UPDATE: This post was originally written in May 2018 when I (Luke) was considering switching from eating meat, to a plant-based diet.
In November 2018 I made that switch. The following blog post has been updated to reflect making this change.
I’m enjoying eating plant-based so much and have experienced such profound improvements in my health that I’ve decided to launch a vegan/vegetarian specific personal training programme here at Luke Bremner Fitness.
This programme will help those who follow a vegetarian or vegan approach to nutrition and lifestyle achieve all their health, fitness and body shape goals while following a 100% plant-based diet (either vegetarian or vegan based on your individual preferences).
The programme is not ready to launch yet, but if you’re interested to find out more you can contact me at [email protected] and I’ll happily share the details with you.
Originally written in May 2018 this blog post (number 3 in our ‘Healthy Living In Edinburgh‘ series) has now been rewritten and updated for 2019 after I made the transition to a plant-based diet.
This blog entry shares my experience treating myself to lunch at Hendersons vegan restaurant on Thistle Street in May 2018.
Shamefully, despite walking past Hendersons on an almost daily basis, that was actually my first visit to the restaurant.
It’s literally a 5 minute walk from our private personal training studio headquarters on Jamaica Street so it was about time I stopped in!
Here’s a little about my experience there…
Introduction To Hendersons
Founded in 1962, Hendersons specialises in providing contemporary vegetarian and vegan foods that have been locally sourced using fresh, organic ingredients.
Hendersons has become a well known place for health enthusiasts in Edinburgh looking for tasty and delicious vegetarian and vegan options.
Although I frequently walk past Hendersons Deli & Salad Bar on Hanover Street, I never fully appreciated there was a lot more to Hendersons than meets the eye.
I discovered their impressive history (which you can read about here) and learned about the multiple awards they have received.
I also learned about their on-going success and expansion which has now resulted in having 4 ‘entities’ across the city centre, which all come together under the Hendersons umbrella:
- The Hendersons Shop & Deli on Hanover St.
- The Vegetarian Salad Bar restaurant, also on Hanover St directly underneath the shop and deli.
- The Vegan Restaurant (which I visited) just round the corner on Thistle St, and lastly…
- The Vegetarian Cafe & Deli just a short hop over town on Holyrood Road.
Before we get into the thick of this blog post, it’s important I share a little insight into my dietary beliefs and eating patterns at that time.
Prior to my visit to Hendersons, I had become increasingly aware of the health and environmental benefits of plant-based eating, particularly veganism.
However, despite being aware of these benefits, back then I was still uncertain and somewhat reluctant about making the move towards plant-based eating.
I was well and truly conditioned to believe that a high protein diet (predominantly from animal sources) was the superior diet. And the only diet that could lead to a healthy, lean and strong body.
Being a very active individual who was naturally ‘physique’ aware being a personal trainer, I was scared about giving up meat for those very reasons.
But I was open minded enough to explore the possibility that I (and a large chunk of the fitness/nutrition industry) had it all backwards and that a plant-based way of eating was actually the superior choice for health reason.
And I’m glad I stayed open-minded, as it ultimately led me away from animal protein and towards a plant-based diet, which I explain below.
Now, back to the story…
My Vegan Lunch At Hendersons
Clearly a popular place with locals and tourists alike at lunch time, I was fortunate enough to get the last available table for lunch.
The staff were welcoming and friendly and happy to explain more about the menu and options available after I asked about a few things.
The restaurant itself is fairly small, but there are plenty of tables and it didn’t feel crowded whatsoever despite being full.
It was warm, welcoming, relaxed and had a good vibe about it. A nice place to be in.
As I began reading the menu I was pleasantly surprised at the diverse and delicious sounding dishes available.
I decided I was going to have a starter and a main, and after some deliberation I opted for the ‘Freekeh Salad‘ as my starter:
Mouth watering, right??
Honestly, it was every bit as delicious as it looks. Needles to say it didn’t take me long to finish the entire bowl. 😉
It had Kale, Butternut Squash, Pear, Red Grapes and was topped with Almond Flakes.
And as if that wasn’t good enough, there was a Cumin-Maple dressing running through the salad which just delightful and really completed the full taste experience.
Back then I used to assume that without at least some form of meat I’d be left feeling unsatisfied and still hungry. However, the salad was actually more filling and satisfying than anticipated.
I was very pleasantly surprised…
My Main Course
After my refreshing salad for starter, I opted for the vegan haggis for my main course:
Whilst I’m not entirely sure what the Haggis was made of (probably Hendersons top secret recipe!), it came with steamed and pickled turnip, cabbage and tarragon whiskey sauce.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve used the word ‘delicious’ in this blog now, but again it really was.
And again I was pleasantly surprised in the taste and satiety of the meal.
Much like the salad, it didn’t last long and I finished every last mouthful.
I never realised how creative you could get with food, putting together a tasty a meat-free alternative to a traditionally meat-containing dish.
