31 vegan dinner ideas for veganuary

January the 1st 2020. And many of you are *hopefully* comitting to veganuary… or maybe you have just decided to eat more plantbased and are looking for some meal inspiration…. well then, here are 31 lunch or dinner ideas you can try making or incoporating into your weekly diet!

When you first start eating plantbased you may find it hard to know what to eat and you end up just eating salad, or you take away the meat and dairy but don’t replace it with anything so you end up unsatisfied, hungry and get cravings.

So my best tip is to 1) Remember to substitute what you take away. I.e switch dairy products for non dairy alternatives. And if you take away the meat or fish on your plate, don’t just take it away or substitute with more potatoes. Instead substitute it with tofu, tempeh, beans, soya products or something else that gives you protein.

Another tip is to write down all your favourite meals and find a way to veganize them. Now a days the majority of dishes can be veganized in one way or another. Though of course, you do have to be prepared for the fact that the dish won’t taste exactly the same. So some prefer to note veganize and isntead just recreate new vegan dishes which don’t try to replicate a non vegan dish.

I would suggest you write down a bunch of different meal ideas or recipes you want to try or try to recreate and have that as a back up for when you don’t know what to cook or eat. A good idea is also to have the list on your phone for the days you are tired and hungry and need to quickly shop for food.

Invest in some cookbooks or follow a bunch of vegan recipe creators online (such as myself 😉 Instagram: itsahealthylifestyle)

Also, here is a post with some good staple foods to always have at home &what’s in my fridge/freezer

And for more inspiration or cooking videos, you can follow me on my Youtube channel – IzzyM

Meal ideas

*click the picture for the name of the dish*

There you have many different dishes you can try out 🙂 I have plenty more recipes you can search for on my blog. Also a whole bunch of breakfast, snacks and desserts which you can check out.

So now it is just to get cooking and try different recipes, see what you like and what you don’t like!

If you try any of these recipes, let me know in the comments down below or on my Instagram (itsahealthylifestyle)

New Years Eve vegan dinner ideas

New Years eve is coming up and that may leave you wondering…. what should i make to eat? The last meal of 2019 – and the decade – it should be special right?

Well, of course it doesn’t have to be…. my recommendation is always to just go for your favourite foods or meals to end the year. Why make something complicated and gourmet if you won’t like it?

But of course, many end the year with a 3 course dinner and i thought i would give you some tips on what to cook or prepare…. or what to bring to the party to impress your non vegan friends. Because whether vegan or not, the majority of people can all enjoy a vegan meal! So why not end the year with a vegan 3 course meal….?

So i have gathered some recipes and ideas from the internet which i thought i would share with you. If you want to check out the recipe, click on the name and it will take you to the recipe.

Starters/appetizers:

Bruschetta with a tomato and basil mix on top (or 3 other topping ideas, HERE)

Different canapes such as “crostini” with tomato topping, or an olive mix on top.

Spinach, sundried tomato and olive puff pastry

Crisps and guacamole/hummus

Dumplings or bao buns with smoky tofu

Yorkshire puddingsThese look so amazing i am tempted to give them a try myself

Garlic bread

Smashed potatoes with gucamole, or a pea and avocado dip… or why not make a ranch dressing.

Pinrolls with example sundried tomato, basil and cream cheese. Or spinach and cheese pinwheels. 

Focaccia – tomato and thyme

Pizza twists with pesto, cream cheese and vegan bacon

Savoury stuffed dates

Tomato tart

Beetroot, vegan feta cheese, rocket and walnut salad with a balsamic vinagrette

Roasted bread with tahini and israeli salad “vegetable-tahini toast”

Main meals:

Hassleback potatoeswith seitan steakand grilled asparagus with ared wine sauce

Vegan Bouef Beourginon or try THIS recipe by Jävligt Gott(it is in Swedish, but it is a really good recipe)

Baked potatoes with chickpea “tuna” salad.  Or twice baked taco stuffed sweet potato. Or baked potato with vegan feta, rocket and sundried tomatoes.

Vegan “beef” wellington

Creamy Mushroom risotto

Saffron paella

 VegetableStuffed portabello with salad

Pizza or sweet potato pizza – choose your favourite toppings! It can be a fun idea for everyone to make their own pizza or if you buy premade dough that everyone tops their pizza themselves.

Lasagna

Savoury crepe with a creamy mushroom filling

Mini pizzas with vegan feta cheese, walnuts and rocket.

Make your own sushiis also a good idea. It isn’t as difficult as you may think!

Langos with smoked tofu and cream cheese

Potato gratin or give THIS recipe a try by the Minimalist baker

Dessert

Chocolate mousse with whipped cream, nuts and berries on top (or try chocolate mousse based on aquafaba – it is surprisingly good!)

Nutella pizza top with eg. bananas, berries, nuts

White chocolate mousse with saffran cookies – recipe is in Swedish, but should work fine to translate

Creme brulee this recipe includes both tofu and turmeric, which may not be for everyone. So then you can check out THIS recipe which is creme brulee with the basic ingredients like sugar, cream, corn starch.

