World vegan day – let’s explore

Today, 1st Nov is World vegan day, open any newspaper, turn on the radio or TV and odds on you’ll hear it mentioned. In fact it is Vegan month for the whole of November go a good time to learn more.

Veganism and the trend for reducing animal based products is on the rise, but it is nothing new. The vegan movement was started in 1944 and became a registered charity in 1979.

Being a vegan involves adopting a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs and honey – (basically any food that come from anything with a face). Veganism is considered extreme and even odd by many in our Western society, however in some cultures it is the mainstream diet and as a diet choice it is proven to give the most health benefits. The ultimate test of this being the number of top athletes that have switched their diets:

  • Heavy weight boxer David Haye
  • Tennis stars the Williams sisters
  • International rugby player Anthony Mullally
  • NBA players with John Salley (leading the charge as a long time vegan)
  • F1 champ Lewis Hamilton
  • US Ultra-marathon runner Scott Jurek
  • Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin. The list goes on…

So what does this mean to an ethical omnivore and where do the paths cross? Being ethical in our consumption choices spans all diet choices including a vegan diet. Any shift towards adopting a plant based diet, be that 100%, 90%, 50% will give you positive payback in your health, well being and your impact in the world. The aim of ethical omnivore is to link the dietary worlds and give people choice.

It is very difficult to wake up one day and say ‘right I am giving up xyz’ you don’t have to swing from eating meat or fish everyday to becoming a fully fledged vegan overnight. Experimenting, learning to cook new dishes, deciding what you enjoy, researching into the real benefits and information behind the choices is what worked in making any dietary shift.

You don’t have to pick a sides, you can venture into the world of plant based one dish at a time. I have been blown away how much I enjoy the variety of food we now eat and dare I say there is a certain smugness knowing you’ve eaten 10 of your 5 a day.

If you feel like embracing World vegan day today is the day. I’ve posted lots of recipes under the heading FOOD / RECIPES /Plant based and Vegan. Try Spud’s shepherdless pie or Spaghetti Puy-ognese.

V to victory! – the ethical omnivore.

“Fancy some bamboo shoots for dinner darling?”

Healthiest meat on the planet

Wild meat and game is the healthiest meat on the planet. It is leaner, antibiotics and chemicals free, it contains E.P.A (eicosapentaenoic acid)*, is fuller of flavour, denser of texture and lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories than most other meat. It’s also high in protein, iron and vitamin B, yet low in saturated fat. The animals are also not genetically modified or in any other way unnaturally “enhanced.”

(*E.P.A. (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a fatty acid that facilitates blood flow. Some studies link human ingestion of E.P.A. to reduced risk of heart attacks, arthritis and hardening of the arteries. E.P.A is formed in the blood of wild animals as a protective agent against cold. Farm animals just don’t make it) 

As the animal doesn’t have to handled, transported or experience the slaughter house the issue of cortisol and adrenaline being released due to stress is eliminated. Wild meat and game is the original sustainable, free-ranging, organic, natural fed meat.

The animal has a free and natural life, it has typically lived a lot longer than a farmed animal and avoiding the slaughter house makes it highest on the ethical list. The further towards the intensively farmed system you go the bigger the gap becomes.

Wild meat is an animal that was born naturally, has had not form of human intervention and has been hunted, for example wild boar, deer, wild birds etc. Game is animals raised specially the sport of shooting, they are often bred in captivity, then realised into the wild, they are provided with feeding stations to keep them from flying away, for example pheasants, partridge, grouse. Some animals are both wild meat and game. The bottom line is the same, the animal and therefore the meat is as nature intended.

The great news is that the majority of game and wild meat is reasonably priced. Unless you are in central London in a fancy butchers you should be able to find fairly priced wild meat and game in farm shops, butchers, specialists suppliers and online.

