VegFest London 2014

P1040599At the end of September a friend and I went to VegFest in London (with the babies!) It was busier than I expected, which was difficult with the babies, but I am not suprised because the event had a lot to offer. Whether you are interested in vegetarianism, veganism, you are dairy-free or just interested in healthier eating or greener living, it was a great place for information, tasters and discussions. In fact the less you know about veganism the more you will gain from the event! I will definitely go again next year, when I can hopefully leave Poppy behind! Because there were so many talks, demonstrations and workshops we would have loved to stay for, but the babies were getting restless. We managed to pick up loads of leaflets though, all reaffirming my reasons for going (mostly) vegan and motivating me to try harder! As for the dairy debate, all I can say is that I am so glad we no longer consume that junk, and I can’t believe how brain washed people are into believing it is good for them! I will put some links at the end of this post if you want to educate yourself further on this matter.
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For those of you who haven’t got a clue what vegan’s eat then take a look at the photo’s below and know that it is not just slop or lettuce leaves! Granted, the doughnuts are not going to be the healthiest choice, but my point is that you don’t HAVE to be health obsessed to make positive changes to your diet, and you can still have a treat when the mood strikes. On the other hand, healthy choices can be delicious too! We had a wrap filled with all sorts of healthy goodies for lunch. I was completely stuffed and yet could probably have devoured another it was beyond delicious. The choice of food was amazing, from chocolate to cheesecake, burgers to burritos. If you think veganism is restrictive, think again!
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There were also stalls with beauty products, clothing, petitions and more. The children’s area looked like good fun with cooking classes and other activities, and there was a cinema area that was showing informative films. And it wasn’t limited to vegetables! There were also discussions on raw food diets, lots of information about healthy and not so healthy fats, sugar, juicing and even green products such as cloth maternity pads! Overall it was well organised, despite the queue to get in and the broken lift fiasco, and I would have loved to have spent more time there. However, I don’t think I would want to take kids again as it was too busy to focus on everything and them! For the price of the tickets it was well worth a trip, although be warned, you could easily spend a fortune on all the tempting stalls.
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Some of the posters and flyers were eye-opening. I initially chose to cut down on meat for health reasons but I can’t deny that the facts on farming make me feel pretty sick and they do make me think twice if I ever get a meaty craving. It is too easy for us to detach ourselves from the reality, when we buy our meat all neatly packaged up in the supermarket with pictures of happy animals on the front. We are allowing outrageous torture to animals and damaging our environment at the same time. If you do eat meat, at least know exactly where it comes from and how the animals are treated. But even organic doesn’t always mean cruelty free due to the very fact that farming is a business and therefore certain procedures have to take place in order to meet demand, and don’t be fooled by the words ‘free-range’ either.
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There is loads of information out there on the health benefits of vegetarianism, veganism and going dairy-free AND it is better for the environment. It makes me laugh when people think that vegan’s don’t get enough nutrients. Sure, there will be unhealthy vegan’s out there, but if you are following a plant based diet with plenty of variety, some raw foods, good fats and natural sources of protein…you are bound to be getting exactly what you need. People often wonder if Poppy will be bought up as a vegan, as if they are worried that she won’t grow properly or have lifelong problems because I am so irresponsible I am depriving her of protein! But I am not worried in the slightest because I know that everything she needs is available in the fresh, wholesome foods we eat. Most of the information we are given about dietary requirements are inaccurate and even worrying. The popular eat well plate for example has a small section suggesting that we need some foods high in sugar and fats (with photo’s of fizzy drinks and biscuits). No one in the world NEEDS these sorts of processed foods, ESPECIALLY not a baby! Of course you can enjoy them in moderation if you choose, but this information is given out in schools which I find irresponsible and misleading for parents who don’t know any better. I have taken Poppy’s health into my own hands so that I can be absolutely sure she only gets the best.
P1040537 They weren’t as energetic on the journey home!

For more info take a look at the following links:

http://www.viva.org.uk
http://www.milkmyths.org.uk
http://www.vegansociety.com/try-vegan/why-go-vegan
http://www.grownathomewithlove.wordpress.com/tag/food-intolerances/
http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/cows/dairy-industry/
http://www.vegsoc.org/
http://www.govegan.org.uk/
http://www.london.vegfest.co.uk/

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Holy cow!

If I were to offer you some of my breast milk what would you say? I mean I would put it in a glass first. Or I could mix it with some fruit and whack it in the freezer to make some ice cream? Still a no? And yet no one seems to bat an eyelid at the fact that we consume the equivalent from a cow on a daily basis! Dairy is not designed for humans and the more I read, the more convinced I am that we shouldn’t be consuming it on such a large scale. 

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Since eliminating dairy from my diet over 5 months ago I have noticed a lot of positive changes. The biggest of these is the improvement, in fact complete eradication, of my chronic eczema on my hands, as well as much clearer skin on my face. I only really appreciated this when I tried reintroducing dairy for one day over three weeks ago; my hands are still healing as a result. I had dry cracked skin, open wounds that would not heal and tiny blister type things all over my right hand. I also broke out in spots. On top of that after consuming dairy I noticed stomach cramps and a severe headache, as well as feeling very lethargic. Having read up on the subject it seems I am not alone, and worse still dairy may increase your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other ailments.

Interestingly Poppy didn’t seem to react in the same way she used to, (crying in pain, struggling to pass stools and breaking out in severe nappy rash were a few symptoms) which was initially a relief, but I still believe that dairy will probably do more harm than good to us both if I do decide to reintroduce it permanently. Unsurprisingly our bodies struggle to break down the milk that is designed for the baby of a different species, a species that has a different digestive system, diet and nutritional needs to us. Cow’s milk contains way over double the amount of protein than human milk. If we look at the two proteins found in milk, casein and whey proteins, we see that cow’s milk contains a vast amount more casein than human milk, and a lower ratio of whey proteins. Casein is difficult to digest, it is even used to make glue, and it is linked with a range of diseases and allergies, including type 1 diabetes. Excess protein causes changes in a babies blood PH balance, weakening their immune systems and making them more prone to infections. It is clear too see why we are advised not to give infants cows milk. Cows secrete rennin which breaks down casein, but most adult humans do not, which helps to explain why many adults also suffer digestive problems due to dairy.

Let’s move on to lactose. Around 75% of the worlds population is lactose intolerant, which to me says a lot about the suitability of dairy for human consumption. Yes there is lactose in breast milk (so be careful if you are told that your baby is lactose intolerant, it is more likely the proteins causing problems), but most of us stop producing the enzyme that breaks down lactose at around 5 years old, suggesting that we should no longer be including lactose in our diets.

milkYou may still feel that dairy is perfectly good for you but then perhaps more worrying is the way in which cow’s milk is now mass produced. Like most types of non-organic farming you can bet your bottom dollar that these animals are not having the happiest of lives. Once you get past the disgusting living conditions that many of the animals are subject to, you are then faced with the reality of exactly how these animals continue to produce milk month after month after month. Well first of all they have to continue to be pregnant, and so are pumped full of hormones and artificially inseminated. They spend most of their lives pregnant, which you will know if you have ever been pregnant yourself, is going to put a massive strain on their bodies. They become exhausted from the weight and producing ridiculous amounts of milk which makes their udders unnaturally heavy, putting pressure on their legs. To counteract the problems that are obviously going to arise from this process, the cows are then pumped full of antibiotics to treat a long list of inevitable infections including mastitis. In the end the cows are rendered useless and killed at about 4 or 5 years old, many years before their natural lifespan. Cows today can give 25 times more milk per year than they did 50 years ago. This is achieved with drugs, hormones, antibiotics, forced feeding plans and specialized breeding. Would you be happy taking drugs, antibiotics and hormones regularly whilst breastfeeding your baby? Probably not, but we are consuming another mammals milk which potentially contains plenty of them.

Of course I’m not saying it easy to cut out dairy completely. I spent at least a month feeling very sorry for myself indeed. I was overwhelmed by food labels and going out to eat anywhere was a no no. But gradually I got used to it, I purchased a great recipe book, and found lots of dairy free versions or alternatives to our regular shopping basket items. I will write a post about these soon. The most common concern when eliminating dairy is where you will get your calcium from. Contrary to popular belief the calcium in cows milk is much less easily absorbed than calcium in other foods, and some people even believe dairy increases the likelihood of osteoporosis. I haven’t felt the need to supplement my calcium intake in any way; my healthy, balanced diet already contains plenty of easily absorbed calcium.

I admit I miss chocolate and cheese, I used to eat so much cheese! And no doubt when we are in Italy later this year I will indulge, but aside from the odd holiday I can see this being a permanent lifestyle change which I feel very positive about. I have enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen, I feel healthier and happier than ever before and am slimmer than ever before despite eating like a horse. A couple of my dairy free treats can be found here and here. I am curious to see if my hay fever is reduced this year on my diary free diet.

For more information I found this very interesting, but a bit of a long read, or look here for simple facts.

A note for breastfeeding mummies: The proteins in dairy do go into your breast milk, despite what your doctor may tell you, just like alcohol and other substances do (of course your doctor and health visitor may warn you about consuming too much alcohol, but dairy, no way, must be colic!) If you suspect that your baby has intolerances then trust your instinct and do your research, it is well worth the effort. Also, a lot of babies with this intolerance are also intolerant to soy which we soon discovered was the case with Poppy. This is called Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). 

Credits image (top right): Jelle (CC) Credits image (bottom left): saltaylorkydd (CC)