Every now and then, I pop into a supermarket and discover another snack/junk food item that is ‘accidentally vegan’ (there’s a list of American brands on the PETA website and a list of British on their blog), and the excitement I feel is akin only to a child in a sweet shop, suddenly told that their favourites are back in stock. Oreos, chocolate Bourbons, Jammy Dodgers, Lotus biscuits and newly discovered (and adored) Lotus biscuit spread, Party Rings, Rich teas…and that’s just the biscuits!

Of course, all of these are made from wheat flour, so contain gluten, and almost all contain some form of soy – usually in lecithin form (a stabiliser) – as well as being packed full of processed sugars and oils. I’m personally trying to avoid soy products, as not only is the soy industry incredibly detrimental to the environment, but the soy itself contains phytoestrogens which can act as the hormone oestrogen in the body. Although it is still disputed as to whether phytoestrogens increase the likelihood of cancer, my mother’s cancer was found to be oestrogen rich, so I’m avoiding any extra oestrogen in my body. Doctors even recommended that I take a different birth control pill to most – it’s called a ‘mini pill’ and contains just progesterone instead of oestrogen and progesterone as found in the widely used ‘combined pill’. 

Other vegan junk and takeout foods that me and my friends regularly indulge in are Kettle Chips (crisps), actual chips and wedges, vegetable spring rolls, vegetable fried rice, samosas, pizza…the list is larger than a non-vegan might think, and these are full of gluten, salt, hydrogenated fats, preservatives – just so many bad things.

One of the main reasons I’m making the push to avoid all of these processed and glutenous foods is to hopefully clear up my skin and ‘foggy’ head. I am prone to breakouts on my jawline and back which seem to happen in a cycle – i’ll have them for roughly two weeks, then they start to clear, then about two weeks later they’ll come back. These are all indications of hormonal acne rather than just the odd pimple that everyone gets, however it doesn’t seem to be affected by the contraceptive pill, which a lot of people find: I still have the cycle even though I don’t get a period on my pill and it didn’t clear up when I stopped taking the pill for 6 months. Since becoming vegan and eliminating dairy I haven’t noticed a difference, it seems the only thing left other than waiting for my hormones to settle down, is to avoid all processed sugars, oils and gluten. In fact, gluten in particular can be a major cause of acne if you have an intolerance to it, which I’m suspecting I might do: I have 5 of the 10 symptoms according to MindBodyGreen!

So, although cutting out animal products from your diet is an awesome ethical and environmental choice, it definitely doesn’t equal a healthy one unless you limit your junk food intake! Notice how I’m saying ‘limit’ and not ‘eliminate’. I think it’s important to remember that, unless you’re allergic to something, your diet is a choice. You’re CHOOSING to not eat half a pack of biscuits, or to put in the effort to cook instead of ordering takeout – knowing that every time you make a healthy choice through your own willpower rather than restrictive diet rules, makes it all the more satisfying and rewarding! Also, there’s a danger in going too far by eliminating sugars and fats – some people cut out all natural sugars and fats to ill effect.

It’s a nondescript Tuesday, a month into the new year (I’ve missed the boat on new years resolutions), but I’ve decided from today, to start making healthier food choices – one meal and snack at a time.
For example, today’s breakfast: porridge with bananas and mixed seeds. However, this meal could still be improved (I’m at my parents’ so had to improvise); instant porridge is pretty processed,  steel-cut oats are the healthier choice (see some differences here, also remember rolled are probably glutenous). And, whilst checking the label to write this post I’ve just seen the porridge contains soya lecithin; ‘to minimise boiling over in the microwave’. Damn. However, I only used half the amount of coconut milk as usual, (subbing water for the rest, therefore cutting the fat and sugar content by half), a banana to sweeten instead of sugar, and got in some omegas and fibre by adding mixed seeds – so on the whole am still feeling pretty good about it!

I will continue to post on how and why I’m limiting the big 5  in my diet (listed in the title), I hope you find it useful when making healthier choices of your own!

Here’s to feeling even awesomer!

Zoe

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