Marmite on toast - buying from companies with unethical parent companies

I am a label reader; when I’m in the shower, in the bath, waiting for something to cook, I’ll be reading the labels on whatever I’m using at the time. A few weeks back, I was reading the label on the back of my beloved Marmite, when I noticed they are owned by Unilever.

According to their website, Unilever own 255 brands globally across the food and drink, home care, and personal care sectors. Some of these brands include: Ben & Jerry’s (who are bringing vegan ice cream to the UK ‘soon’), Marmite, Simple, Dove, Lynx, Vaseline and a whole boat load of brands you might use / eat every day. I don’t buy any hygiene or cosmetic products sold by Unilever because I disagree with animal testing, but seeing ‘Unilever’ on the back of a jar of Marmite stopped me in my tracks.

How do I feel about buying food a company whose parent company test on animals, or I consider to be unethical?

Surprisingly, animal testing is not just limited to cosmetics and cleaning products. I would never associate food products with animal testing (perhaps that is naive on my part) but while I was doing some research for this blog post I discovered that some food products are not cruelty free. In 2013, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) called out Unilever, Nestle, Yakult and Danone for testing food products on animals to allow them to promote health claims.

That absolutely baffled me. Why? Why is that even necessary?

Let’s take a look at the Ben & Jerry’s example too. I love that they have created vegan ice cream and are planning to bring it over to the UK; I want to support companies who are making being vegan easier, because hell knows I find it very hard. I also really want a vegan version of Phish food.

If I choose not to support companies who test cosmetics on animals, doesn’t that mean I should boycott food brands which are tested on animals? Doesn’t it mean it should boycott food brands which might be cruelty free themselves, but are owned by a company who test other food brands or hygiene brands on animals?

On the other hand, I could support cruelty free and vegan companies for doing good, fighting animal testing, and creating tasty vegan food. Some people choose to do this with cosmetics brands, let’s take Urban Decay as an example. Urban Decay are cruelty free but they are owned by L’Oreal who do test on animals. The argument is that it’s good to support companies like Urban Decay because they are cruelty free and maybe, eventually, in some kinda movie-like way, L’Oreal will go “wow, a lot of people support these cruelty free brands we own, so maybe we should quit being dicks to animals.” That would be amazing, but it doesn’t quite sit well with me. I hate the idea that my money might indirectly end up supporting animal testing or supporting companies with unethical practices.

To counter that again, if you try to avoid food, hygiene, or cleaning products with unethical parent companies your weekly shop is about to get a lot harder, involve ordering from goodness knows how many websites and probably more expensive.

I am between a rock and a hard place with this one and would love to hear your thoughts about buying from companies with unethical parent companies.

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One of the funny things about choosing a ‘restrictive’ diet, rather than having to due to health reasons, is that everyone is always trying to catch you out.

Anyone who has chosen to be vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free, etc, will know exactly what I mean. Because you’ve made a decision to do something due to moral reasons, everyone wants to call you out. And maybe that’s their prerogative.

I am a bad vegan. A very bad vegan. I admit it. In fact, it’s probably a stretch for me to call myself vegan at this point. But I’m trying.

There are some things that were so easy for me to give up;

  • Milk; it grosses me out, a lot. The thought of it makes me want to gag.
  • Cream; see above.
  • Eggs; they also gross me out. Easy.
  • Leather; never liked it, not even a problem.
  • Meat; can’t stand it.
  • Non-cruelty free cosmetics; I don’t want something to suffer for the sake of lipstick.

But there is one thing, that I find a lot harder to give up; cheese. It’s a very poor excuse, but I love the taste of a nice strong cheese. I know. I wish I could find a vegan alternative that melted just like real cheese.

And then there’s the whole trying to eat out. I know that in some cities (like San Francisco) eating vegan is a piece of delicious pie, but I don’t live in a city. I live in an area where an eatery’s idea of vegetarian is…*drumroll please*…can you guess it? TOMATO PASTA! *Groans* So many places like to be adventurous with their dishes, until it comes to vegetarian or vegan or gluten free, and then they panic.

I digress. Eating out is hard, but there are a few chain restaurants now where I can eat vegan, like Nando’s or The Handmade Burger Company.