Tiramisu – can make into portions or in one large form

Saffrons parfait or some other parfait ideas HERE

Mojito cheesecake

Oreo mousse cake

Snickers mousse cake

Raw food chocolate cake

Mango and passionfruit cheesecake

Chocolate ganache pie

Vanilla pana cotta (this recipe is based on cashews) ortry THIS recipe based on coconut milk

Triple layer vegan cookie brownies! [i.e slutty brownies]

 

 

Hopefully these give you some ideas on what to make for new years eve! Remember it doesn’t have to be too complicated just because you want to make vegan food 🙂

I hope you all have an amazing New Years Eve and a great start to the new year!!!

And if you are planning to give Veganuary a go… don’t forget to follow me on here – and myinstagram (itsahealthylifestyle) where i will be sharing tips and advice to help you 🙂

Vegan eats in Tel Aviv | Restaurant review and tips

Together with VibeIsrael, i was invited on their vegan food tour (Gifted trip)

I was contacted a few months ago and at first i didn’t know how to respond… i must admit, i even thought it was just another spam mail. But with a little research i realized that Vibe is infact an established organization that has held many different tours.

I can say, i was honored to be asked to join… even if it was uncertain whether i could travel or not because of my studies. However, i can say now that the trip is over i am so glad that i decided to go, because it was an experience for sure.

If you want to see some of the food we ate and what we did, you can watch my 3 videos, PART 1, PART 2, PART 3 showing you the first 3 days of our trip 🙂

So, i am sure many of you have heard about Tel Aviv being a sort of vegan Haven? One of the top cities to visit if you are a vegan foodie. Not just aesthetically pleasing food, but delicious food. Because it is in the Middle East, Israel has food from many different cultures as well as having lots of fresh fruit and vegetables which often make it the center of the meal. Which i love!

I may be all for vegan soy burgers and fake meats, but there is something incredible about being able to make amazing dishes out of vegetables, spices and “natural/unprocessed foods”. Of course, natural doesn’t have to be better and it is fine with processed foods, but being able to make vegetables taste delicious and make meat eaters enjoy and like eating vegetables is definitely a talent. And we need more of that in our everyday lives.

So i can say, i am excited to bring back all the new food experiences and different meals i have tried. Maybe have vegetables be more in focus in my meals… but of course focusing on Swedish vegetables.

But, in this post i want to focus on some of the vegan restaurants we ate at. I am sure there are many more amazing vegan places to eat at, but these are the ones we went to.

There will be a mix of my own photos as well as photos from a proffessional food photographer, Amir Menahem, who you should check out and follow on his Instagram.

Bana:

A really cosy vibe and atmosphere. A place where you can go to eat and just sit there for hours, ordering in dishes to share among friends. We went during the evening, around 8pm so it was dark outside but still warm enough to sit outside. This restaurant gave me tapas vibes, i.e you order in a bunch of different meals which you share and try together with friends or family.

The food at Bana was my first taste of Israeli food and i can say i was not disappointed, however we got so many dishes served to us and we were so caught up in talking and eating that i didn’t always register what it was that we were being served.

20191105_204443.jpg

Snapchat-31724736.jpg

The menu changes based on what fruits and vegetables are in season, so the dishes i ate might not be there when you go to visit. But there was a sweet potato dish that was amazing, as well as an eggplant and tahini dish. Not to mention the desserts that were incredible, my favourite being the waffle with apples/pears and caramel sauce.

Vegetables are in focus at Bana, however i don’t think you have to be a vegetable lover to appreciate the food. However if you are a hardcore meatlover who wants that smokey taste and texture, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. But it is an amazing place to get inspiration for different vegetable based dishes.

20191105_210352.jpg

20191105_211723.jpg

You can see some of the meals we ate at Bana in THIS VIDEO.

Opa:

Opa is a rather newly opened (when writing this) restaurant which is focused on vegan fine dining. Meaning high class, gourmet meals that use ingredients and ways of cooking, preparing and styling food you may not have seen or heard about before.

Amir Menahem1544.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem
Amir Menahem1525.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem
Amir Menahem1611.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Gourmet and fine dining isn’t really my thing if i am honest. I keep my meals simple and don’t like to overcomplicate food and cooking, so this was definitely an experience for me, and a good one at that!

We got about 8-10 different dishes which two people shared. The vegetable was in focus, just like at Bana, and i think the menu changes depedning on the season and what vegetables are in season as well.

Amir Menahem1555.jpg
Amir Menahem

There were so many new and different flavours and tastes, and you can definitely tell that it was not the same as home cooked comfort food. If you are into fine dining or just want to try fine dining experience then i recommend going to Opa. It is of course more expensive than a regular restaurant, but it is worth the experience and if you are in Tel Aviv, why not! It is also great for a date night or maybe celebrating an anniversary!

The chocolate dessert was BEYOND AMAZING. So if it is on the menu, then you definitely have to get it

Amir Menahem1647.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

You can see some of the dishes are my experience in THIS video!

