My Favourite Vegan YouTube Channels

As many of you know I was a vegetarian for 1 year then vegan for 15 years (1995-2010), but with my midlife crisis I fell off the wagon for a few years and then got back on this spring. When I returned to my vegan waysI felt like lots had changed between when I stopped being vegan, the few years I ate eggs and dairy (2010-2013) and then when I also ate land and marine animals (2013-2016). To refresh myself I decided to look to some of my old favourite sources of information (Physicians Committee For Responsible MedicineVegetarian Resource Group and VegNews) AND the latest additions to the vegan info scene. This is where YouTube came in.

There are so many people chatting about vegan eating and vegan lifestyle choices on YouTube. Some are just broohaha clickbait drama (oh, dramatic and competitive YouTubers, you bore me), but there are others that are informative, positive, friendly AND entertaining.

Here are my top 3 favourite vegan YouTubers.

Lauren Toyota – websiteYouTube

Also Hot For Food (recipes she makes with her boyfriend John)

Lauren’s videos are so nicely shot and edited, but what really shines through is her authenticity. Her What I Eat In A Day videos are not at all like the uber pristine ones so common on YouTube. She keeps it real, as the kids say (OK, the kids of the 1990s). She’s also a little woo. Her ideas about life, the universe and how to make your dreams a reality – I dig it, as the kids say (OK, the kids in the 1960s). Anyway, I like her and think we would get along and be friends. This means she is a REALLY good at her job as a YouTuber.

Georgie and Darren – Vegan Fitness TV – YouTube

Their videos bring much value to my life. Their fat loss series is very informative and helped me devise a plan for myself. I keep watching because their daily videos are so positive and informative. They help me stay on plan. Motivation strategies are a must for me when it comes to eating well and exercising. I’m an introvert and I can easily just stay inside and hibernate – cocoon – tune out.

I’m a Patreon supporter of their work.

Hayley – Sea and Silva – YouTube

Hayley brings an interesting life experience to the topics of veganism, atheism, minimalism and living on less. Her transparency about her finances and lifestyle choices are both very inspiring. Same thing with her journey as a YouTuber. She just moved states and I’m interested to learn how the transition goes and what new adventures come her way.

I’m a Patreon supporter of her work.

 

BONUS: If you are nutrition geek like me you need to check out Dr. Michael Greger at Nutrition Facts. He reads EVERY published research study on nutrition every year and then makes these short, informative videos. All proceeds from his books, DVDs, and speaking go to charity.

Protein Chia Seed Pudding

I adore Protein Chia Seed Pudding. I think one reason is because I’ve always enjoyed tapioca pudding. As a kid I liked the texture and the creaminess. When I have tapioca pudding today (usually the vegan coconut version at Chu Chai – a fantastic veg Thai restaurant in Montreal) it reminds me of the comforts of childhood.  Rich, creamy desserts are a powerful thing. Now I’ve discovered that Protein Chia Seed Pudding is my adult version of this. Bonus – it’s much healthier than the original dessert version.

I found this recipe from Georgie of Vegan Fitness TV (my favourite fitness YouTube channel). She and her partner Darren offer a free e-cookbook at their site. It features a similar recipe (plus many more) and a 7 day 3 meals a day eating plan.

Here are step by step photos of me making a simple version of Protein Chia Seed Pudding.

2016-09-02 09.27.42

Combine 1/4 cup of chia seeds with 1 cup of unsweetened soymilk. I used a fork to mix it up to avoid lumps.

Let the chia seeds plump up for 30 minutes or more depending on how thick you want it that day.

2016-09-02 09.30.26

Stir in 2 scoops of protein powder. I used Arbonne Vanilla Protein Powder.

2016-09-02 09.29.16

Top with 1 cup of frozen berries.

You can use fresh ones but this summer has been a lean year for berries in my area so I’ve been using frozen.

The frozen version adds a cooling and crunchy touch to the pudding that I quite like.

2016-09-02 09.33.45

Enjoy!

Hintonburg

I spent this afternoon walking through Hintonburg. It’s a neighbourhood in Ottawa that I’ve heard lots of good things about. It’s my understanding that the neighbourhood is under going gentrification which on one hand means higher rents and displacement of long time residents (something I know well having lived and worked in St Henri in Montreal), but on the other hand it means young entrepreneurs opening interesting shops and restaurants that offer local and sustainable fare.

I certainly don’t have the answers on how to address these types of controversial community transitions – especially in a city that is new to me, but I don’t want to ignore small businesses trying their best to offer Canadian made products and support local artisans while I figure it out. So today with a sense of curiosity and an open mind I went for a walk through the neighbourhood and dropped in the shops that caught my eye.

I started my walk at Bayview Station and made my way to Wellington Street West. It was quite a hot afternoon. I wore this outfit.

Obviously no wig! Though even without it I must say I was overdressed for the heat. I should have worn short sleeves and brought my fan. Usually it is cool in late August. Not this summer!

First stop was Maker House. This shop features handcrafted furniture and homewares from over 90 local artisans. Lots of wood items to be found in this space. All quite charming. The space is shared with Brew Donkey which offers tours to 18 local craft breweries in Ottawa. I don’t drink so this is not for me, but it does sound like a lot of fun for those who enjoy a pint!

A video posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

Then I got a smoothie and a salad at Simply Raw Express. I had the smoothie right away and saved the salad for supper.

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

I popped into the clothing shop Muriel Dombret. I LOVE the designs and that the collection is designed and sewed in house. I have my eye on the linen trousers to replace my cheaply made and paid for Joe Fresh ones. I really want to make the move from fast fashion to more sustainable high quality local clothing.

Afterwards, I popped over to the thrift store run by Society of St Vincent de Paul. I am on the look out for a blouse like this one for my fall/winter capsule wardrobe. I want to get it at a thrift store, but unfortunately, I did not find anything here this time. I will keep trying.

Next, I went to Flock. I’ve shopped here before when I used to visit Ottawa. I quite like the Canadian made collections they carry. I was super interested in a shirt dress by designer Allison Wonderla – or maybe in this fabric. I think it is something I could wear as is, with jeans, leggings, trousers or a skirt. I could also layer my fancy long underwear underneath it as well as wear a sweater on top. Hopefully they will still have it next week when I can buy it. It’s pricey but when you have a Ten Item Wardrobe like I do investment pieces make a lot of sense and cents. Ha ha ha. ;-)

At this point I was hungry again so I went to Strawberry Blonde Bakery. This isn’t true. I wasn’t actually hungry but I did go. It was because I happened upon a sign that directed me down a side street to this awesome little shop of vegan delights!

A video posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

My last stop was Rikochet Resale which is a consignment store. I left two leather handbags I no longer wanted and they sold so I had a credit. I used it to buy a pair of boots from Vegetarian Shoes. How lucky was I that they had an awesome pair on non-leather boots in my size. So lucky!

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

By then I was well on Richmond Road so I headed to Westboro Station and the Transitway to take a bus home.

PS I will try over the next few months to explore other neighbourhoods. I will also actually take photos of them. This was a bit of an unpredictable day and I’m using a very busted iPhone as a camera so I’m not in the best position to be a photojournalist. ;-)

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

How Not To Die – Video

As many of you know I am a bit of a nutrition information junkie and I really enjoy the work of Dr. Michael Greger. He claims to have read every nutritional research journal of the year (now that is a nutrition info junkie – wink), He examines the research and synthesizes it for the average person interested in how food affects health, quality of life and longevity. He also brings a critical eye to how research actually doesn’t translate to improvements to the food industry. As someone who wants to live a healthy AND a simpler, more frugal life his work has been a very useful resource.

Most of the things that make us healthy and keep us healthy are cheap and largely available without professional help or commercial prodding. – Michael Greber, M.D.

Here is a great (longer) video on his examination of the leading causes of death in North America. Super interesting and also told with a fair bit of humour.

I Fell Off The Wagon – Vegan Edition

On January 1st 2012, after not eating meat (no fish, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, goat, turkey, etc…) for nineteen years (fifteen of which I was vegan – no eggs, dairy or honey) I had a Big Mac. A cold Big Mac because I was too ashamed to eat it in the restaurant. I brought it home by taxi and ate it all by my lonesome. A true reflection of how disconnected I was from my self, my soul. That night I felt such shame which then turned into numbness. Cognitive dissonance kicked in, separating me from the consequences of my actions – the animal, environmental and human suffering associated with our culture’s (anti) nourishment status quo. This disconnect stuck around for four years.