There are seasons for game so buy when it is in season. Meat freezes really well, so stock up at the right time. I found a good offer on 1KG of pheasant breast for a similar price to intensively farm chicken breast today. These meats are at the opposite ends of the scale so being close in price it is a no brainer! see

Correct cooking of wild meat and game is important. As there is often little of no fat and the age of the animal is unknown so it is best to use specific instructions for cooking. For example when I cook pheasant I braise it:

  • Heat pan with a knob of butter or oil. Add pheasants breasts and cook both sides until sealed.
  • Chop onion and garlic, place on the bottom of the dish, lay pheasant breast on tops, add stock and splash of apple juice to half cover the meat, cover tightly with a lid or an foil (no steam must escape) and cook for around 40 mins at 180C.
  • Serve or add to a dish such as Indian or Thai curry
  • Or make a stew and slow cook all the ingredients

I make a dish called ‘marry me pie’ which is mixed game in white sauce and shortcrust pastry. I’ll post the recipe.

If you are unsure of the best way to cook the piece of meat you have, try slicing off a tiny piece and frying it for a short time over a high heat. If it is chewy then it is best slow cooked, but if you find it is tender, you can cook as you would a steak or chicken breast, pan fry etc..

Parting thoughts: A lot of people don’t like the idea of shooting Bambi or watching a bird falling out of the sky, but the reality is if you eat meat it is the most ethical choose. Hunting is where our meat eating history begins and in these times of intensive farming, you are wise to choose wild meats or ethically farmed, free range or organic meat.

Remember a lot of meats you consider to be wild or game animals are also farmed so check it is wild not farmed. A good example of duck, check is states ‘wild duck’. It is unlikely that you will find wild meat in a supermarket due to the consistency in the supply chain look for a butcher of specialist supplier.

A few suppliers online:


Ultra processed foods explained

This week the news has been full of reports that ultra processed foods (UPF) increase the risk of cancer. But what does that really mean?

Hundreds of articles get published relating to food and health, foods that increase the risk of cancer and foods that prevent or reduce the risk of cancer. You’ll find the same if you Google weight loss, diabetes, allergies, healthy skin etc.; a bad diet is a bad diet and affects multiple aspects of your health.

In isolation each article can leave you with more questions than answers. Read a whole bunch and then dig deeper into the research behind the news headlines and you’ll find repeated themes, put those themes together and you’ll find the real headline:


Being healthy is not simply a case of avoiding foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat and oils, additional risks are caused by the use of chemicals and multi stage processing. Ultra processed foods are made from ingredients and using methods that you wouldn’t typically find in a home kitchen or restaurants that cook real food (rather than prepared, packaged foods).

UPFs is a double whammy. The higher the amount of ultra processed foods you eat the lower the amount of healthy whole foods you eat that can help prevent disease and cancers.

With the emergance of the global industrial food system in the 80s. Wealthy countries without strong food heritage, USA, Canada, UK, and Australia became dominated by packaged, ready-to-consume products. Many other countries are now suffering the same fate, replacing traditional home cooked freshly prepared dishes based on minimally processed foods with low quality, unhealthy packaged foods. Rates of obesity, cancers and diabetes have correspondingly risen as rapidly.

Ultra processed food are highly convenient (ready-to-eat), highly palatible, highly profitable, due to low cost ingredients, and therefore of great importance to the food industry. They are big business, with aggressive marketing to both children and adults.  Often branded products owned by large corporations. It is estimated that 50% of all calories consumed in the UK and 60% in the USA from now from ultra processed foods. Next time you shop look how much whole foods you have versus pre-prepared packed foods.