416:

Amir Menahem2844.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

416 was one of my favourite places to eat while in Tel Aviv. It had very LA vibes…. loud music, lots of plants, friendly staff and vegan remakes of fast food.. but better than fast food. I.e not the greasy burgers and fries or pizza you get at maybe McDonalds or burger king, but the restaurant type of burgers and pizza which taste so much better.

Amir Menahem2718.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

This is definitely the type of place you would go with friends, maybe before going out dancing. Or if you are celebrating a birthday or just want some good, filling vegan food. it would work great to bring your partner if they are sceptical to vegan food but willing to try as 416 offers vegan fake meat and remakes of different meatbased dishes.

Amir Menahem2845.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Amir Menahem2813.jpg

I.e vegan ceaser salad, vegan sliders, vegan steak, vegan calamari, vegan filled pasta and of course THE DESSERTS. I highly recommend you leave space for dessert, and maybe order in more than one dessert.

Amir Menahem2853.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Amir Menahem2855.jpg

Not to mention, they have a vegan cocktail bar meaning… all the drinks are vegan. Which is always a plus because then you don’t need to wonder or ask if the wine is vegan!

20191107_205839.jpg

Amir Menahem2783.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Amir Menahem2729.jpg

You can see a video from our dinner at 416, HERE.

If you like fake meats or vegan “fast food” i.e not necessarily just vegetables and plantbased, then i do recommend making time to go to 416.

20191107_211905.jpg

Amir Menahem2708.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Price wise… i can’t really say. But it is in the middle/high class. and in general, Tel Aviv is rather expensive so i would recommend you save up before travelling there so that you can fully enjoy yourself and enjoy the food there – it is well worth the money 🙂

Amir Menahem2825.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem
Amir Menahem2809.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Citizen garden (brunch)

The last place we ate at was citizen garden, which is a brunch/lunch place and the first thing i have to say is that it is VERY INSTRAGRAM FRIENDLY. Of course, i am sure many don’t care about this…the important thing is that the food tastes good – which it definitely did! But it has amazing lighting, there is a cosy outside “garden” which you can sit in and of course the food both tastes and looks amazing… so yes, you will be wanting to take photos.

20191111_104857.jpg

It is the type of place you go to have brunch with friends, weekend breakfast with your partner (or solo!), go there to eat lunch, drink coffee and work for several hours… or even the place you go after a night out, feeling kind of hungover and just want a detox juice and salad… and some avocado toast (which was the case for myself and the rest of the group. A detox juice and plenty of coffee was definitely necessary!).

20191111_104344.jpg

I really enjoyed the food at Citizen garden and it is the type of food i make and eat even at home. Different bowls, toasts, drinks and cold dishes. You will want to order a little bit of everything, but i have to say that the bowls/salads are very large almost worth sharing.

So it could be a good idea to get a bowl and toast to share between two people, then you get to try more than one thing.

Price wise… well, it is worth the price for the food you get. It tasted very fresh and of course very nutritious. Not to mention lovely staff and atmosphere!

20191111_104611.jpg

Hummus HaCarmel in carmel market

Carmel market is the market in Tel Aviv, and there is plenty to see there. Lots of people, lots of stalls, lots to see and try… almost a little overwhelming. I do also recommend that you try to stay clear from the slaughter/meat/fish part of the market if you are vegan… it wasn’t the most pleasant to walk past that part.

Amir Menahem3448.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

I did try some things from the market such as bread and sauce, some different sweet desserts and an ethiopian coffee. But the place i wanted to recommend was Hummus HaCarmel. I had never heard of this place, but apparently it is rather well known/a tourist place… which i noticed when we got there. There was a line waiting to eat and we had to wait about 15-20 minutes until we got to sit down and order, but it was worth the wait.

20191108_123652.jpg

Basically it is a hummus place. So they have different hummus with salad and you also get pita bread. it is basically a small “in the wall” resturants but it has quite alot of places to sit outside and you do get a place to sit, so it is not just to walk in and sit down.

The vibe is very fast paced… people walking by, people waiting, it is not a place you go to sit for a long time and just talk, instead you go there with a mission to eat your hummus and pita bread and leave rather quickly again. Basically a market place cafe.. it is what you would expect regarding the atmosphere.

But it is worth a visit if you enjoy hummus and are in Carmel market. Also, they do have a sink and antiseptic so you can wash your hands before eating which you will most likely want to do as you eat with your hands!

20191108_123654.jpg

Price wise… basically the price of a lunch. More expensive than typical market place food which is often rather cheap (according to me). So even if you just get hummus and pita bread it is rather expensive, but worth it atleast once anyway 🙂

Amir Menahem3447.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem
Amir Menahem1014.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Luna

So, Luna isn’t actually in Tel Aviv, it is in Nazareth (about 2 hours from Tel Aviv) so if you just plan to be in Tel Aviv you may not go here, but if you do have plans to travel around Israel and are in Nazareth, then i do recommend Luna.

20191109134349_IMG_7898.JPG

The focus is arabic food. Lots of falafel, tabbouleh, hummus, stuffed cabbage rolls, rice etc

Amir Menahem3576.jpg

And the dessert, specifically the Knafeh, was incredible. We were all so full from lunch and our previous eats in the morning that none of us were particularly craving dessert… but one bite in and we all wanted more. So that was definitely a hit!

Amir Menahem3754.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem
Amir Menahem3616.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

The atmosphere…? Definitely a place you go with your family. It was beside a shopping mall, so i am sure many go shopping and then go for lunch there or vice versa. It is definitely easy to eat a whole bunch at Luna and end up with a food coma deluxa.

Amir Menahem3581.jpg

One thing i do have to mention is that the owner, Luna, was so incredibly friendly and you could tell that she was so passionate about the food and wanting us to really enjoy it. And it was like you could tell that the food was cooked with love…. hahaha, how true that is i don’t know. But it was a really nice experience eating there.

Amir Menahem3553.jpg

Like Opa and Bana, no fake meats… only wholefoods and vegetables in focus. Lots of different spices, which is very typical in the middle easten cuisine. And of course, it seems like you order a bunch of dishes to share among many (though maybe you can order a dish just for yourself which you do in European restaurants).

Amir Menahem3589.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Price wise, unfortunatly i don’t know.

Other tips:

Anastasia

I never visited Anastasia, but apparently it has a great vegan brunch but there is usually a queue (specially on weekends), so you will want to go there in time and be ready to queue until you get a place to sit down.

Other places you can eat:

Order a Sabich (“Hole in the wall” restaurant)

Similar to a fish and chips shop in the U.K, i.e they have a small kitchen/cooking area where they prepare the sabich for you freshly when you order. Takes about 10 minutes to make as they fry the eggplant when you order. Typically Sabich is made with egg, but you can skip that if you want to make it vegan.

20191110_181511.jpg

Lots of fresh vegetables, Amazing fried eggplant. Delicious tahini and amba sauce. Definitely a meal you should try… and perfect if you just want a quick lunch before walking around Tel Aviv, or maybe one of those before going out partying meals.

I am not sure the exact address for this “restaurant”, but it was close to Carmel market so i am sure with some googling you may find it. Apparently the locals do want to keep it rather secret as well as they don’t want a bunch of tourists going there and ordering when they just want to eat their lunch!

Note, there are 2-3 benches outside to sit on… but it is one of those meals you most likely eat while stnading up or while on the go unless you bring it with you to sit somewhere else 🙂

P.s recipe for homemade Sabich HERE

20191110_181548.jpg

Betzavta, a Friday night dinner. Basically you eat Friday night dinner at an Israeli host. You contact Betzavta who match you with a host and then the host cooks you dinner and it is a lovely way to talk to people who are locals to share stories and just make connections! It was a lovely experience for me to have the Friday night dinner.

As each host is different and the food they prepare is different, everyone will have a unique experience. So my experience was a positive one, but it can of course vary depending on what host you get.

Amir Menahem3028.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem
Amir Menahem3030.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

Pop up dinner at TheVeganItalianChef (i.e Nadia):

She hosts pop up dinners at her place where she makes vegan italian food. You can book a place during one of her dinners and she will cook you amazing food. I haven’t done this myself, but Nadia is wonderful and her cooking is amazing (we made brunch together with her), so i would definitely recommend you do this if you want to try different food and different food experiences rather than just restaurants and cafes.

Snapchat-995548375.jpg

Amir Menahem4129.jpg
Photo: Amir Menahem

There you have a list of some places to visit if you want to eat vegan while in Tel Aviv!! If you have any other recommendations, comment down below. Or if you have any questions regarding travelling to Israel or my experience, comment down below or contact me via myInstagram (itsahealthylifestyle)

20191108_171027.jpg20191106_085943.jpg20191106_114322.jpg20191109111921_IMG_7748.JPG20191109112141_IMG_7760.JPG20191106135500_IMG_7528.JPG20191109_222556.jpg20191106_114217.jpg20191106133418_IMG_7491.JPG

Different sugars – are natural sugars better than table sugar?

Sugar….. that white crystal powder that makes food sweet. The majority of people have heard that sugar isn’t good for you, that it can lead to negative health consequences. Some people talking about sugar addiction. A debate between sugar and sweeteners, many believing sugar is better because it is “natural”….. but forget that there are plenty of “natural” foods that would be incredibly dangerous or toxic to consume, so natural doesn’t mean healthy.

So I thought I would do a little break down of sugar and different types of sugar.

Are dates and dried fruit better than white sugar? What about agave syrup compared to high fructose corn syrup? Is fruit sugar actually bad?

I have a previous post about sugar vs sweetener, which you can read HERE. There are a lot of different sweeteners, so to get into all of those I would have to dedicate a post just to them. So instead I will just mention them a little in this post and compare them to sugar.

So let’s start off with…. What is sugar and what other names/types of sugar are there?

So white sugar which we all know as caster sugar or cane sugar, or in other terms: Sucrose which consists of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. [Glucose is typically found in some fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose is found mainly in fruit. And there is also galactose which is a single sugar molecule and is found in milk and dairy products]

In the body, sugar (Which I will now refer to as sucrose or table sugar) breaks down into glucose and fructose. The enzyme sucrase has to break down glucose and fructose which have two different absorption methods in the body. Glucose is absorbed directly and used as energy, both for your brain and muscles while fructose goes to the liver first where it is either then converted into energy or stored as fat (if there is an excess of calories).

There are other forms/names of sugars:

Lactose: This is the sugar found in milk and is built up from galactose and glucose. This is why dairy products usually have some sugar in them because of this natural sugar content.

Fructose: This is the sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. It is a single molecule/simple sugar.

Glucose: Typically found in starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Dextrose is also comprised of only glucose, and this is because glucose is the main source of energy for the body as well as the only energy source the brain uses. It is the quickest energy source and also spikes the blood sugar.

Corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually 100% glucose, whereas high fructose cornsyup is a mixture of glucose and fructose, just like table sugar.

Other types of sugars: Icing sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple sugar, dextrose.

Sweeteners:

Sugar alcohol: So sugar isn’t really sugar, but it is a carbohydrate and consists of a chemical structure that is similar to sugar and alcohol. It is also called polyols, and they are considered sweeteners. They aren’t fully absorbed or metabolized in the body meaning that they contribute with less calories than sugar. These sugar alcohols are also called, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol. Because the structure of these polyls can resemble alcohol structure, some people can get digestive issues from these sweeteners.

With this in mind, you realise that it is not just white table sugar or syrup that has sugar… but many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, dairy. But this isn’t a bad thing, as mentioned above glucose, fructose and lactose (a disaccharide) are infact natural sugars. They provide energy and your body needs glucose found in example starch vegetables and also in fruit.

However, just like with table sugar too much sugar whether it is from potatoes, dates or mangoes isn’t good either. They also spike your blood sugar, insulin is released and too much energy does get stored in the body. However, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver which is important as the body closely regulates blood so if haven’t eaten for several hours and your blood sugar begins to dip, glycogen will be broken down from your muscles and used to increase your blood sugar.

“In the process of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the body is unable to distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, since they are chemically the same.”

The difference between glucose and fructose is that glucose is absorbed rather instantly in the intestines and goes straight into the blood and can be used as energy for your muscles and your brain. Whereas fructose first has to go through the liver and then be absorbed by the blood, so it doesn’t have the same quick response and release of energy as glucose.

So, what about table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that consists of both glucose and fructose…. This is where sugar/HFCS stands out compared to just fruit or vegetables that consist of single sugar molecules. Table sugar and syrups have to first be broken down by the enzyme sucrase, then the glucose is absorbed in the intestines and then the fructose has to go to the liver where it is metabolised before being released into the blood stream as energy or converted into triglycerides or stored as fat.

The difference between fruit and white sugar, example candy or soda:

Well first off, fruit contains a lot more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than candy or soda. You have to chew fruit (well, you chew candy as well), there is fiber that is important for your gut bacteria, and of course you get vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. The fructose does of course have to go to the liver to be released into the bloodstream, but the amount of fructose you get via 1-2 fruits is very little compared to the amount of fructose/glucose you get via 1-2 handfuls of candy or chocolate. Not to mention, when it is dairy chocolate you are getting lactose sugar as well as fructose and glucose.

Candy or soda basically only have sugar and very little nutrients.

What about fruit or vegetables compared to example buns or cakes? Cakes, buns, cookies all have a lot of sugar… but they also have other ingredients such as butter and flour. So the butter, which is a fat will also slow down the emptying of the stomach and therefore the digestion of nutrients as well as flour containing gluten which is a protein. So yes, you get a lot of sugar but you also get fat (mostly saturated) and white flour (which of course is processed), but you could look at it like cakes/buns/cookies etc would be better than straight up sugared candy or sugared soda. The same goes with chocolate, you could look at it like you are infact getting some dairy which contains calcium (if you consume dairy chocolate), or if you eat dark chocolate you will be getting some antioxidants and iron as well… even if it is miniscule amounts it still contains a little more nutrition rather than just syrup/sugar.

So how does example baking syrup compare to agave syrup or honey?

Agave syrup or honey, just like baking syrup is straight up sugar. There isn’t so much difference aside from agave syrup and honey maybe having 5% more nutrients than regular baking syrup.

What about dates as sweetener compared to white sugar or syrup?

Being objective and sticking to the facts… then dates and dried fruit as sweeteners is rather similar to white sugar or syrup. Granted, it is mostly fructose and not fructose and glucose. But 100ml of dates/date syrup compared to 100ml sugar or syrup, it is similar in sugar content. Of course, if you are using whole dates they will have a little fiber… but they are mostly just fructose i.e sugar, and the same goes for white sugar. But dates and date syrup is a lot more expensive.

Of course, I do believe that using dried fruits as sweeteners is better than white sugar or syrup which consists of 2 sugar molecules. But you can’t forget that dried fruit or agave syrup or date syrup consist of a lot of sugar which will spike your blood sugar and be stored as excess energy. So using those isn’t necessarily that much better, but if you enjoy using them… use them. Just don’t drown your oatmeal, pancakes or toast with them and thinking it is healthier. (Of course, healthier is a relative term as for some that might infact be healthy).

It’s all about marketing:

Date syrup, coconut sugar and any other fancy sugar substitutes have all been marketed as healthy and better than sugar, but nutritionally they are pretty much the same as sugar. Just that some may have a difference in what sugar molecules they are made up of. The best would be to go for sugars made up mostly of glucose. The “healthy” marketed sugar alternatives are just pricy and not always worth the money.

Of course… if you prefer using them and can afford them… then go for it. They do give a different texture and taste which you may prefer in your baking. Just don’t begin pouring agave syrup over your oats or adding coconut sugar to your fruit smoothies or eating 15 dates a day (unless you have a reason for it such as low blood sugar, athlete or need to gain weight). Sugar is still sugar and will break down into the same molecules and have the same effect in the body whether it comes from syrup, honey or raisins.

So how much sugar should we consume? How much is too much sugar?

The recommendation for sugar is c.a 25-35g per day, or about 5-6 tsp. Or nutritionally, only 5-10% of your total calories should come from sugar. Meaning, if you have a requirement of 2000kcal, only about 100-200kcal of those should come from sugar. I.e 1 330ml coke is 35g sugar and your total sugar for the day (according to recommendations). However the majority of people consume double or triple this amount daily.

In the future I might make a post about “Hidden sugar” in certain foods which many aren’t aware of. That is of course not to scare you or make you avoid those foods completely, just to become aware of certain foods that may need to be limited and not eaten on a daily.

To be noted, is that you could also see the sugar recommendation as c.a 210g sugar per week… meaning that you may have one day a week where you eat a bunch of candy and chocolate and drink some wine, but the other 6 days you keep your sugar intake minimal (not including fruits). Or maybe you are someone like me, who likes to have a little bit of chocolate a few times a week and instead of having one day you eat a lot of sugar I keep it minimal/moderate each day. So find what works for you in regards to your sugar intake.

**Important to remember that consuming sugared soda or candy with lots of sugar isn’t the same as eating fruit or if you eat a meal and then some fruit. Because of the fiber and chewing involved when eating the majority of fruits – not all of them, it will give you more satiety as well as vitamins and minerals. If you eat a full meal consisting of protein, carbs and fats, the fat in your meal will actually slow down the emptying of your stomach and your digestion (this isn’t a bad thing… unless maybe you are going to run a half marathon and want quick energy, then eating primarily glucose may be beneficial) and the release of sugars won’t be as quick compared to if you just drink soda or eat candy, where the break down and release of sugar into the blood stream will happen rather quickly.

Which also leads me to: Carbohydrates, i.e which include sugar molecules, begin to break down in your mouth when you chew as you have enzymes in your saliva which begin to break down the sugar molecules. So when you drink sugared soda or eat candy where 50% is glucose, some of the sugar will be broken down and absorbed rather instantly… which can be a good thing if you are feeling faint, need quick energy or have low blood sugar.

Juices and smoothies? Not as much fiber, a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there will also be a lot of sugar that will spike your blood sugar rather quickly because so much of the fiber – and chewing – is gone when you drink juice and smoothies. Of course you do still get lots of nutrients and vitamins, so it is better to give your child – or yourself – a fruit smoothie than a McDonalds milkshake, but don’t underestimate the amount of sugar in a fruit smoothie.

Excessive sugar intake isn’t good, whether it comes from table sugar, date syrup or mangos. It does spike blood sugar, which in turn can increase risk of developing diabetes or metabolic damage. Not to mention the damage on teeth from consuming too much sugary products. But as previously mentioned, fruit is not the same as eating candy. And nutritionally dried fruit contains more nutrients than candy so it is better to opt for that for the majority of time, but at the end of the day too much sugar whether it is from sugared candy, sugared soda or 10 banana smoothies isn’t healthy or recommended.

I know some people may not agree with this post and may think that “Natural” sources of sugar are better and when it comes to agave syrup in comparison with high fructose corn syrup I will always recommend agave syrup in first hand. Just like I will tell people to opt for dates with peanut butter or go for a fruit instead of grabbing a handful of sugared candy. But at the end of the day, all of those need to be limited and whichever you choose to consume in moderation and limited amounts is up to you because they are all similar in the body anyway.

Final notes, try to avoid added sugars and the clearly obvious sugary products i.e cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, soda, syrups etc

Dealing with stomach pain: Elimination method, FODMAP & tips to cope

Many people in todays society deal with stomach pain and discomfort, to certain degrees. Some people just get a little pain from time to time after overeating or maybe eating certain foods, while others can barely live a normal life due to their stomach issues.

In the past, I was the latter. I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and pain.

In this post I am giving you some tips on what you can do to figure out what causes your stomach issues via an elimination method. Though I do advise you to seek help from both a doctor and dietitian so that you don’t end up restricting your intake far too much and far too long so that you end up unhealthy or with nutrient deficiencies.

I have written a post about FODMAP and IBS, which you can read here.

Also a post about dealing with bloating HERE

As well as a post about eating a high fiber diet, which can often lead to cramps and digestive issues, HERE

When you are dealing with stomach pain or digestive issues it can easily lead to a very restrictive diet, either because you don’t want to eat something that triggers the pain, but you don’t know what causes the pain and therefore restrict everything you think might cause pain. Or you infact become scared of certain food because you don’t want the stomach pain and therefore cut it out and get scared to eat those foods.

FODMAP

When someone has IBS they are often recommended to try doing FODMAP with the help of a professional. FODMAP is not a longterm diet or way of eating, it is a way of eating for a (short) period of time to help figure out which foods that cause flareups and stomach issues and which foods you can tolerate.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”

Common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar and most added sugars.
  • Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
  • Fructans: Found in many foods, including grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
  • Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol. They are found in some fruits and vegetables and often used as sweeteners.

These carbohydrates/fibers don’t fully digest and some become nutrition for gut bacteria while others don’t digest at all and can therefore cause bloating, gas, cramps.

In some individuals, FODMAPs are poorly digested, so they end up reaching the colon. They draw water into the intestine and get fermented by hydrogen-producing gut bacteria.” (Healthline.com)

A low FODMAP diet means you eat very little or no foods which contain those carbohydrates/fibers. I.e limiting the amount of foods which can cause symptoms.

When following the FODMAP diet for a period of time you are very restricted in what you can eat, and even more so if you are vegan. (I had to try the FODMAP diet for 3 days during one of my university courses and I didn’t eat much those three days as I was so restricted in food choices.) But overtime you begin to reintroduce foods and eventually have a much more varied diet and will hopefully have figured out which foods you can tolerate and you may even figure out which foods you tolerate in smaller doses and which you can consume in larger doses. However along with FODMAP you also have to look over your lifestyle and the way you eat.

Sometimes the problem may not actually be the food, but it may be that you are very stressed, that you are anxious around food, that you don’t actually sit down to eat or you eat your food within 5 minutes while standing or on the go. All of these can cause stomach issues, but also foods such as gum, carbonated drinks, alcohol, certain sweeteners and caffeine can lead to gas, stomach issues and caffeine can heighten anxiety which can lead to stomach discomfort or pain.

Image result for fodmap

HOW YOU EAT:

So along with looking at what you eat, you also have to look at how you eat. Changing how you eat and even where you eat can make a big impact on your stomach issues. If you are eating in very stressful environments or you don’t have time to eat, then you can easily feel anxious and stressed or you don’t really enjoy or chew your food and all of that can lead to stomach discomfort. So making time to eat while resting and preferably sitting and in quiet environments can make a big difference.

As mentioned above, a FODMAP diet should be done with the help of a professional, otherwise it is easy that your diet becomes far too restrictive and that you don’t actually begin implementing certain foods again, instead you just stick to the “green” foods. It is also important to note, that everyone is different. Some people with IBS may be able to consume foods that are listed as red, while they get stomach pain while consuming certain foods that are green. So you do have to try

different foods and see what works for you.

Image result for fodmap

WRITE A FOOD DIARY

If you don’t have IBS, just stomach issues, the first thing you can do is to write a food diary for 2-3 weeks.

Write down what you eat, what time you eat, the environment/situation when you ate and even how you felt before/during/after, along with any symptoms you felt during or after the meal.

This will help you get a better overview of what and how you eat as well as tracking symptoms.

After 2-3 weeks it will give you better understanding and overview, compared to just a few days or one week of tracking. The important thing is to eat just as normal… don’t begin cutting out food or changing your diet. Write down everything, even the handful of nuts, the latte on the go or the piece of chocolate you eat standing in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook.

The diary may just be for you to analyse and get a better understanding of how/what you eat, but may even be useful if you do go to a doctor or dietitian for help.

Once you have written the food diary, begin to look over it. Are there certain meals with certain ingredients that cause symptoms or flareups? Are there certain situations that cause pain and discomfort… such as the rushed lunch during school/work, or maybe the dinner straight after training or the lunch you ate while super stressed?

Once you have found out which meals or situations cause the most flare ups it can be easier to make adjustments.

However, now is when the long process begins. The important thing is to not cut out everything at once…. Instead, you do it one by one. If you think that maybe garlic, onion, chickpeas and gluten cause stomach pain… then begin by just omitting garlic from your meals and diet for a week… see what happens and how you feel. Then the next week omit onion and add in garlic (depending on how you felt the previous week i.e symptoms or no symptoms). It is a long process of finding out what works.

