Twelve Days On A SOS Free Whole Foods Plant Based Diet

SOS free = salt/oil/sugar free

Today is the last day of the eating plan experiment where I cut out all oil, added sugar (not including fresh fruit), salt, and processed foods (well, highly processed I guess, I was eating canned beans and had some tofu). I did this for twelve days, though for two weeks before that I had already gone zero oil and avoiding sugar loosely. I don’t drink alcohol, so that wasn’t in there either. The single biggest change though was the no added salt. Of course, I eat a plant based/vegan diet but not solely whole foods so since roughly the start of the month, I’ve been close to 100% wholefoods.

My plan was based on Chef AJ’s program which involves eating starches to fill up, similar to The Starch Solution by John McDougall. As well as following a whole foods plant based diet free of processed foods, Chef AJ’s program also involves eating a big (and I mean big) serve of greens (cauliflower is also acceptable) before you tuck in to your meal. And your meal is a mix of veggies, legumes and starches. Yes this means POTATOES! Without salt, butter, sour cream and all those toppings of course. I wasn’t following a paid for program or anything like that, I just read a bunch of stuff and watched a heap of Chef AJ and other videos (like High Carb Hannah) to get the idea of what to do. I ended up going with it because it was pretty much what I’d been thinking about, with going totally zero oil and eating way more whole foods. My friend is also doing the same thing and so I was inspired by her and what she was doing.

The reason I did this diet change was because I have been having tummy troubles for quite a long time (mostly full on massive bloating) and also to lose some extra weight to alleviate pressure on my feet injuries. I put on a lot of weight in five months which I couldn’t explain (more info further down). Also, I have always had high cholesterol and since dropping my oil consumption for the past nearly-two years, my cholesterol dropped significantly but was still high. Yes, vegans can still have high cholesterol! In my case, it was cutting waaaay down on oils (and omitting wherever possible) that, I believe (as does science) saw the decrease in my cholesterol. The main oils I had been consuming were olive oil (I’m Greek!) and to a lesser extent coconut oil.

The day before I started this plan, I had various blood and stool tests done to check stuff that could be related to what has been going on. Results were all good. So it was really was all about my health first and foremost, not a “I just want to lose weight” thing. I will continue to monitor my health with more blood tests in the future. Coeliac Disease was ruled out as I tested negative for the genes.

The plan was to do this for almost-two weeks before I saw a plant based dietitian. It wasn’t a prerequisite or anything for the dietitian, it was more just me trying to kickstart a diet richer in wholefoods, getting in more veg, and just getting in to the mindset of being able to deal with the restrictive six week low FODMAP supervised diet.

That plan changed however after seeing the dietitian today. We agreed that a low FODMAP diet wasn’t necessary and discussed changing my diet a little to make sure I was really covering my RDIs of things like calcium, iodine and such. I’m very happy with this plan and will implement the changes on Monday, because tomorrow is World Vegan Day 😉

Why was the low FODMAP diet considered unnecessary when I’ve been having huge bloating issues? Read on!

The Challenges

No oil was easy, no wheat was easy, no sugar (like coconut sugar or maple syrup) was easy. But you guys, the no salt was tough! Especially the first few days. The meals I made had to be salt free and despite all the flavours and seasonings, like the Mexican style red lentil chili, oh mannn was it blergh without the salt. To have these beautiful dishes full of lovely ingredients like smoked paprika and garlic. Aaaaand no salt. Urgh! But it got easier each day. Maybe because I only ate when I was hungry and not by the clock!

Another big challenge was eating the non-starchy veggies before my meals. I stopped it halfway through, though I had some veg before meals here and there. The idea here is that you start filling up on those greens (or cauliflower) then your main meal has the starchy stuff that leaves you feeling fully satiated. I quite literally had to force down bowls of veg this way and even with a little balsamic vinegar or herbs, it was still a trial. Honestly I felt like I would rather give up and just go hungry. Because I usually struggle to sit there eating plain steamed veg like that I tend to throw it in to my smoothies at breakfast so I end up with an extra two servings of veg in liquid form because I feel blergh eating them whole. But Chef AJ advises you eat your wholefoods instead of drinking them because you feel more satiated eating them whole and that if you blend, you end up eating more to feel satiated. I tried, but because I was taking so long to eat the veg, I ended up blending it with the smoothie or just having a smoothie and keeping the veg for a snack.

Another huge challenge was social media. I love food, I love going out to eat, I love the tastes and textures and details in food photography, especially of places I’ve been wanting to try. So looking at photos on social media of food and such was hard! And so many places do vegan degustations and special events this time of year and I will have to sit a lot of them out. Other places are switching over menus to spring/summer and I missed out on going out to eat a favourite from the autumn/winter menus. Oh the drama!

The blog has been another bummer. I feel that because a lot of what I blog about involves food or places to eat that I then share in the vegan community and elsewhere, that the blog may kinda go nowhere if I’m not including that content.


The Good Stuff

Serious bloating has long been a problem for me, more so this year. It was pretty common for my stomach to just blow up to the point where I couldn’t wear my jeans as they were just too painful. On this plan, I didn’t experience any bloating apart from eating a meal with salt (more info further down, leading to why the FODMAP diet wasn’t necessary after all… I’m getting to it, promise).

I LOVE meal prepping. This simply means preparing a meal that will last you days, so you don’t have to fuss around making something every day. I’ve been doing meal prepping now roughly for years but this time I was very disciplined about it so that I was never caught without a ready made meal. For me, this is a big component of eating healthier (as is meal planning beforehand). I have always found that I eat more wholefoods when I meal plan and prepare in advance. Meal prep is also fantastic when you are feeling totally crap and can’t be bothered, or a last minute or stressful situation comes up. You just go to the fridge or freezer and whammo your food is ready! The downside (if it bothers you) is eating the same thing for four or five days in a row.


Weight Loss

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight on the scales because I don’t own a set (horrid things), I was last weighed a month or so ago at my doctor’s clinic and I see her again in mid January. But I can say my new jeggings (which I’ve only just bought due to my long refusal to wear anything with such a cringey name and now I think jeggings RULE) had to keep being hoisted up when I was talking down the street.


The What-The-Hell-Has-Been-Going-On-With-My-Guts Part

Now, another big reason why I have switched my diet is because since April or May (until end of September), I put on 5kg (11lbs) and 4.5cm around the waist and about 4cm around the biggest part of my tummy pouch. This freaked me the hell out because I had stopped exercising in April because I had intense pain in both feet (injuries made worse by doing daily HIIT/impact work). Because I wasn’t exercising I was extra mindful of my meals and where I did have a meal out or something considered a ‘cheat’ meal, I was careful with my other meals in the week. So when I weighed in five kilograms heavier at my doctor’s clinic and no longer able to wear my comfiest jeans, I spoke to her about getting tests for this and that because there’s no way in hell I ate to the tune of 4.5cm fat gain and 5kg weight gain in five or so months! Fortunately all the tests we could do came back with mostly good results.

So in my first week of the SOS free eating, I watched this High Carb Hannah video where she was SOS free for thirty days. Like me, she was already a high carb low fat vegan with no oil (I was low to no oil) and no added sugar. After thirty days of no salt, which was the only thing she really changed in her diet, she lost 8lbs (3.6kg), four inches off her waist, an inch off her arms and inches off her tummy. She was already quite lean to begin with. So that got me thinking, could my rapid weight gain somehow be salt related?

Another interesting video (in a series of videos on the subject) was The Salt Experiment by Cayley. Cayley, I believe, eats (or ate) a similar diet to me with lots of whole foods, plant based, no oil and so on though she was also salt free. She conducted an experiment where for seven days she consumed the US daily average of sodium. Her results were stunning, in that she completely blew up, felt awful and sluggish with exercise as well as gaining 11lbs (about 5kg) in that week, plus recording larger tape measurements.