And then there’s dessert. I bloody love dessert. It’s my favourite part of a meal. And my boyfriend is a pastry chef; which means I get a lot of dessert. Do you think any of that is vegan? No. No it is not.

Sure, I could not eat it, but you try one of his peanut butter chocolate fondants and tell me it’s not amazing.

Yes, I am a bad vegan. But I am trying.

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Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes

That’s it! My 30-day vegan challenge is over, but don’t you dare go thinking that I’m going to go back to my old diet.

When I began this challenge, I would say that my diet was about 50% vegan to start with, but I was daunted about what it might mean to try to be as vegan as possible for a month. To my surprise, it wasn’t hard at all.

Changing your diet is really about changing habit, so eating vegan at home is easy as pie so long as you plan your meals and snacks to make sure you have what you need in the house. As I mentioned in my previous weekly updates, eating out is where it’s difficult to eat entirely vegan.

Some restaurants / cafes / eateries are really easy to eat vegan at, a couple of examples I’ve experienced are:

  • Costa Coffee – their soy lattes and fruit crumbles are delicious
  • Handmade Burger Company – they have a good selection of vegan main courses, and their rosemary salt chips are out of this world

However, some places make it impossible for me to eat vegan because they either have no option, or one option, which usually seems to be salad, which I hate.

All in all, I’ve found it easy. I will be doing a post over the next week or two about what I’ve learned from being vegan for 30 days. In short though:

  • I’ve discovered new food and I actually feel inspired by food, which is something I’ve struggled with for a long time
  • I’m taking an interest in what’s in my food and feel I’m eating a more balanced diet for it
  • I feel more energetic, and I think that’s a result of eating a more balanced diet
  • I’m cooking meals, instead of just dessert
  • My Mum and I are having a lot of fun talking about food and cooking together

I’m glad I took this challenge because it finally gave me the push to kick the cheese to the curb. Aside from one meal out, I’ve not eaten cheese for a month – something I considered unthinkable before, and I haven’t even missed or craved it.

I definitely will not be returning to my old diet and I’m looking forward to discovering so many more tasty vegan recipes.

In keeping with the other updates I’ve done for this so far, here are a couple of recipes I’ve really enjoyed this week:

  • Peanut butter and jam cupcakes – these went down a real hit with everyone
  • Spicey falafel and roasted veg naan-wich – after seeing this pin, we decided we had to try it. We used the falafel recipe from Mayim Bialik’s Vegan Table, made our own avocado sauce, and it’s not hard to roast your own veg

If you’ve got any questions about becoming vegan, or need some tips, let me know because I want to put a blog post together helping people switch to a vegan diet.

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Vegan millionaire shortbread

With three weeks under my belt, I’m beginning to feel like a little bit of a pro at this vegan thing.

I’m really enjoying cooking and spending time searching for tasty recipes – and not just for pudding either, I’ve been hunting down and cooking actual, nourishing meals, which is impressive for me.

The only time I’ve not been able to eat vegan during week three was, yet again, when I went out. I almost managed an entirely vegan meal at one of my favourite diners – I asked for nothing on the veggie burger but guacamole, but they put melted cheese on too…Maybe I should have sent it back, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered for the sake of a slice of cheese. Perhaps that makes me a ‘bad vegan’, but the place was rammed, it was probably an honest mistake, and I was hungry.

The second time, I went out to a little dessert restaurant in the city my university is in and there was nothing vegan on that menu that I could see. To be honest, I was disappointed because they have a huge range – pretty much any dessert you can think of – so I was a little gutted to see that there wasn’t a dairy free section. Especially when it’s easy to make dairy free desserts.

On top of that, my best friend’s Mum had a party and there was nothing vegan and to be honest, I don’t expect friends to go out of their way to do things especially for me. Though, saying that, if I had an allergy would I expect something allergen-free? Food for thought.

Eating out aside, everything I ate during week three was vegan. I’ve discovered that Aldi’s Oaties are vegan, which is good on one hand, not so good for my goal of eating less biscuits. Another surprising vegan discovery is Kellog’s Star Wars cereal.

Two of my favourite recipes in week three were:

I can’t believe how fast these 30 days are going, this time next week the challenge will be over with. To be honest, I have no intention of going back to my previous diet – I’ve found a vegan diet much easier than I expected and I feel much better in myself (though a part of that is because I am eating healthier).

What tasty things have you eaten this week?

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I have now completed my second week without eating cheese!

I don’t feel like there’s a huge amount to say in addition to last week’s update because I haven’t found it hard. Well, I tell a lie; I went out for a meal on Monday and there was no choice but to eat a non-vegan meal. There were no vegan meals on the menu. I had a veggie burger which, for some reason, had cheese in it. I have no idea why because it’s not necessary and I couldn’t even taste it – so that was a bit annoying.

When I started this challenge, I knew that eating out would be the hardest part because so few places near me are vegan-friendly.

In other news, I read that Ben & Jerry’s are releasing a vegan range which makes me so happy. It’s nice to see a big, international brand acknowledge vegan diets or people who are lactose intolerant. I’m not sure if / when it will be available in the UK, but I hope they bring it over here.

I’m continuing to feel better in myself and am enjoying cooking, and experimenting with new things. Here are a couple of recipes I’ve enjoyed this last week:

What recipes have you been enjoying recently?

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Last week, I decided to take the 30-day vegan challenge and I’m pleased to say that the first week has been really fun.

I originally planned to do a bit of a food diary but I completely forgot, so instead I’ll give you a little overview of how the first week has been.

My biggest weakness is cheese, but to my amazement I haven’t craved it or felt like I was missing out. I’m so impressed with this because I definitely ate way too much cheese before.

In general, I haven’t found a vegan diet to be very restrictive. The only time it has felt a little restrictive is when I went to Costa Coffee to meet my friend – I didn’t spot a vegan option. I tweeted Costa though, and apparently their fruity crumble is vegan, so I’ll keep an eye out for that next time I go – I’m hoping I just missed it. 

There are a couple of things I’ve eaten during the past week that have become absolute favourites for me and I cannot get enough of them:

  • Peanut noodles
  • Thai pasta from Mayam Bialik’s Vegan Table
  • Bliss balls – I started out with Kayla Itsines recipe, but ended up just doing my own thing, throwing in desiccated coconut and more cocoa powder

So far, so good and I’m looking forward to another week of discovering new, delicious meals.

 

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Gingerbread Hogwarts

Gingerbread Hogwarts

A few weeks ago, Tom tasked me with creating a gingerbread Hogwarts. We roped our friends in and ended up with a slightly (ok, very) weird gingerbread Hogwarts.

It’s fair to say we had delusions of grandeur because it was so much harder than expected, and we had to scale down quite a bit. Nevertheless, it was so much fun and we all laughed so hard.

Making gingerbread

Building a gingerbread house

Tom turned out to be some kind of gingerbread castle building wizard. He drew up some brilliant plans, and the rest of us made the dough and cut it out. Well, I say the ‘rest of us’, one of my friends is an excellent ‘supervisor’.

Getting the castle to stick together was pretty hard. None of us had ever built any kind of gingerbread structure, so we went into it thinking it would be easy. We were wrong. Getting the icing consistency right was hard enough. And in hindsight, we probably should have tried to level the pieces before sticking them together, but you live and learn, right?

Gingerbread Hogwarts

In the end, we ended up with a couple of braces. My friends Dad works in engineering and he just laughed as soon as he saw it. He also questioned if one of the braces was a lean to, so we tried to disguise it as a broom shed.

By far the hardest part was trying to figure out how to make the towers for the turrets. In the end, we stacked a few ice cream cones together, and covered them in gingerbread.

Gingerbread Hogwarts

Gingerbread Hogwarts

Once we’d managed to get the castle to stick together without dropping apart as soon as someone breathed near it, we began to decorate it. And that’s when things got ridiculous. I should have seen it coming, I should have known.

Gingerbread Hogwarts

The Supervisor got very carried away with the icing and silver balls. (Just look at the snowmen…or maybe not.) The rest of us are mega Harry Potter fans, so we asked what he was doing covering all of the ‘roof tiles’ with silver balls. He claimed they were solar panels.

Gingerbread Hogwarts

It took us 8 hours in total, and we all laughed so much it hurt. We’ve decided that in 2016, we’re going to attempt to make a Hobbit House. The Supervisor can handle the grass, I don’t think it’s possible to go overboard with grass on a Hobbit House.

Have you ever made any kind of gingerbread construction?

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