That concluded my meal at Hendersons.
I sat for a while longer to let my stomach settle and reflect some more on this new insight into vegan eating before leaving feeling after an enjoyable experience at the restaurant.
Vegetarian and Vegan Eating
It’s places like Hendersons and the food they offer that really opened my eyes to the wide range of delicious choices available to vegetarian and in this case vegan eaters.
Many people who follow the traditional carnivore diet often assume all plant-based eaters eat nothing but plates of vegetables and fruits (and admittedly I kind of did too!) but that really couldn’t be further from the truth.
And not only can you eat delicious, satisfying and nutritionally balanced meals that give you all the nutrients you need following a plant-based diet…
But there’s an ever increasing body of evidence and research highlighting the benefits of following a more plant-based approach to nutrition that’s too prevalent to ignore any longer.
I’m massively passionate about health and living in the healthiest body I can.
And ultimately it was these science-backed health benefits that led me to finally stop eating all meat and fish later that year. More on that shortly.
I guess like many ‘high protein obsessed’ eaters these days, it can be a bit of a daunting prospect dropping all animal protein in favour of more plant-based options…
There’s still a lot of uncertainty around meeting protein consumption, ensuring you’re getting sufficient minerals and nutrients and getting at least some saturated fat which mainstream nutrition still argues is important for health.
Regardless of my own thoughts at that time – which were still very much in line with the above – the research I had been doing revealed some of the top athletes in the world are evegan. You can read about them here and here.
Being an active individual myself, the fact that some of the top athletes in the world are vegan really peaked my interest.
It proved to me that you could in fact get all the nutrition you need from a plant-based approach to nutrition, along with some supplements to ensure all your needs are met.
However, I don’t think a vegan way of eating is something you can just jump into.
As a society, we’re so conditioned to eat meat that you need to take time to recondition your thinking around food and educate yourself on vegan options and meals to ensure all your nutritional needs are met.
Technically, eating crisps all day would count as a vegan diet, but it’s hardly health promoting, is it?
It took me from May until November (around 6 months) of 2018 to transition from being away from eating meat.
First adopting a flexitarian approach, then to a pescatarian approach, and finally to dropping all meat and fish and officially becoming a vegetarian.
Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve now transitioned towards a vegan approach. I’d say 90% of the time I follow a vegan diet and avoid all animal derived food, including eggs and dairy.
The reason it isn’t 100% is because on occasion, dairy and eggs may creep into some meals – especially when eating out or being cooked for when no vegan options are available.
It’s frustrating, but unless you’re always in control of your nutrition it’s still quite difficult to avoid all animal derived foods.
However, with more and more vegan options becoming available, and as more people (and restaurants) become aware of the vegan way of eating, I’m confident I’ll soon be able to achieve 100% vegan.
It’s safe to say I was very impressed with my lunch at Hendersons Vegan restaurant.
If you’re interested, you can read more about Hendersons and all 4 of their locations on their website at www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk
Eating at their vegan restaurant opened my eyes about what’s possible with vegan eating and how healthy, tasty and exciting it can be.
That, in combination with my own research and studying around the health benefits of plant-based eating are what ultimately led me towards a vegan diet.
The gut issues I was previously experiencing have completely gone, and I have more energy, clearer thinking and a better mood than I ever did when following a carnivorous diet.
And the more I learned about veganism, the more I realised it extends far beyond just health-benefits.
In fact I follow a vegan approach now just as much for the welfare of animals, the environment and the planet as I do for my own health.
With the benefits I’ve personally experienced, as well as seeing how adopting a plant-based approach has helped others as well, we’re going to implement a more plant-based approach into the business.
However, we fully understand everyone makes their own nutritional choices, and our programmes will continue cater for every nutritional preference.
Most of our clients do not follow a plant-based approach, and we respect that. We’d never force anyone to change their eating habits.
So instead of changing the way we currently do thing, we’ve decided to launch a vegan/vegetarian specific personal training programme.
This will provide an opportunity for us to help people achieve all their health, fitness and body shape goals on a 100% plant-based diet; either vegetarian or vegan based on your unique dietary preferences.
It helps that 3 of our team – Graeme, Chris and I – all follow a plant-based approach to eating. That, combined with our knowledge of health and nutrition in general will allow us to ensure are your nutritional requirements are met.
We’re working on the programme at the moment and it should be ready to launch late 2019 or early 2020.
More details to follow, but if you’re interested in learning more or putting your name forward to be notified when it launches, please email me at [email protected]
Alternatively, you can check back here in a month or two and I should have the programme details ready by then!
Don’t forget to visit the blog to read out our blog entries from our “Healthy Living In Edinburgh” series. And if you have any feedback from any of the first 3 posts We’d love to hear from you.
We’re also happy to accept recommendations for future posts in the series. Simply contact us and let us know if you’d like to be featured or can recommend a health-based business in Edinburgh that might.
Previous Posts In The Series: