Nearly the end of Veganuary

It’s Day 30 of Veganuary.  I have had only one slip up.  This was when Allergy Little and I had an appointment.  The timing was lousy as there was not enough time to get home after dropping Big off at school, but we were early for the appointment.  We ended up filling time by walking around a seaside resort in January.  We got very cold and I forgot my packed snacks (but I remembered Little’s!) so I succumbed and drank a hot chocolate with dairy in.  The only vegan option was black coffee, which I don’t drink.

When I started Veganuary, I basically just dropped the animal products from my normal meals.  This led to some rather odd and unsatisfying meals so I started using a nutrition app to record what I was eating.  It was obvious that I wasn’t eating enough protein.  Luckily, I quickly discovered my new favourite thing, Taifun brand tofu.  Taifun make a rainbow of flavoured, ready to eat tofus.  Easy and yummy.  The side effect of recording what I was eating is that I have lost some weight (about 8lb).  It’s worth remembering that not all plant-based food is naturally healthy.  Chips are vegan!

Over the course of Veganuary, the question has changed from “should I be vegan?” to “should I return to eating animal products?”  I can not think of a compelling reason why I would start doing that.  However, this comes with caveats.  I am not a vegan.  To me, being a vegan is an ethical and philosophical stance about not harming animals in any way.  I clearly do not meet this standard.  I have a leather sofa.  I feed my children meat, although I would fully respect their choices if they decided not to eat animal products too.  And, if I am gasping for a cup of tea and my friend only has dairy milk at  their house, then I am probably going to weakly crumble and give in to my milky tea cravings.  At home, however, I am going to follow a plant-based diet for the time being.

The reasons why are purely selfish.  I feel less sluggish and sleepy.  I think my skin seems a little brighter.  I generally just feel better.  The lack of animal cruelty and environmental benefits are nice bonuses.  But, I am going plant-based to benefit only one animal, me!


Review of 2015

The Allergy Brothers blog has only been running in this format since August, but we are very pleased to have had nearly 3000 views by nearly 700 visitors.  It’s also always fun to log on and see where our visitors have come from.  This year, we have had visitors from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Sweden, Romania, Switzerland, France, Japan, Slovenia, Italy, India, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Turkey and South Africa.  It really does seem like food brings us all closer together.  I like to think of you all sitting around a very large, virtual kitchen table while we all taste some new foods together.

Our most popular posts of 2015 were:

A review of The Den Café in Colchester

A review of Caffe Sala in Colchester

A review of the Food Maestro app

A review of Aldi Lubecker Chocolate Hearts

A review of Osem Instant Chocolate pudding with Aldi rum truffles.

Happy New Year!


A screen shot from the Food Maestro app

Food Maestro App Update

Since I wrote my blog post about the Food Maestro app, I have been having a very helpful email chat with one of their developers.  It turns out that many of the suggestions I made in the blog will be happening soon so I thought I would report back.  We can look forward to:

  • Being able to split user profiles into allergy, intolerance and lifestyle factors.
  • Searching by ingredients (both inclusion and exclusion).
  • Search results filtering by key brands, latest, popular, etc.
  • Updated categories to improve consistency.
  • And finally, some general design updates.
There are longer term plans to work with manufacturers to improve the quality of the information that they receive.  And I sincerely wish them luck with that.
A screen shot from the Food Maestro app

Initial Impressions – “Food Maestro” App

I first heard about this app at The Allergy Show at Olympia before the summer holidays, but I have only just got around to trying it.  Incidentally, I think I may have slightly scared the man on the Food Maestro stand with my enthusiasm (I didn’t hug him. but I wanted to) because this app has a lot of potential for our family.  Basically, it allows you to create profiles for each family member of foods they have to avoid then you can search through all the UK supermarkets’ databases to find foods you can eat.  I know, how awesome is that!

Then I remember that the Allergy Brothers are allergic to some pretty odd foods.  It turns out that this is not a problem at all.  For example, the Allergy Brothers are allergic to chicken, but not turkey (different proteins, apparently).  This is not a problem, for their profiles, I can choose from a poultry menu and add in chicken, but leave turkey unchecked.  However, I could also check an “all poultry” button if I wanted to exclude that group completely.  It was actually kind of nice (in an odd way) to see that rice was listed as something to exclude.  Does this mean that the Allergy Brothers are not the only people in the world to be allergic to rice?  (Please leave a comment, if you are one of those people!).  The only allergen I couldn’t find on the list was chia seeds so I emailed Food Maestro, and, in less than an hour, I had an email back saying that chia seeds were now added to the seeds menu.  I checked and there they were, ready to be added to the boys’ profiles.


Once, you have set up your profiles then you can search for appropriate products.  I have had a few plays with this function, but I will report back in a few weeks when I have had a chance to play some more.  I decided to search by category for ready made foods using both boys’ profiles.  I really could do with some ideas for easy meals on school nights when they have clubs.  Food Maestro pulled up a list of an impressive 188 possible options.  The list included some good ideas, such as ready made polenta, ready to cook vegetable dishes, olives etc.  Unfortunately, there were some odd choices, chicken breast mini fillets and steak pies!, which were clearly not suitable.  The odd choices all seemed to be Asda products, and due to a lack of proper ingredients information feeding into the search engine.  For example, the Asda steak pie had 19% beef listed as its only ingredient.

So clearly, there are some issues, but I was also very impressed about the ideas that popped up that I might never have considered.  Also, as they showed when I asked about adding chia seeds, the Food Maestro team are very responsive to suggestions.  So here are my suggestions:

  1. I would like to see an option to choose which supermarkets appear in the search results.  There’s no point seeing the results for Waitrose, if you live 50miles from the nearest store.
  2.  I would like to see an option to add in lifestyle and religious options, such as vegan or kosher, as well as the allergy options.  This would be more inclusive as allergies can affect anybody.
  3.  This app only works if the information going into it is good.  It seems like this might not always be the case.  It would be nice if companies realised that ingredients lists really do matter.  I am not sure this is something that Food Maestro can change.  Maybe they could just not include companies that are persistent offenders?

In conclusion, my initial impressions are that this is a good app, that could be great with a bit of tweaking.  I will certainly continue to use it and report back.  It is available for Apple and Android devices.  There is also a website.  Finally, to end on some really fantastic news, the app is free because it is partially funded by the NHS.