The recently published findings of a 7 year study conducted by the French researchers was based on the NOVA classification system. The NOVA systems uses four definitions to define food processing groups:

  1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods:
    • whole natural foods of minimally processed foods only altered by processes such as removal of inedible or unwanted parts, drying, crushing, grinding, fractioning, filtering, roasting, boiling, pasteurisation, refrigeration, freezing, placing in containers, vacuum packaging, or non- alcoholic fermentation. None of these processes adds substances such as salt, sugar, oils or fats to the original food.
    • plants (veg, grains, seeds, fruits, leaves, stems, roots) or of animals (muscle, offal, eggs, milk), and also fungi, algae and water
  2. Processed culinary ingredients
    • these are substances obtained directly from group 1 foods or from nature by processes such as pressing, refining, grinding, milling, and spray drying
    • examples are salt, cane sugar, honey, butter, oils crushed from olives or seeds, lard,
    • products used in home and restaurant kitchens to prepare, season and cook group 1 foods e.g. hand-made dishes, soups and broths, breads, preserves, salads, drinks and desserts.
  3. Processed foods
    • increase the durability of group 1 foods, or to modify or enhance their sensory qualities
    • canned or bottled vegetables, fruits and legumes; salted or sugared nuts and seeds; salted, cured, or smoked meats; canned fish; fruits in syrup; cheeses and unpackaged freshly made breads
  4. Ultra-processed food and drink products
    • look out for long lists of ingredients 5+ especially where the list starts to look like a chemistry lesson
    • ingredients you don’t recognise as food, things you would not cook with at home, e.g. maltodextrin, soy protein, palm oil, high fructose corn syrup…
    • sugars, oils, fats, salt, anti-oxidants, stabilisers, and preservatives
    • whole foods from Group 1 are minimal or absent
    • several industrial processes with no domestic equivalents are used in the manufacture of ultra-processed products, such as extrusion and moulding, and pre-processing for frying
    • examples of typical ultra-processed products are: fizzy drinks; sweet or savoury packaged snacks; ice-cream, chocolate, confectionary; mass-produced packaged breads and buns; margarines and spreads; biscuits, pastries, cakes, and cake mixes; breakfast ‘cereals’, ‘cereal’ and ‘energy’ bars; ‘energy’ drinks; milk drinks, ‘fruit’ yoghurts and ‘fruit’ drinks; cocoa drinks; meat and chicken extracts and ‘instant’ sauces; infant formulas, follow-on milks, other baby products; ‘health’ and ‘slimming’ products such as powdered or ‘fortified’ meal and dish substitutes; and many ready to heat products including pre-prepared pies and pasta and pizza dishes; poultry and fish ‘nuggets’ and ‘sticks’, sausages, burgers, hot dogs, and other reconstituted meat products, and powdered and packaged ‘instant’ soups, noodles and desserts…And remember your dogs and cats – canned and dry pet foods

Example ingredients lists of ultra processed foods (note even foods you might think are healthy and marketed as healthy can also be ultra processed):

