My Top Ten Vegan Pantry Essentials

Ever wondered what a vegan keeps in her pantry? Well, look no further than this – just joking, I’m not going down the route of cheesy blog post opening lines.

Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten ingredients you’ll always find in my cupboard. I eat a vegan diet composed mostly of wholefoods, but this is suitable for anyone who wishes to expose themselves to the joys of eating more plants and having plenty of healthy ingredients within reach.

These items are affordable and many can be cooked in bulk for the week ahead as a means of saving time, money and energy. Moreover, they act as a basis for the majority of vegan recipes out there. When it comes to cooking, I like to plan ahead and will buy ‘fancier’ extras whenever they are required (i.e., those magical superfood powders sourced from the soils of Narnia – I admit I can never hold myself back from diving head first into food trends) but always ensure my kitchen is well stocked with the basics because no one likes getting to their chickpea curry night and discovering they have no chickpeas.

Before I give myself the opportunity to ramble on for three thousand words, here are my pantry staples:

1. Legumes

Beans and pulses

You knew this one was coming. I am in love with my beans and pulses. These contain an abundance of micronutrients such as iron and potassium, and are often the main protein source in vegan diets. As someone who is trying to build muscle, the latter is enough to make me stock my cupboards with an excessive amount of black beans.

I keep both canned and dry in my kitchen. Canned is great for convenience, but I use dry whenever I have a bit of extra time, as they require soaking and cooking, and want a ‘fresher’ taste. My favourites include:

  • Black beans – these are a great option for buying fresh and soaking overnight
  • Chickpeas – roast them with some agave nectar and paprika and thank me later!
  • Cannellini beans 
  • Red kidney beans
  • Lentils: red, green and black
  • Dried soya mince – an incredible meat free alternative for spaghetti bolognese!
  • Peas
  • Giant lentils 

Continue reading “My Top Ten Vegan Pantry Essentials”

A Note On Excessive Modesty and Fear of Ambition

I’m cleverThere, I said it. Of course, I’m no rocket scientist or one of those miraculous teenage entrepreneurs with a billion dollar startup, but someone with my academic record deserves that qualifier. I, like many others, am cursed with over-the-top modesty. An urge to undermine one’s achievements, skills and ambitions at every opportunity, which can equate in annoyance to an inflated ego.

Cockiness is an undesirable quality for sure, and most of us withhold from befriending people who speak of nothing other than themselves and their greatness. And in fear of appearing cocky ourselves, we spiral into a trap of persistent self-deprecating humour and a reluctance to acknowledge the traits which distinguish us from the crowd. I did not see this as an issue – because labelling yourself ‘trash’ is the thing to do nowadays. Then one day, while speaking to a psychologist, I joked about my ‘stupidity’ and she told me to ‘stop right there’. She rightfully highlighted how an offhand self-deprecating statement, whether reflective of your true beliefs or not, can influence your actions and perception of yourself on a subconscious level. Most of the time, the idea of pretentiousness displeases me so much, I cannot compliment myself in my head, let alone out loud. Successful at a job interview? The other candidate must’ve not turned up. Great exam results? You were lucky. Skin looks great? It must be the lighting.

How to become more confident Continue reading “A Note On Excessive Modesty and Fear of Ambition”

Exercise Addiction: The Dark Side of Fitness

With my hands covered in blisters and talcum powder, achy joints despite being aged fifteen, and thought racing through my head, I sit and cry in the gym changing rooms. The world is ending. Despite exercising for two hours straight, I didn’t work hard enough. Not enough sweat, not enough calories burnt. Now, my mum is offering to pick me up from the gym so we can stop by Pizza Express on the way home, which implies walking 8.75km instead of the minimum daily goal of 10.9, and eating unknown calories. ‘I can’t, I have homework,’ I text back, despite knowing the evening will be spent doing jumping squats in my room, not preparing for an upcoming Physics test.

This was the reality of exercise addiction for me, a disorder which isn’t recognised by the DSM5 but impacts around 3% of those who exercise on a daily basis. Prior to acquiring a positive relationship with fitness, it overwhelmed my life and nearly ended it. I want to speak about this issue because while anorexia is frequently discussed on the internet and in the media, exercise addiction (which often, though not always, accompanies another eating disorder) is seldom mentioned. The obesity epidemic, and the tendency of the majority of the population to neglect exercise rather than overdo it, explains this yet countless anecdotes emphasise the relevance of excessive exercise in our society.

Exercise Addiction recovery
It has taken a lot of effort to find balance, but every ounce was worth it.

Honestly, I struggled with starting this blog post without tearing up. Overcoming the addiction was perhaps the hardest thing I had to do, and back then I believed it would kill me before I’d scrambled back to balance. I will attempt to keep this coherent, ensuring the post raises awareness, outlines my story, and helps anyone whose relationship with exercise is less than optimal, but I cannot promise the absence of garble due to the emotive nature of the topic involved!

So, what is exercise addiction?  Continue reading “Exercise Addiction: The Dark Side of Fitness”

My Morning Routine 2017: Healthy but Realistic

Hi dears!

I understand the appeal of continuously hitting the snooze button and hauling yourself out of bed fifteen minutes before you’re supposed to leave. I understand the appeal of skipping breakfast (but at the same time I don’t, because honestly, the first thing I think about when I wake up is food #noshame). However, given that you’re able to fall asleep at a reasonable time, allowing yourself plenty of space each morning to pursue a routine can help with emotional wellbeing enormously, given how much you can adapt and tailor this to your own personality and preferences.

The routine aspect is important. I’ve been an early riser for many years, and a lover of mornings, but as of recent I’ve managed to create a list of things to fill those extra hours that are much more mindful, more energising than an aimless scroll through Instagram. Okay, the Instagramming is still there, but I try to make it constructive&controlled.

Honesty is important to this blog, so I am not going to sit here and say that I run half a marathon, get in my five a day, exfoliate my entire body and write a best-selling novel all before the clock strikes 7. The routine outlined below is realistic and works well for me, helping establish the foundations for a successful day without burning me out: a balance I worked hard on finding. Mornings do not have to be intense. However, a structure can bring many benefits, such as mental clarity and a productive approach to the day’s endeavours.

As a little disclaimer, I do not follow these steps every day. I adjust them in accordance with how I feel as flexibility is a value I will always abide to. However, an outline helps enormously in saving me from a feeling of disarray, a cluelessness regarding what to do with myself upon awakening, which carries a risk of spilling into the succeeding hours.

So, here is an overview of a typical morning in the life of Maria:

I wake up anywhere between 5 and 6:30, depending on when I must leave. The next five to ten minutes are dedicated to something which grounds me in the external world, ready to meet whatever challenges may arise. I avoid all technology and social media during this time, because stepping into the digital realm as soon as I open my eyes can disconnect me from my surroundings and lead to a sense of ‘drifting’ through the rest of the day, as opposed to engaging with it. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would recommend practicing mindfulness in the early hours: just pay attention to how your body is feeling, what signals its sending you, what emotions you’re experiencing. Sometimes, I do some reading, or sit with my cat and watch the skies lighten. Continue reading “My Morning Routine 2017: Healthy but Realistic”