You could of course group certain foods together such as all beans, all sweeteners, all foods with gluten, onion and garlic, all dairy products etc and then one week remove all the foods in one certain group, and slowly reintroduce them one by one. Because it may be that you are sensitive to chickpeas but not to blackbeans, or it may be that you can’t tolerate aspartame but you are fine with stevia.

I would also recommend that you do infact limit your caffeine intake (coffee, black tea, energy drinks) as well as not chewing gum or sugar free pastilles, as they can all cause stomach discomfort.

I do also want to note that many believe they are gluten intolerant and cut out all products with gluten, however many products that include gluten also include certain fibers that are hard to break down. So it may not be the gluten you are sensitive too, but the fibers.

Which is an important thing to note, fibers can cause stomach discomfort and pain. There are certain fibers that are hard to break down and cause gas and bloating. So limiting fiber intake and drinking plenty of water can be one step if you don’t want to do the whole elimination process. Though then you won’t be able to tell which foods cause pain or symptoms if you eliminate them all at once.

I also recommend that you keep your meals very simple, just 2-4 different ingredients. The more ingredients and foods you eat in a meal the harder it can be to digest as well as figure out what causes your pain or discomfort.

FOODS THAT CAN CAUSE STOMACH PAIN

There are certain foods that are more likely to give stomach discomfort and they are:

Beans and peas – this is due to their fiber content and that the fibers are hard to break down

Sweeteners – Many sweeteners aren’t broken down or absorbed in the body and therefore lead to gas and bloating

Carbonated beverages, sugarfree pastilles, gum – the bubbles in carbonated drinsk along with both caffeine and sweeteners, basically a triple whammy. With gum, when you chew you are swallowing air which can lead to gas and bloating, as well as gum usually having sweeteners (even if it’s only very small doses)

High fat meals – including creamy and/or, oily dishes. Typically fast food, dairy full fat (specifically cream) or certain takeout meals such as Chinese. Fat leads to feeling full quicker and is also harder to break down compared to carbohydrates. It can also often lead to heartburn. Many find that eating fat sources from avocado, nuts, nut butters and seeds don’t cause the same stomach issues.

Food with lactose or gluten – many cut out lactose and gluten thinking they are intolerant to them. Some may be, but as already mentioned. Many foods with gluten also include hard to break down fibers which may be the issue and not the gluten. With lactose, many can’t handle a lot of lactose or they don’t have enough lactase enzyme which breaks down the dairy. Though this isn’t so strange considering that dairy is actually for baby cows, and not for humans… or well, not in the huge amounts that many consume dairy products now a days.

Too much fruit – Fruit has a lot of fiber but also fruit sugar which can cause certain individuals discomfort if they eat too much of it. And by that I mean eating maybe 4-6 fruits in one go.

Note, just because i mention these foods doesn’t mean that YOU are sensitive to them. Everyone is individual and everyone reacts differently to different foods. You may be able to digest those in small amounts, ,aybe not at all or maybe they don’t trigger you at all.

When you are dealing with stomach pain, it is easy to get scared of food because oyu don’t want to deal with the stomach pain. But you can not completely restrict yourself, the best is to get proffessional care, but if you can’t because of reasons- Then remember to not completely cut out food and if you do cut out food youshould try to reintroduce it. Otherwise your diet can become very restrictive. Also be reintroducing it into your diet after not eating the food(s) for a while you can better understand what is causing stomach pain.

Also remember, if you do think you are sensitive to gluten and want to get it checked. Youahve to eat gluten to do the tests… so don’t cut out gluten and then get checked because the results won’t show any intolerance/allergies then.

Stomach issues and pain is complex. Many get the diagnosis IBS because doctors can’t find any other diagnosis that causes the pain. But IBS is about more than just food, as previously mentioned. Stomach issues aren’t always due to food, but due to other factors which also makes it hard to treat. It often requires changes in diet, lifestyle and way of eating.

It is incredibly debilitating to live with stomach pain, I did for several years. Many plans that were cancelled, many evenings I lay curled in a ball on my bed with extreme pain, many tears due to the discomfort and a lot of constant bloating. What helped me was to go vegan and start eating plantbased, but of course that also meant letting my body adapt to a higher fiber diet. I can still get stomach pain from certain foods, but I have learnt to figure out which foods cause me pain and also know that too much of certain food will give me discomfort… and then it is up to me to make the decision whether I want to eat the food and deal with the discomfort afterwards or to just skip the food or choose something else.

For stomach pain and nausea ginger or peppermint tea can help, as well as having something warm on your stomach.

If you are dealing with a lot of stomach pain, I highly recommend you go to both a doctor and a dietitian. Be persistent with your doctor so that you get all tests done, just to rule out any serious conditions. However, I do also recommend that you keep a food diary for 2-3 weeks, get an overview of your symptoms, how and what you eat and see if your symptoms may just be due to anxiety and stress and certain foods such as caffeine, sweeteners and high fiber.

(From personal experience I can also add that when I am very stressed and anxious, then I can get stomach pain and bloating even if I am eating the same as usual. So it is important to look at your stress and anxiety levels).