Meet plant-based para rider Evie Toombes

My name is Evie Toombes, I've been writing since I was 12 years old when I set up a Facebook page to blog about my medical conditions and para showjumping journey. Since then, at the ripe age of 17 I've discovered a pretty strong, ever growing love for veggies and plants - especially in relation to their health benefits. This year I was keen to continue making small changes to my lifestyle and diet, a successful alteration I made last year and I didn't want to lose sight of that. Often with January New Year’s resolutions, we pick up new habits in a trade for our existing habits. I turned this theory on its head a little this year and made a list of things I want to stay the same! Maybe I don't want to dramatically change anything, after all I've survived pretty well up to now. If you're a little like me, wanting to be content with the present alongside adding in some alterations, here's how... 

Struggling to keep your plate full of exciting flavours?

I love buying 'wonky veg' where possible, it tastes just the same and helps reduce waste of good quality produce! Chances are a three-legged carrot tastes just as good as your average carrot, and same for that lumpy potato with a better figure than some celebrities. (All of BOL's delicious range are a perfect example of how good wonky veg tastes). One of my favourite ways to keep my cooking interesting is experimenting with different veggies and fruits. Challenging yourself to try one new ingredient, or one you wouldn't usually eat, each week is a great way to start, I began with purple sweet potato, kumquats, swede, artichoke and parsnips. There are so many variations, but if you're struggling for new things to try, why not aim for produce that's in season? Kale and rhubarb are readily available in most places through springtime.

Needing some recipe inspo?

Turning plant based was a leap into the unknown for me around two years ago, one thing that fed my love for the diet change was following chefs and buying cookbooks for some inspiration. Take a look on Instagram and YouTube and you're sure to find a wealth of creativity from celebrity chefs and vegan entrepreneurs. If you're wanting to please a crowd, the 'BOSH' cookbook has some incredible recipes fit for anyone of any dietary choice. Taking inspiration from traditional dishes and cuisines, every recipe leads to an empty plate and full belly. Whether you're a fully committed vegan or just looking to add in some plant-based meals to your diet, these recipes are serious crowd (and planet) pleasers! Burrito Burgers, Bangin' Bolognese and Banoffee Chocolate Swirl Pie are a delicious starting point- and firm favourites in my family. If you're really new to the world of plant-based eating and living, trying new flavours and meals is a great starting point. I discovered BOL Salad Jars when I was competing and was soon hooked. Shortly after, I was recreating plenty of things I'd sampled when out and about in my own kitchen, finding your new kitchen cupboard must haves and 'go to' meals is a great excuse to enjoy he luxury of not cooking all the time. I'd firmly recommend trying the Smokey Tomato and Lentil BOL soup, easy to love and take inspiration from.

Love reading but wanting to reduce the amount of paper we're all using?

I started reading books before bed when I was in hospital a lot last year and found myself getting a lot of benefits from this nightly routine. Leaving my phone for a book was a great way to disconnect from the temptations of scrolling through Instagram for hours, the quality of my sleep improved as a result of this and I began to look forward to the end of the day! If you're a little bit of a bookworm like myself, why not get your next read from a charity shop? It's no secret that books often end up slumped up in a bookshelf, occasionally revisited for a trip down memory lane with your favourite author. Donating your old books and picking up a new read is so easy, and pretty enjoyable. Alternatively buying the online edition of a book or magazine instead of the paperback is another small yet effective way to make good change. Sometimes it's more convenient to buy online and read through your phone or tablet, I'm a real melon for leaving my books at home sometimes so this helps me avoid a 2 hour long train journey trying to entertain myself. 

Staying hydrated

I'm a huge fan of keeping my fluid intake up, but admittedly that would come at a cost of multiple plastic bottles some days previously. When I set out to lower my use of unnecessary plastic, I turned to investing in a good water bottle. Alongside this, I invested in some silicone straws, I'm not a fan of metal ones myself but these became a game changer for me! Bendy enough to fit in any pocket they soon found a residential spot in my backpack, along with my glitter filled water bottle. If you're looking to go one step further, BOL's new dinner box range is 95% plastic free! So while you're filling your water bottle and popping a straw in the dishwasher your dinner can be in the oven or microwave waiting for you- pretty cool right? Having a water bottle and some straws on hold will really encourage you to use them, it'll often be more convenient to fill your bottle up than to buy one. 

Eyes bigger than your stomach?

We get this a lot in my house, shopping with an appetite usually being the main culprit behind this occurrence. Eating fresh produce has so many benefits, but they don't always have a shelf life like a frozen pizza does. So, what can you do with leftover ingredients? If you're looking to save some time and expense, look no further than your freezer. Freezing batch cooked meals is a perfect life hack for busy midweek days when all you want is minimal washing up and happy tastebuds. Alternatively, soup kitchens are great place to rehome excess food! Taking your extra vegetables and other items to your local soup kitchen not only means our bendy courgettes and three-legged carrots don't go to waste in a bin, but also someone else gets to enjoy it! More plants, less waste and an act of kindness for those less fortunate.

Needing some extra exercise or activity in your day?

Yoga might not be for everyone but aiming to carry out an activity or exercise for 20minutes a day, in whatever way you like is a great goal. I'm far from an Instagram yoga bunny, with elastic hamstrings, matching socks and a perfectly flat yoga mat. But I do enjoy a good stretch and start to the day.  On winter days a brisk walk outside is invaluable if you've been working inside all day, fill your lungs with a little fresh air and get your cheeks a tad rosy. Mindfulness wise, this and reading have become one of my strongest routines, it’s a great way to help break your day up a little and put things into perspective. I'm lucky enough to live by the beach on the east coast, so appreciating the gorgeous world we call home is by no means a task or challenge. I also love visiting lakes, walking by a river or in a forest with my dogs. Finding something unique and enjoyable about where you live is a wonderful way to enjoy the planet you're looking after, what do you enjoy about where you live or work?



You can find out more about Evie here: https://www.evietoombespararider.com/

 Evie and her mum, Caroline, worked together to release a book called ‘Lucy Goes To School’ that deals with invisible illness. Here’s a little bit about it:

Three years ago me and my mum created a story called 'Lucy Goes To School', the story is based on my own dog called Lucy, and tells the tale of a puppy who embarks on her first day at school. With some struggles at the beginning when her class mates are unaware of her invisible illness, she begins to find her feet and make friends with the help of her teacher, Mr Squires.  

With the idea stemming from introducing young children to the concept of hidden disabilities and invisible illnesses, my hope was to raise awareness and make growing up much easier for children just like me, after struggling for people to understand my condition so much as a child when I looked completely 'normal'. Kids feel sympathy for a small puppy and it instantly plays on their heart strings when Lucy is lonely and upset because she's poorly, when I visit schools I then explain people can feel like this too- and go on to expand on my health journey and struggle to help reiterate this. These talks lead onto the birth of the 'Evie Toombes Foundation Ltd' to further fuel my mission of raising awareness and visiting schools.

After months of planning and perfecting the story we visited our local design and print company with some illustrations developed from my hospital bedside between me and mum, our story in writing and a colourful vision for the finished product. Our aim? To have the book in print ready to gift the first copy to HRH the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (who I would be meeting at the 2018 Wellchild awards.)

Fast forward to 6 months later and my book is now being purchased from people not only in the UK but as far as the United States. (Something that still astounds me!) This year I plan to continue visiting schools and raising awareness in my talks, but with the added benefit of being able to take my books with me for schools to enjoy after my visit.