Well, on the morning of the eighth day of my SOS free (remember, the single most biggest change I made was no salt) I measured myself and my waist and thickest part of my tummy are down 2cm each, with a little bit off the hips as well. I was stunned. Weight loss for me has always been painfully slow even after many weeks of good eating and exercise and then poooffff it goes nowhere despite having lots of body fat left to lose.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as Carrie Bradshaw would say, if I was seeing this salt-bloat relationship in myself. I’ve never, ever lost 2cm in a week and during my salt free week, I had zero bloating. It was very, very odd.


So What Happened When I Ate Salt On Day 6 Of SOS Free?

On Day 6, I was clearing out the freezer because I needed to make space. I found a meal I’d made before I started SOS free, which I knew was no oil. I figured that will be fine to eat. While it was heating I was all oh crap, I forgot about the salt. I decided to eat it anyway and instantly it tasted so salty, even though I don’t salt my food much anyway. My mindset went a bit strange too, even though I was all wowww this tastes salty, I began to want more salty food by the end of it.

By the time I had finished dinner, my stomach was blown up so much it went rock hard. I hadn’t had any bloating for six days. The difference was startling and I also felt slightly queasy. The ingredients in my dinner were things I’d been eating that week anyway, without the added salt.

Because of this seemingly salt-related bloating thing plus my own short elimination diet experiments during the year, where I cut out soy, mushrooms and wheat for quite a while then reintroduced them without any bloating or noticeable change, the dietitian and I agreed that it would be okay for me to continue on being SOS free at home, though having a meal out now and then isn’t a big deal because we have to enjoy life’s pleasures! Fine with me! So the low FODMAP diet wasn’t considered necessary, because when I had initially arranged my appointment I firmly believed I had a food or some foods which were causing me to blow up (and I blow up by the end of the meal or when I’ve finished, not hours later). So overall it appeared that we didn’t need to go the low FODMAP route, but I am hoping to do a thirty day experiment in the future, or at least 14 days salt free, then see what happens. Pictures and measurements will be taken!


Will I Stay SOS Free?

For when I cook for myself, yes most likely. I’ll do some research in to vegetable sources of sodium but when I say salt free I mean the stuff you add to your food. Sure, I’m still getting used to the bland taste of food when there’s no salt, but given how badly I bloated with just one salted meal and how I dropped about 4.5cm in a week on my waist and stomach areas, I want to continue to see what happens next. I feel fine, don’t feel crappy and I’m happy to use myself as an experiment to see if my rapid weight gain can be reversed.

But I’ll still go out to eat now and then. Being vegan in Melbourne is just too damn exciting to miss out on the pleasures of new dishes or menus or all-vegan places opening up! I love the experience of going out to eat and trying new things and can’t imagine cutting that out of my life.

I’ll also continue to get regular blood tests and monitoring with my doctor, to make sure all is well. I don’t want to say my problems are all because of salt, just because I bloated and because some YouTubers had the same thing happen. It’s something I’m going to look in to as I have some other concerns as well like low/dropping iron (which was present long before I went vegan) despite supplements, ditto for Vitamin D. All other results are fine. But I think it’s interesting enough for me, especially dropping 2cm off my tummy and waist in a week (which I know isn’t fat so I’m not suggesting this as weight loss tips or anything!), that I will conduct a future experiment. Because I’m also a huge geek and a sucker for before-after photos.


What I Ate (all salt free/oil free/added sugar free)

Chef AJ’s Red Lentil Chilli:red lentil chili Chef AJ

A kale veg salad made with a brown rice-lentil blend and Chef AJ’s Yummy Sauce for a dressing:kale rice salad

Breakfasts were either smoothies or porridge like this. I usually use oat milk in a carton for my porridge but they contain oil and salt, so I just used water. I have always haaated the idea of porridge made with water, but I mooshed some banana and it was fine:fruit porridge

Salads of something green and non-starchy before the main meal component:bsprouts salad

A kidney bean and veg curry based on a recipe from the Vegan Richa cookbook (I added all the veg and of course omitted the salt and oil):

kidney bean curry

Chef AJ’s split pea soup. This had smoked tofu which was another unintentional salty misstep. I didn’t realise the smoked tofu had salt but it really didn’t change the dish much at all. It’s two small serves (for me!) of smoked tofu spread over six large serves of soup:

split pea soup

So that’s my little SOS free experiment! I had assumed that the beans would make me blow up, but there was nothing.

I’m certainly not diagnosing myself with anything or claiming that going SOS free (or salt free) will be the magical weight loss miracle or anything rubbishy like that. All I’m putting out here is my own short experience, though you must understand that for me to be bloat free is really quite a wonder, given my very frequent mega bloats. I’m talking so bloated after a restaurant meal (before I’ve even paid the bill) that I could barely get in the car. And to then have salt in one meal without having meant to, and massively blow up and now discovering similar stories… well it’s something I really want to explore further and I have the go ahead from my doctor and dietitian. I’ll be sure to update in the future though I need to work up the guts (bwahaha) to stick some photos online!


Has anything like this ever happened to you, or someone you know, where it really seemed to boil down to added salt in foods? Or was it some other Weird Thing nobody would have thought of?



Vegan Eats At Fatto A Mano In Fitzroy

Fatto A Mano Fitzroy

Fatto A Mano Organic Bakery was initially a happy accidental discovery for me. My son and I had gone to lunch a few doors up, and met my husband and daughter in the car. My daughter was eating a croissant and said it was vegan. Which of course meant I was like WHERE FROM. Actually that might have come after GIVE ME SOME NEEEOOW CHILD. We were parked right opposite Fatto A Mano, it was a freezing day and the rain was bucketing down but I did my vegan duty and got drenched in pursuit of croissants. Though there were quite a few great vegan options, I ended up buying a peanut butter choc ball along with a croissant  and planned to go back as soon as I could. The croissant was lovely toasted at home later on and the peanut butter ball was peanutty chocolately crispy goodness:

Fatto A Mano Fitzroy

On my second visit, I bought more croissants. These are quite nice, not just bread shaped like croissants. There were also chocolate filled croissants and some apple pies (which I was sorely tempted to get):Fatto A Mano Fitzroy

There was a chocolate cake and this lovely looking pie:Fatto A Mano Fitzroy

I couldn’t resist another of the crispy lovely peanut butter balls:Fatto A Mano Fitzroy

I had a great chat with the staff about aquafaba– gotta love spreading the word!

As well as these goods mentioned above, there were also loaves of bread. You can see the display in the front window. I’ll be heading back for those apple pies 😀

Fatto A Mano Fitzroy

Fatto A Mano

228 Gertrude Street





Fatto a Mano Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


What I Ate: The WFPB-OF Edition

So I haven’t been taking many photos for my weekly What I Ate series because I’ve mostly been eating the same stuff, thanks to preparing meals in advance to last me five days or so. And sometimes I’m all mehhh, I’ll take a photo tomorrow. Then I forget and before I know it that prepared meal has all finished and I’m left with no pictures.

I mentioned in my last What I Ate that I’ve been having some issues with food/stomach/etc and I’ve booked in to see a plant based dietitian next week. From now though, I am on my third day of 100% no oil/sugar/salt/nuts. I just feel like I need to get back to basics and start with a clean slate, so to speak, going in to the six week low FODMAPs diet.

I’ve signed up for Vegan Mofo this year, thinking my theme will be going on a vegan low FODMAPs diet and what I eat, how I feel and such. I hope it can be helpful to someone.

So in the past I have had super high cholesterol and when I cut out oils (or went very minimal oil) my cholesterol dropped significantly but it is still in the too-high range. And because I need to lose some weight, not the least to ease the pain from some injuries in my feet, that explains my no-oil decision. Ditto for nuts, though that’s more because of the fat content because really, I never ate two almonds and left it at that! So for the short term I’m doing this quite strict sounding stuff, but I’m definitely not ruling out going to restaurants like I’ve always done though I’m holding off on all that until next year.

Enough blah blah! So breakfast is either a smoothie with oats, banana and greens or porridge oats with banana and berries: fruit porridge

Lunch this week has been a brown rice-lentil mix with raw veg (kale, tomato, cauliflower, zucchini here) and Chef AJ’s Yummy Sauce which is made from a can of white beans, lemon, garlic and dates if you want it sweet:kale rice salad

Before lunch though, or in between breakfast and lunch, I have a bowl of veggies that include greens. Here are some no-oil roasted Brussels sprouts with plain lettuce and mini Roma tomatoes with a little drizzle of a fig balsamic vinegar I picked up from Coburg Farmers Market:bsprouts salad

Dinner has been Chef AJ’s red lentil chili (I added pumpkin and spinach to it) followed by the more satiating starchy veggies like potato or sweet potato. Before I eat this I have a bowl of cauliflower and broccoli to fill me up a bit, but also to help me get in some extra veggies for the day:

red lentil chili Chef AJ

I finally have my copy of the new Oh She Glows Every Day cookbook and made the green matcha mango smoothie:Oh She Glows Every Day matcha smoothie

After a few days of eating like this I’ve had zero bloating and I feel quite full. I’m still in that mindset where I feel a bit crappy that I’m eating Diet Food if you know what I mean. Looking at my Instagram and Facebook feeds is awful, seeing photos of coconut curries and raw caramel slices…! But I’m confident I’ll soon come to enjoy eating this way, particularly when I see and feel benefits. I definitely see myself eating WFPB-OF for the long term, whenever I prepare food for myself or go somewhere where I can take my own food, but for now yeah, just trying to retrain myself. I can handle no oil or no added sugars but the no salt thing, yikes!!! That one is tough because the chili has loads of herbs and spices and flavour but no salt is really something I have to get used to!

This dietary change has nothing to do with being vegan– I am vegan for the animals first and foremost. So I don’t want anyone walking away from reading this thinking this is a ‘health vegan’ thing and that this is what vegans ‘should’ be doing, or worse, that I am saying this is how vegans should be eating. This is all purely for me to work out why I’m getting digestive discomfort lately!


What I Ate Over The Past Month

Late again with the ah, weekly What I Ate. Sometimes I just forget, other times I think I’ll take photos of the leftovers tomorrow (then forget) etc etc…

I’ve been having some tummy troubles in recent times that seem to be getting worse and I’ve booked in to see a vegan dietitian in a few weeks. I’ll have to go on one of those four to six week low FODMAPs diets which I’m actually looking forward to because plenty of times I might be eating a meal, like at a restaurant, then by the time the meal is over my stomach has blown up to about four times its normal size and I can barely get in the car (and when I do, I need to unbutton my jeans and I swear it’s like an airbag just explodes everywhere). Not to mention other stuff. If I do Vegan Mofo I might have a vegan low FODMAPs diet as my theme. Not very exciting but I think it could be helpful to others! In the meantime though, I’m back to WFPB (whole foods plant based) as much as possible with lots of raw veggies and turning down offers of going places for lunch/dinner (which kinda sucks). And November is the month where lots of places seem to hold their vegan degustations like Maha *cry*  But I need to work out these health issues and try to lower my cholesterol even more.

Speaking of cholesterol, mine was super high before I was vegan. It was about 8.9 (which in Australia is really high and doctors tell you to take medication for it. I’m not sure how numbers work in other countries). Three years in to being vegan I had another blood test, all confident my cholesterol would have dropped way down. I was shocked to see it was about 8.8! Around that time I had read a comment by a vegan dietitian talking about the links between cholesterol in vegans and consumption of oils like olive oil and coconut oil. Also at that time I started a HCLF (high carb low fat) meal plan, and I had the absolute minimum amount of oil in my food after that, often no oil at all when I cooked at home. A year and a half or so later, my cholesterol dropped to 6.7. Which is still considered high, in fact my doctor said “we need to talk about your cholesterol” and when she told me the number I was really happy! After telling her how high it used to be, she was happy too. Having a vegan friendly doctor is such a relief. So that’s another goal for me, to get my cholesterol down even more to the recommended range of below 5.5.