  1. Pringles originalDehydrated Potatoes, Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Corn), Rice Flour, Wheat Starch, Corn Flour, Emulsifier (E471), Maltodextrin, Salt, Yeast Extract, Yeast Powder, Colour (Annatto)
  2. Tesco Healthy Living 5 Apple & Strawberry Cereal Bars – Rice And Whole Wheat Flakes (29%), Fibre (Polydextrose), Oat Flakes, Yogurt Flavoured Drizzle (8%), Crispy Cereals, Stabiliser (Sorbitol), Apple And Strawberry Fruit Pieces (5%), Glucose Syrup, Sunflower Oil, Strawberry Freeze dried pieces (1%), Flavouring, Emulsifier (SoyaLecithins), Antioxidant (Tocopherol-Rich Extract), Rice And Whole Wheat Flakes contains: Rice, Wholewheat, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, WheatFlour, Dried Skimmed Milk, Barley Malt Extract, Salt, Wheatgerm, Yogurt Flavoured Drizzle contains: Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Yogurt Powder (Milk), Milk Sugar, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins), Crispy Cereals contains: Wheat Flour, Rice Flour, Dextrose, Sugar, Salt, Apple And Strawberry Fruit Pieces contains: Apple, Dextrose, Humectant (Glycerol), Concentrated Strawberry Juice, Maize Starch, Elderberry Juice Extract, Acidity Regulator (Malic Acid), Flavouring, Preservative (Sulphur Dioxide), Glucose Syrup contains: Glucose Syrup, Stabiliser (Sorbitol)
  3. Muller corner red cherry – Yogurt (Milk), Cherries (11%), Water, Sugar, Stabilisers: Pectins, Guar Gum, Flavourings, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid
  4. Tesco white medium bread – Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Water, Yeast, Salt, Rapeseed Oil, Spirit Vinegar, Emulsifiers (Mono- and Di-Acetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids), Soya Flour, Preservative (Calcium Propionate), Palm Oil, Flour Treatment Agent (Ascorbic Acid)
  5. Pot noodle – Noodles: Noodles (57%) [Wheat Flour, Palm Fat, Salt, Firming Agents (Potassium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate)], Sauce and Vegetables: Water, Maltodextrin, Vegetables (3.6%) [Carrots, Peas (1%), Onion Powder], Wheat Flour, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Curry Powder, Acidity Regulator (Sodium Diacetate), Palm Fat, Flavour Enhancer (Monosodium Glutamate), Salt, Yeast Extract, Potassium Chloride, Garlic, CheesePowder, Flavourings, Colour (Curcumin), Sachet: Mango Chutney Sauce (1.3%) [Mango Puree (88%) (Mango, Sugar, Salt, Acid (Acetic Acid), Spices] Water, Spirit Vinegar, Modified Corn Starch, Chilli Powder]
  6. Dairylea cheese spreadSkimmed Milk (Water, Skimmed Milk Powder), Cheese, Skimmed Milk Powder, Milk Fat, Stabilisers (Citric Acid, Sodium Carbonate), Inulin, Whey Powder (from Milk), Calcium Phosphate
  7. Heinz weighwatchers chicken hotpot – Water, Fried Potatoes (23% contain Potatoes, Sunflower Oil, Dextrose), Cooked Chicken (16%, Chicken Breast, Water, Salt, Stabilisers – Di-Tri- and Polyphosphates), Mushrooms, Carrots, Peas, Skimmed Milk Powder, Onions, Modified Maize Starch, Whipping Cream (1%, contains Milk), Flavourings (Flavouring, Salt, Maltodextrin, Chicken Fat, Chicken, Celery, Celeriac), Chicken Stock (Chicken, Water, Salt, Maltodextrin, Chicken Fat, Yeast Extract), Onion Powder, Parsley, Salt, Mustard Powder, Sage, Thyme
  8. Quorn meat free mince Mycoprotein™ (93%), Rehydrated Free Range Egg White, Natural Caramelised Sugar, Firming Agents: Calcium Chloride, Calcium Acetate, Gluten Free Barley Malt Extract
  9. Cadbury creme eggSugar, Milk, Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Invert Sugar Syrup, Dried Whey (from Milk), Cocoa Mass, Vegetable Fats (Palm, Shea), Emulsifier (E442), Dried Egg White, Flavourings, Colour (Paprika Extract), Milk Chocolate: Milk Solids 14% minimum, Contains Vegetable Fats in addition to Cocoa Butter

Parting thoughts;

  • the diet of an ethical omnivore focuses of whole foods, veg, fruit, pulses etc and adding naturally raised meat fish and dairy (non intensive farming)
  • cook and prepare dishes using as many whole ingredients as you can e.g. make pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes rather than a jar of sauce.
  • remember you don’t have to be perfect, every little change you make counts
  • apply common sense, if it doesn’t resemble a natural food product, is heavily marketed and has a long ingredients list put it back
  • recognise UPF as a treat rather than part of your main diet
  • don’t get down, this doesn’t mean you have to give us tasty foods, it means you have to adjust to enjoy ‘proper’ tasty food 🙂
  • don’t be fooled into eating ultra processed foods as part of your staple diet, this includes meat replacement products marketed to vegetarians and vegans.
  • getting your calories from ultra processed foods which is bad for your health means it is instead of eating whole foods that have a positive effect on your health it is a double whammy.

The ethical omnivore.





OMG! – Omega-3 and 6

Have you ever wondered why we are told to eat more omega-3, why is omega-6 considered the ‘bad one’, is oily fish really the best source of omega-3 and why are they called ‘essential’ fatty acids?

I feel like I’ve gone back to science lectures to try and make sense of this topic! Firstly it is not simply a case of the ‘bad’ one, the real problem is the ratio. A typical western diet causes the ratio to become unbalanced. Typically 16:1 (omega-6 to 3) or higher, rather than the desired 4:1 or ultimate 1:1 ratio. We do need both omega-3 and 6 in our diets, but an imbalance between them is linked with serious health issues. There is a cap on the total amount of the two that the body can use, so they end up competing for space, therefore too much omega-6 can block omega-3.

In short elevated omega-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to); cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cancer, psychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases.

This is not a simple subject, so I’ve summarised the key messages:

  • The main reason for the imbalance and high omega 6 levels is processed seed and veg oils and foods containing these oils (chips, crisps, snacks, cakes etc). These oils are cheap so they are in a lot of processed foods.
  • Follow this link for a detailed list of omega-3 and 6 in foods. Interestingly butter and cow and sheep fats are preferable to the majority of seed and veg oils
  • Appreciate the need to balance your intake. Focus on reducing omega 6 intake as well as eating more omega 3.
  • As we are all becoming aware of the need to increase omega-3 it is being used as a marketing tool. Be cautious of omega 3 being used in marketing to promote foods. Learn which foods naturally contain omega-3 and avoid foods being fortified with omega-3, this is more about sales than health.
  • Rethink chicken and turkey fats, especially intensively farmed products due to very high omega 6 levels.
  • It is true that oily fish is the main source of 2 of the 3 omega-3s, but these can also be obtained from microalgae, see notes below.
  • Whilst omega-3 is promoted in foods, in converse you will not see warning that foods are high in omega-6, so you need to be aware when making food choices. For example look at a mayonnaise label, it lists omega-3 as a way of promotion but not that it has over 7x that amount of omega-6, making the ratio 7:1 which doesn’t make it a good source of omega-3.
  • Natural unprocessed foods containing high ratio’s of omega-6 to 3 are considered to be less harmful than processed foods. So it is believed to be high levels of omega-6 in processed foods that are the main focus.
  • Eating whole fish versus fish oil as a source of omega-3 is preferable.
  • Grass fed meat and dairy has a better ratio of omega-3 to 6. Whilst this should be a consideration, the key message to take from this is grass fed is healthier in general, but the difference is negligible when compared to the impact of processed oils in our diet.

Let’s take a closer look;

Omega-3 – Since the human body can’t produce omega-3 and 6, these fats are referred to as “essential fats,” meaning that you have to get them from your diet.

Omega-3 fats are a crucial part of human cell membranes, with important benefits for your heart, brain and metabolism. They also have a number of other important functions, including, improving heart health, supporting mental health, reducing weight and waist size, decreasing liver fat, supporting infant brain development, fighting inflammation, preventing dementia, promoting bone health, preventing asthma. Unfortunately, the Western diet does not contain enough omega-3s.

There are three types of omega-3; ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA can be obtained for plant based foods, but EPA and DHA are mainly found in oily fish or microalgae, but can also be found in smaller quantities in milk, eggs and meat from animals that have consumed a natural diet high in omega 3. ALA converts to EPA efficiantly but larger quantities are needed to convert to DHA so people not eating the recommended amount of oily fish or for vegans and vegetarians it is recommended to take a supplement such as algae oil as a source of DHA

Examples omega-3 by type in percentages, e.g. 2% equals 2g per 100g.

  • Chia seeds:        17.8% ALA
  • Salmon:                2.0% EPA and DHA
  • Mackerel:             2.0% EPA and DHA
  • Walnuts:               9.0% ALA
  • *Linseed oil:       53.4% ALA
  • *Linseeds:          22.8% ALA
  • Sardines:              2.2% EPA and DHA

* Linseed is also know as flaxseed. It needs to be milled (crushed) for us to digest it. So whilst you will burn calories crushing your own! it is advised to looked for the milled option.

