In the interests of full transparency, I'd love to be a vegan. But my husband has made it very clear that if I took that plunge, I'd also end up as a single mother of three. Because - for him - a life without meat, fish, eggs or dairy would simply be too much of a sacrifice.
Alas, I think I may have found a loophole. Because as he peered over my shoulder while I glanced at an advance copy of Ellie Bullen’s The Global Vegan, I lost count of the number of “yum!” and “wow, let’s make that!” remarks I heard. And frankly, I couldn’t blame him, because Ellie does vegan like no other. With her delicious recipes and incredible creativity, veganism looks less like deprivation, and more like a party we’re desperate to be invited to.
We spoke to Ellie to find out why veganism is having a moment, how we can ensure a balanced diet when we cut out animal products, and of course, we couldn’t let her go without a few incredible recipes (stay tuned for our next post for some mouth watering options) …
The Global Vegan is by Ellie Bullen, Published by Plum, RRP $34.99. Photography by Ellie Bullen.
Tell us about your new book The Global Vegan…
My recently published cookbook ‘The Global Vegan’, is a collection of simple and delicious recipes inspired by my travels around the world to over 20 countries such as Indonesia, India, Korea and Japan. There are vibrant smoothie bowls, vegan fried eggs, salt and pepper ‘calamari’, tom kha gai soup, rendang burgers, jackfruit tacos and chai-spiced cookies or Portuguese custard tarts – perfect to have with an afternoon cuppa. There are also healthy, plant-based versions of well-known favourites, such as Pad Thai, Fish and Chips and Spicy Ramen Soup. I am a qualified dietitian, hence this book explains everything you need to know about adopting a plant-based diet, including how to get enough iron and achieve the right balance of carbs, proteins and good fats. Plus extraordinary travel photography scattered throughout, The Global Vegan is an explosion of colour and flavour, and is imbued with my unique sense of adventure and love of plants. It is the perfect book for anyone who wants to cook simple, healthy and flavour-packed vegan food.
How do you define a plant-based diet?
To me, a plant based diet is comprised primarily of whole food plant based foods, such as: fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. It may also be used as another way to describe a ‘vegan diet’, used rather than the term ‘vegan’ since this term usually refers to someone who follows a vegan lifestyle, not just diet. There is a certain stigma around the word vegan, and a vegan diet isn’t always necessarily healthy. You could live on a vegan diet of Oreos and fake ‘chicken’ nuggets, hence I tend to use the term ‘plant based’ to describe my diet.
What’s the biggest misconception when it comes to plant-based/vegetarian/vegan diets?
I think the biggest misconception is that it’s boring and just comprises of salads, or as some may call it ‘grass’. That also goes hand in hand with the misconception that it is devoid of protein.
However these diets can be so exciting and totally nutritionally balanced! A simple flick through my new book and you’ll find burgers, tacos, toasties, vegan eggs, pancakes, curries, and more!
On the protein comment, I believe our society’s belief about needing a certain amount of protein comes from the fitness industry pushing all these protein shakes, amino acids and other supplements at us. In fact, a protein deficiency is rare, and usually seen in places of poverty. Protein can be found in abundance in legumes such as chickpeas, black beans and tofu, grains such as brown rice and quinoa, nuts and seeds such as hemp seeds, and in smaller amounts in vegetables.
What are the advantages of eliminating meat completely?
Well, there are four main benefits:
- Saving money – a piece of good quality meat may cost you up to $15 per steak, and a can of chickpeas will cost you $1.
- Health benefits – we now know that red meat is a group 2A carcinogen, and processed meat a group 1, which means it increases your risk of developing cancer, particularly bowel cancer. On the contrary, plant foods are high in fibre which has the opposite effect, keeping bowel movements regular.
- Environmental benefits – with the current state of climate crisis, eliminating meat could be a really simple way to contribute. The production of plant based foods is more efficient than meat. It requires less resources such as energy (from fossil fuels), land and water. Just look at the drought-affected farms in Australia and the huge costs of keeping their livestock alive without water.
- Ethical food source – one of the biggest reasons people choose to go vegan is because of the animal suffering caused by our consumption of animals and their products.
What are the biggest nutritional challenges to a vegan diet?
I think it’s definitely the iron and B12 nutrients that are the most at risk. I’ve written a detailed blog post on both nutrients as they are both very important. It may be possible to get enough iron from plant foods if those iron-rich foods are consumed daily and in large quantities, however vitamin B12 can only be found in foods fortified with the vitamin. I recommend both nutrients be checked, both are completely safe to supplement.
Do you recommend any kind of regular or periodic testing of nutrient levels?
I’d recommend a full blood test every 3-6 months to check all nutrients, definitely looking at iron studies and B12. I think this is actually important for all young/menstruating women as there can be many different causes of a deficiency.
What vegan snacks do you love?
I actually really love going to health food stores in new countries to check out the vegan snack options.
Over here in Australia my absolute favourite is Cobs sea salt popcorn. If I am having a treat it’s a vegan choc chip cookie, homemade is best, but if I don’t have any prepared I will buy the ones by Leda. If it’s chocolate that I am craving, I will grab a mini-vego bar (don’t be fooled, the mini size is still chunky and really satisfying), or a Loco Love choccie, made locally in Byron Bay.