Enough waffle (waaah WAFFLES!). One of my latest favourite cookbooks is Kristy Turner’s But I Could Never Go Vegan! which I borrowed from the library (but have ordered my own copy because it’s a great cookbook). This is the Red Velvet Beet Smoothie, minus the cashew cream topping:beet cacao smoothie

Another recipe from the cookbook is the Eggplant Meatball Sub. I loved the eggplant balls though I used quinoa instead of amaranth. Actually, I made this recipe before I started back on WFPB which is why there’s bread, but the eggplant balls and sauce are something I’d still have: eggplant meatball sub

Lunch pretty much looks like this now, a raw veggie bowl with some protein and a little avocado fat thrown in. Avocados are cheaper here now:healthy vegan bowl

Another veggie bowl lunch, same as above but with a garlic lemon zaatar dressing and a rice-lentil mix:zaatar veg bowl

Dinner is something like this, baked tofu with roast sweet potato and veggies. Token carrot there is a leftover from the day before:tofu veg healthy

Breakfast is always a smoothie. This one has some leftover broccoli, peas and carrot in it. With a banana and Prana On protein, you can’t tell (from the taste!) there’s veg:leftover veg smoothie

Last week I made a lentil veg curry and some green curry paste marinated tofu. The tofu was leftover from another meal so I just mixed it all up:lentil veg curry with tofu

…and I’ll finish up with snaps of one of my favourite places to be, Sydney Road in Brunswick.sydney road sydney road sydney roadsydney road


Vegan Eats At Carpenter’s Son In Brunswick

Carpenter's Son Brunswick

Some months back, I was walking down Sydney Road and spotted a blackboard sign for Carpenter’s Son on the footpath. It stuck in my mind because the sign mentioned they had Pokestops nearby. Not that I’m a devoted player (though Red team is the best), but it did make me smile and so the next time I was around I went and checked out the menu. There were quite a few good looking vegan options, so I made a note to go there the next time I was out for lunch.

Carpenter's Son Brunswick

First up though, I had to try the house made almond granita. I was there on one of those weird Melbourne spring days where it’s freezing for a week but then one warm sunny day comes through though later that evening you have the heaters and your dressing gown back on. Anyway moving on, I was a bit hot from walking around outside in my big jacket (because this is Melbourne, you need a big jacket on a warm day). For an extra charge you can get a coffee shot with the granita but I got mine without. In a word, this granita was excellent. Really refreshing and cooling. The sort of treat that is perfect for warmer weather and if I’m not mistaken, it’s the only vegan icy/cold food option on Sydney Road. I will definitely, absolutely go in again just for this:Carpenter's Son Brunswick

The vegan menu included the organic Berry Porridge (almond milk, poached pear, berries, coconut yoghurt and this is where my photo is too blurry to read but there’s another topping and I believe the price is around $13) , the Hot Vegan (scrambled organic tofu, caramelised Spanish onion, chilli, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes on toasted sourdough $16.50), the Avo Smashed (avocado with roasted sweet capsicum, balsamic and pea tendrils $15) and the Cheesy Melt (melted Bio cheddar cheese toasted sandwich with jalapeno and roasted tomatoes $10). I was told I could also have a custom focaccia made up.

The regular menu has Nourish Bowls that also have vegan/veganisable options. I went for the Powerhouse Acai, a lovely bowl of acai berry, almond milk, goji berries, GF granola, cacao nibs and fresh fruit ($14). I was glad to see nourish bowl healthier options and this was really nice. Not too sweet which is perfect for me:

Carpenter's Son Brunswick

The staff were helpful and friendly and it’s always good to chat with owners about their vegan options and their plans for more vegan meals. Of course this isn’t food for vegans only, this is good food everyone can enjoy. Seriously, GO AND GET THE ALMOND GRANITA.

Carpenter’s Son is just off Sydney Road in Michael Street, not far at all. Look for the friendly blackboard on Sydney Road (I’m pretty sure the blackboard mentioned vegan options in the past too):

Carpenter's Son Brunswick

I keep saying this every time I do a post about the Sydney Road area but far OUT are we getting even more ace vegan options in this part of Brunswick or what?!Carpenter's Son Brunswick

Carpenter’s Son

1D Michael Street



Carpenters Son Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato