to try any!

Sleep supplement

After a busy day and late events, I often (always) find it very difficult to switch off and go to sleep. Even knowing I have to get up early doesn’t always deter me from staying up late. I started taking Motion Nutrition’s ‘Unplug’ supplement a couple of months ago and found a marked difference when taking it around 30 – 45 minutes before I wanted to sleep. I go into the ingredients and how they could be helpful in this post if you want to read up on the science behind it.

 

Knowledge is power.

Pigs in slankets

Pig in blankets are one of the most popular Christmas-time recipes, but are about as un vegan friendly as it gets! For health, environmental and ethical reasons, these could be a better option – whilst they’re essentially nothing like the traditional recipe (hence why I called them pigs in slankets), in my opinion they’re significantly tastier!

I use Linda McCartney sausages for this but use whichever are your favourite. If you’re vegan be careful as some do contain egg!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 aubergine, thinly sliced
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • Salt
  • 12 vegan sausages (I use Linda McCartney)
  • 1tbsp Tahini
  • Salt, pepper
  • Chilli flakes

 

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees and cook the sausages according to the packet instructions
  • Place the aubergine slices in a bowl and drizzle in rapeseed oil, sweet chilli sauce, salt and pepper until all the slices are coated
  • Spray a griddle pan with oil and heat
  • Place the aubergine on the griddle pan in batches, turning after one side is cooked so both sides are browned
  • Wrap each sausages in an aubergine slice (you should be able to wrap all 12)
  • Mix together tahini, salt and pepper and drizzle on top of the sausages
  • Sprinkle on some chilli flakes and serve!

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Stuffed butternut squash

Traditional Christmas recipes are great, but they’re not known for being particularly healthy or vegetarian/vegan friendly! Christmasses gone past I would have just eaten the vegetables in Christmas meal but I’ve really enjoyed creating new recipes this year from scratch, including this delicious one! This is perfect either as a centrepiece to a meal or some additional veg.

The puy lentils add plenty of protein and mixed with the sun-dried tomatoes give an amazing flavour to the squash. Drizzle in as much olive oil as you like!

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 150g quinoa
  • 180g whole chestnuts
  • 50g sundried tomatoes
  • 250g read to eat puy lentils
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 50g pitted black olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Oil the halved squashes and place in the oven to cook for 45 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the packet
  • When cooked, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl
  • Remove the squashes from the oven and spoon out some of the insides. Mix these bits into the quinoa and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spoon as much quinoa as you can into the holes in the squash halves and place back into the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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Miso quinoa buddha bowl

This recipe is the perfect dinner for two, including carbs, plenty of veg and protein. Double or quadruple the recipe and you have some great lunches throughout the week, as this tastes just as good cold. These flavours taste amazing together but equally, if you have leftovers lying around just chuck them in – that’s the amazing thing about grain bowls.

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SUCH YUM

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 pakchoi
  • 250g cooked quinoa (approx 80g uncooked)
  • 150g cabbage
  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1/2 block tofu or tempeh
  • Paprika
  • Chilli powder

Dressing

  • 5tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp soya sauce
  • 1tsp miso paste
  • 1tsp ginger paste/lazy ginger

Method:

  1. Head the oven to 60 degrees (to keep the ingredients warm)
  2. Start by cooking the chickpeas. Pour a drizzle of sesame oil in a non stick pan and add the drained chickpeas
  3. Sprinkle on the spices and toss. Cook until browning (about 5 minutes)
  4. Pour into a bowl and keep warm in the oven (at 60 degrees)
  5. Quarter the pak choi lengthways and place in the frying pan with more sesame oil
  6. Cook for around 3 minutes on each side, until browned and soft. Place in the oven to keep warm.
  7. Dice the cabbage and cook in the frying pan with a dash of sesame oil
  8. While the cabbage is cooking, cook the quinoa. If it is the ready-cooked quinoa this should take just a few minutes
  9. Fry the tofu/tempeh in a pan whilst the cabbage and quinoa is cooking
  10. Dice the avocado half
  11. Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients with a fork
  12. Make up the buddha bowls by placing in all the ingredients into 2 bowls/plates and pour on the dressing

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