If you’ve been following this site since we launched in January – you’ll know by now that we try hard to promote lifestyles that protect our beautiful planet but also encourage a healthy and balanced lifestyle for those who adopt them.
Today we are going to hear from vegan author Sarah Philpott, who has recently written and published her first recipe book called ‘The Occasional Vegan.’
In this article Sarah explains how she battled her own demons with food, and eventually found that by becoming vegan she had actually stumbled upon a healthier and more balanced approach in her own relationship with eating.
Make sure you read to the end of the article where you can find a delicious recipe by Sarah, a link to her book, AND details of how you can win a copy for yourself!
So, without further ado, I shall hand over to Sarah.
Veganism has well and truly hit the zeitgeist and at the last count, there were over half a million vegans in the UK – that’s an increase of 350% in the last ten years. Many of us are embracing this lifestyle and it doesn’t just show compassion for animals; it can also help you be kinder to your body and yourself.
Believe it or not, being vegan doesn’t mean that you have to deny yourself; in fact, you can treat your body to delicious and nourishing meals that will do wonders for your wellbeing. But even though it can be healthy, being vegan won’t make you holier than thou and despite what the media tries to tell you, most vegans want to teach not preach. We’re a warm and welcoming community and we just want to share the love.
I wrote The Occasional Vegan because I was fed up of people assuming that I don’t like food or that I’m a fussy eater – just because I’m vegan. Wrong. Just ask my boyfriend who’ll tell you that I regularly finish the food on his plate. Vegans, like everyone else, come in all shapes and sizes and we don’t all have Insta bodies, because we’re not all eating rabbit food – and yet I have friends who’ve been asked ‘aren’t vegans supposed to be skinny?’
Life is all about balance – and eating should be, too. A little bit of what you fancy is good for you and in The Occasional Vegan there are heaps of hearty and healthy stews, salads and soups, but it’s not all kale and chia seeds. If you want a bit of indulgence – and who doesn’t? – you can feast on treats like chocolate brownies, KFC (Kentucky fried cauliflower) and lasagne.
It drives me mad when people link veganism with clean eating. Yes, I eat my five-a-day (actually it’s usually ten plus) and lots of grains, pulses, nuts and seeds, but I treat myself to chocolate and maybe a couple of biscuits every day. I also have a serious caffeine habit and I enjoy a (large) glass of wine a few times a week. There’s that word again: balance.
But it’s not as easy as that, I know, and food has often been more foe than friend. I’ve had my fair share of diet demons and for most of my teens and twenties, I had a very love-hate relationship with food. I was constantly thinking about what I should and shouldn’t eat, counting calories, and starting and stopping diets – and I was partial to eating my feelings, too.
Full disclosure: when I first became vegan I thought it would force me to stop eating ‘bad’ foods and that eliminating rich and decadent foods would make me thinner. It wasn’t a good time: I was heartbroken (I’d just broken up with the man who I’d thought was the love of my life) and now I was hungrier than ever before. Like many others, I fell into the clean eating trap. Thankfully, after a year or so, I realised that woman cannot live on vegetables alone and I started eating more.
At the moment, I’ve found something that’s close to balance. I don’t restrict any food groups (no, I don’t eat animal products but I’d never give up carbohydrates) and I’m much kinder to myself and my appetite than I think I’ve ever been.
Everyone’s different, but eating vegan has really helped me accept myself – and I love food for other reasons now – because it fills my tummy, gives me energy and makes me feel good.
I still think about food most of the time – that’s usually when I’m excited about cooking a certain dish, eating the first strawberries of the season or tracking down a vegan doughnut. But it’s not always as fun as that and I still have bad days.
I think it’s really important to learn how to listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you. There are times when you’ll really want hot buttered toast slathered in jam or a pillowy mound of mashed potatoes but on other days, you’ll crave broccoli or avocado. There are no good or bad foods and everything should be eaten in moderation – as Nigella Lawson says, “food is not dirty”.
I want to celebrate food and I hope that The Occasional Vegan can help you do that.
If you’d like a copy, you can pick it up here: The Occasional Vegan
Meanwhile, here’s a simple but sumptuous stew from the book for you to try. Happy eating!
Sweet potato, chickpea and olive stew with harissa
This is a seriously good stew and so easy to make. It’s just as good in the winter as it is in the summer and very nice with a glass of wine. It’s the harissa with all its sweet spiciness that really makes this so tasty. You can find it at most larger supermarkets or international stores but if you can’t track it down, try using a teaspoon each of smoked and sweet paprika
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed or peeled and diced
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 can (400g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can (400g) tomatoes
The juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped or crushed
½ a jar (330g) pitted black olives
3 tsps harissa paste
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Place a large pan over a medium heat then add the oil and the sweet potato. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the onion and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the tomatoes, then fill the empty can with water and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper then turn up the heat and cook for 10 minutes before adding the chickpeas, olives, harissa paste, tomato puree and lemon juice.
Reduce the heat, place a lid on the pan and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, adding more water if you think it’s necessary. Scatter over the parsley, if you like, and serve with green vegetables or salad.
(And if you’d like the chance to win a copy of Sarah’s book, head over to our Instagram page for details on how to enter our March Giveaway competition)