For four years every time I ate meat my mind would block out compassionate thoughts and replace them with rationalizations for why I should eat this dead animal (nineteen years – I had done my part, if it’s organic it must be humane, why must *I* be the change you want to see in the world?).

I still feel some shame about this experience, but in retrospect I see it for what it was –  a sad yet fascinating experience that taught me a lot about how we humans can talk ourselves into doing something that goes against our core (yet not socially supported) values. Sad and fascinating, but mostly sad.

But Why?

I think the main reason I went back to eating animals was my poor mental health and my alcoholism. Through therapy, mindfulness mediation and spiritual practices I was exploring new healthy ways of coping with difficult emotions (like fear, anxiety and anger), but I was still very early on in this process. I was weak and tired. I wasn’t sure of who I was and what I believed in. My marriage, my stigmatized work, my divorce – they all did a number on me.

Eating eggs, cheese and then later animals became a bit of an obsessive thought. I think this was because there was so much focus for so long on my weaknesses, flaws and failures. Post-divorce I rebelled. I was tired of being good and subservient. I was tired of always being wrong. I was just plain tired.

I see now it was a destructive attempt at self-discovery. Had I not hit my bottom… well, let’s not go there.

Thankfully, I came out the other side knowing what was important to me, how I wanted to live my life and

How Did I Get Back to My Values and Living According to Them?

Quick answer – by developing a mindfulness practice AND getting very specific on how I wanted to feel.

Learning to be comfortable with discomfort was a key to my healing and my journey back to veganism. I had all kinds of very unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with emotional pain. I had to develop a higher tolerance AND discover new ways of dealing with my suffering. I’ve written about this process here and here.

I discovered and how to my Cored Desired Feelings (CDFs) via The Desire Map and thought about them on a daily basis. I examined my choices, big and small and made sure that I was acting in a way that served my CDFs. Learn more about The Desire Map process here.

I realized that I felt FULL when I practiced self-care in the form of healthy habits (mindfulness mediation, higher quality sleep, staying sober). I nurtured myself in kind and compassionate ways – kind to me and my health, to animals, to the planet, and those in the farming industry.

I remembered how I began eating vegan the first time.

I figured out my triggers and avoided them (McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds).

I took it one day at a time and didn’t demand perfection of myself.

I informed myself of animal suffering, the environmental impact to raising animals for food, and the health benefits to a plant based whole foods diet.

I focused on delicious, nourishing and energizing vegan meals.

However, there was a lot of start and stop, a lot of two steps forward and one step back. For about a year I managed and waitressed at a restaurant – a deli.  Staying vegan or even vegetarian while working there was a challenge. I would eat consistently vegan for a couple of weeks then slip. Also I found myself often at McDonalds if I was on my own or travelling (wtf is it about McDonalds? so freaking addictive). I didn’t beat myself about all of this as I knew that would make the situation worse. I was doing the best I could but I knew I could do better.

Turning Point

When I moved to Ottawa this past spring I thought the change in environment would inspire me to stick to a strict plant based diet. However, I struggled with it the first few weeks. I had a new job. I had a horrible sinus infection. I was spending a lot of time with my sister and her young family. She was used to me making some sort of declaration about my diet and then not sticking to it. I didn’t want to do that again so a very personal and family of origin fear came into play. Plus, I didn’t want to burden her with my diet. She has so much to deal with. So I ate what they ate. However, as we spent more time together we developed a new connection based on who we are now and not who were used to be five, ten and fifteen years ago. This gave me the confidence to bring my own meals over or to turn things down at her place. I eased into vegetarianism and then veganism.

I feel quite solid about it now. I’m enjoying my kitchen in my new apartment (I have proper counters for the first time) and cooking once again. I’m exploring new recipes and revisiting old favourites. I feel so good inside and out now that I am eating a whole foods plant based diet again. Like most everything good in my life today I wish I had figured it out long ago. I am still learning to accept that. But if I remember my CDFs and stay present with loving kindness to my all of my feelings I think things will be OK.