Omega-6 fats are also necessary for survival, but they’re not nearly as beneficial as omega 3s. Omega 6 fats help with brain function, muscle growth, and hormone production, but they also cause inflammation, and they compete with omega 3s in the body. The ideal is to eat just enough omega 6s to function, but no more, and to balance them with lots of omega 3s

See the chart below for example ratios in oils, understood to be the main cause of high omega-6 intake:

efa content of oils

Parting thoughts – There is strong scientific evidence that there is an issue with the imbalance in our diets. It is a hard topic to get exact answers to every question past the obvious but what is clear is that again our western diet and intake of processed foods is the real issue here. The closer we can stick to a whole food, plant based diet with naturally raised products, including any animal products, the better off we will be.







Oats – super simple, super food

I love oats, an everyday superfood. A long list of health benefits, easy to cook, yummy and cheap as chips. Best of all they can aid in weight loss!

Oats are among the healthiest grains and most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, they are a complete food, per 100g – 59g of carbs, 13g of protein, 7g of fat (1g saturated) and 8g of fiber, but only 363 calories.

  • Oats can help you lose weight by making you feel fuller for longer. It does this by slowing down the emptying of the stomach and increasing production of the satiety hormone PYY
  • Oats as full of vitamins and minerals, a serving (78g dry) has,
    • Manganese: 191% of the RDI,
    • Phosphorus: 41% of the RDI,
    • Magnesium: 34% of the RDI,
    • Copper: 24% of the RDI,
    • Iron: 20% of the RDI,
    • Zinc: 20% of the RDI,
    • Folate: 11% of the RDI,
    • Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 39% of the RDI,
    • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 10% of the RDI,
    • Calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Oats contain more than 20 unique polyphenols, avenanthramides which are almost solely found in oats. Providing additional protection against coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and skin irritation.
  • Oats contain large amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber. Beta-glucan partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in the gut. The health benefits of beta-glucan fiber include:
    • reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels,
    • reduced blood sugar and insulin response
    • increased feeling of fullness
    • increased growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract

Oats are really flexible, we typically eat them in the form of oatmeal, AKA porridge oats. Try these three easy oat ideas. Remember you can eat oats raw so don’t fret over how long you cook them:

Porridge – Add handful of oats of a saucepan, cover with 50/50 water and apple juice, bring to the boil and cook for a couple of minutes. I add extras like mixed nuts, mixed seeds, milled linseed, banana, raspberries, cinnamon, cacoa powder. You can cook with milk, but try the apple juice version, it is delicious.

Granola – Shop bought cereals (even the healthy ones) contain a lot of sugar. I make me own. It is soooo easy. Put 500g or 1kg jumbo oats in a large mixing bowl, add one tablespoons at a time of olive or rapeseed oil (any oil works) and mix really well. Add enough oil until they are all lightly covered. If you want to be super healthy you don’t have to use oil at all! Add golden syrup or Demerara sugar, you can add as little as you want. I use about two tablespoon. 20g which means that in 1kg it is 2% sugar (Dorset cereal is 14%). Mix really well. I add 250g chopped mixed nuts, 150g pumpkin and same sesame seeds. The spread out of a flat baking tray. The thinner the better so split across two trays if it helps. Put in an oven set at 180c and leave 10 mins, check and mix around. Idea is to toast the oats, so watch for them turning brown. Make sure they don’t burn. So keep checking and mixing until done.  Store in a an airtight jar or tub, it keeps as long as it lasts. Eat it with fruit compote, yogurt, milk, or just nibble as a snack.

Oat smoothie – A perfect super quick breakfast or snack. In a blender, add a large handful of raw oats,  a banana, then any fruit you want ( mango, apple, berries etc), add any extras, milled flaxseed, cinnamon, ginger etc. Add enough oat milk or 50/50 water and apple juice, to cover plus about 1 inch. It depends how thick you like it. Blend until smooth. Drink and feel smug all day!