My Favourite Kale Recipe

Ingredients

3 TBSP of Water
1 Clove of Garlic (crushed – though I love garlic so I thinly slice it)
1 tsp Red Chili Pepper Flakes
1 Bunch of Kale (or about four loosely filled cups – wash as you would lettuce and spin it but leave a wee bit of water on them)
1 TBSP Raisins
1 TBSP Coarsely Chopped Kalmata Olives
1 TBSP Lemon Juice (or more if you like lots of lemon) or Apple Cider Vinegar

Using a large sauce pan sauté garlic and red chili pepper flakes in water for a few minutes (I choose water instead of oil because I like to reserve oil for my nut butter cravings or for dishes that need the flavour – I find this one doesn’t). Watch it so it doesn’t burn.

Add kale to the sauce pan and give it a stir to get the garlic and red chili pepper flakes mixed in. Cover the saucepan to let the kale steam from the water on its leaves. I like my kale with a bit of crunch so I only steam it for a few minutes (until it is bright green). If you are new to greens like kale you might want to cook them more. Keep an eye on it though so if you need to add water you can. Burnt kale is not tasty at all.

When the kale is done I mix in the raisins and olives and squeeze in the lemon.

Voila!

Sometimes if I want to make a more complete meal I add in some cannellini beans and some brown rice. Both have protein and fibre. Fibre helps with digestion. Good digestion helps give you sexy glow and reducing bloating.

You can also make it with collards, beet greens and chards. Do not make it with lettuce or other delicate salad greens.

1 Cup of Cooked Kale has 36 calories, 1g of fat, 7g carbohydrates (3g dietary fibre), 2g protein, 354% of your daily requirements for vitamin A, 89% of vitamin C, 6% of iron and 9% of calcium.

How Breakfast Changed My Life

Breakfast. It all started with breakfast. But first let me back up a bit.

After 17 years of being together I left my then-husband and went to live on my own. It was scary in many ways. It was the first time in my life that I ever lived alone. I was 39 and I went through a multi-year learning curve on the simple and complex aspects of being independent. One of the major adjustments I had to make was to learn to cook for myself – and only myself. I was used to cooking for us.

At the very beginning I was all about convenience foods that I could heat up and serve with steamed rice or quinoa. I didn’t have a stove at my place – only an electric wok and small steamer.

Once I got a stove I tried some recipes for one person, but found they required me to buy large quantities of specialized ingredients that would go to waste.

At one point I tried batch cooking, but I found it overwhelming to shop for large quantities of food. If I didn’t make the recipe in time the produce would go to waste. Plus, I found it depressing to have a lot of food. It emphasized how alone I was.

Later I went through a lengthy ordering-out phase and soon after had the bills and waistline to show for it.

Clearly these were not the strategies for me. Then I realized there was another way. I could take what was working for me and see if I could apply it to all of my meals.

So what was working? Yes, it was breakfast and it was always the same thing.

Oatmeal with blueberries and ground flaxseeds
Yves Veggie Sausages (the only processed soy I can digest – wacky, I know)
Coffee

So I looked at other simple meals I enjoyed and asked myself if I could also make them my standards as I did my oatmeal breakfast. After a little trial and error I discovered I could. Not every recipe clicked, but the ones that involved minimal preparation and cooking became my classics.

A favourite turned out to be a poached egg, a big bunch of steamed spinach drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a side of baked beans.

Here are 5 other of my simple meal classics.

– vegetable curry made with coconut milk

– lentil Bolognese (or if I switch up the spices it is a Sloppy Joe)

– tomato bisque *

– mushroom soup *

– tempeh cassoulet *

My favourites snack is a cold Granny Smith apple and some almonds. I also really love a sandwich made with a nut butter and some blackstrap molasses. I grew up having molasses as a treat so it is part nostalgia and part taste bud familiar.

I have eaten this way for over a year and feel so much better. The simplicity makes my to-do-list much shorter and a meal all the more pleasurable. From time to time I get fancy and make something from a cookbook, but it is no longer a chore or a challenge. It is a delight. As it should be!

From the book Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings—And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally (disclosure Amazon affiliate link).