Veganism receives a lot of general slander, with most people stuck with the misconception that being a vegan comes with a lot of restrictions.
Considering the fact that vegan food literally eradicates all animal products, being meat, dairy, gelatine, etc; most general foods contain these ingredients too; it wouldn’t be a surprise that one may think that.
Is a vegan diet restricting?
Vegan diets are far from restricting. Ever since going vegan I don’t think I’ve ever eaten such a varied, balanced diet before.
I eat a wide variety of greens, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, as well as having explored a much bigger variety of meal types and recipes – That I never even considered before going vegan.
The number of edible plant species around the world is estimated to be over 20,000 (and that’s just species, not to mention the varieties). Yet fewer than 20 of these plant species provide over 90% of our food.
Yes, it is understood you shouldn’t expect to just rely on plants; considering the overly “westernised” world we live in today.
We are now all too used to eating pastries on a daily basis, processed snacks, and all too conditioned to believe that meat and dairy is a necessity to life.
I was once a so-called omnivore, and can understand, really I can.
The stringy-ness of cheese, crisp buttery pastries, texture and “juicyness” of meat, burgers, chicken wings, to chewy gummy bears and the taste of milk chocolate.
These foods are close to home and you feel they would be hard to give up – Good thing is you don’t need to.
So, what can vegans eat?
The real question should be, what can’t we eat?
We eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, greens, beans, nuts and seeds, herbs and recipes for any occasion and taste.
With recent developments we’ve seen plant-based and vegan versions of your favourite foods, opening vegan options up for even the strictest meat eaters to enjoy.
Okay, but seriously, what can vegans not eat?
A vegan diet is a diet in which you eradicate all animal products. These foods including dairy, meat, eggs, gelatine, fish. Basically, anything that is sourced from a living being, this including honey.
Although we avoid a good range of ingredients, this doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy the general foods people associate as “necessity”. Here is a list of foods that we as vegans can still enjoy, regardless of the adaptation of our diet.
Mock-meats, soya, tempeh, tofu, wheat gluten, as well as unprocessed lentils, beans and other pulses, mushrooms, potatoes, can be cooked up to work as great meat replacements in meals. Finding the right balance of ingredients, spices and textures makes all the difference.
With the ever-growing vegan world: We have now got alternatives to sausages, hot dogs, meatballs burgers, chick’n, bae-con, and cold cuts.
With a bit of preparation and experimentation, a lot of meat-based meals can be veganised, such as my vegan shepherd’s pie recipe – which I actually improvised on the spot.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised both experimenting with pulses and finding my own textures that work for me, such as lentils, potatoes and mushrooms which combine to make a great “ground beef”-like texture.
When making beef-centered dishes such as vegan lasagne, burgers, and spaghetti bolognese; I’ve found my personal favourite go-to alternative is a mixture of onion, brown lentils, potatoes and hemp seeds.
Soy textured protein too is commonly used as an ingredient to create a chewy texture. For those who avoid soy, you may prefer to experiment with some other pulses.
Kebabs and fried chicken
Recently been seeing numerous vegan fast food chains specialising in vegan kebabs, VEGAN DONER. Same taste, same texture, just different technique.
Fried chicken recipes have evolved into the world of experimentation with wheat gluten, oyster mushrooms and most importantly creativity; To bring some pleasantly surprising vegan interpretations of fried ch’cken, revisiting the texture, sans the actual chicken.
Burgers and sausages
Don’t miss out on another barbecue! We now have sausages and burgers that aren’t just stuffed with sweetcorn, potato and the other mixed frozen veggies you typically find in chicken shops – The dreaded: “veggie burger” option at meat-centric places.
The plant-based burgers and sausages of 2019 are chewy, flavourful, and sustaining. I am genuinely shocked with how realistic the textures of some veggie burgers have been. And relieved I never have to miss out on comfort foods such as bangers and mash.
From restaurants and takeaways that have fully encapsulated the familiar taste of kebab and fried chicken, through soy and wheat gluten concoctions; to frozen food sections catering to our alternative dietary choice; we now have a plethora of substitutes for animal-based ingredients.
Who’d have thought soy and wheat gluten could capture the texture of meat so well?
Of course, mind you that it would be wise to eat these in moderation. They tend to be based off processed ingredients that aren’t the best things to put in your body, although they may be vegan.
I never thought I’d see a day where you would be able to purchase a 6 pack of eggs, that didn’t actually come from a chicken, it’s admirable, really.
I always used to like eggs, ate omelettes every other day, and my favourite sauce after burger sauce was mayonnaise. I’m so glad to have experimented with so many foods to find substitutes (that are even more satisfying) for the original egg-based foods.
My personal favourite vegan mayo is the Hellman’s version.
I’ve experimented with vegan tofu scramble, omelettes made from chickpea flour; “egg mayo” mix for sandwiches; and am fortunate to be able to get access to good quality vegan mayo.
Who’d have thought tofu, chickpea flour, and a bit of imagination can make such good substitutes?
Give my veganised mushroom omelette a try today.
Dairy is in virtually everything. Whether it’s in the butter you spread on your morning toast; your favourite chocolate bar; or as trace ingredients in a wide range of processed foods.
Milks and creams
Think you’re going to miss sipping a glass of milk? Good news is in the past decade, there hasn’t ever been such a vast range of nut-based milks for those who love their morning smoothies, coffees and cereal.
What’s more, is these plant-based milks are usually fortified with vitamin D and Calcium to help you reach your daily intakes.
Oat milk is one of my favourites, with the close second being almond milk and cashew milk.
You can even make homemade vegan milks, which you can add supplements too; from pretty much any nut or seed with water and a blender – You may want to add some form of sweetener, though.
Save the baby cow milk for the, well… baby cows.
That goes for cream too – There are now many soy-based alternatives to many different types of cream, such as single, double and whipped; from my knowledge there isn’t yet a mainstream brand selling vegan clotted cream in the UK – but hopefully that can be sorted out.
Can vegans eat ice cream?
Ice cream is suitable if, well, it’s vegan. In ice cream bars you’d usually be pleasantly surprised to hear mango sorbet is usually vegan (although you should first double check) – Regardless, there a few veganised ice cream brands emerging from the shadows.
A variety of popular ice cream brands in the UK are now coming out with vegan options to cater to us. A few examples being Magnum, Walls, Häagen-Dazs and even Ben & Jerry’s!
With the range of plant-based yoghurt options available, soy as well as coconut-based options for those avoiding soy; Different styles such as “Greek style” and a range of flavours available – You won’t miss your morning yoghurt and granola.
Yes, not all yoghurts have substitutes for it, but going vegan is more than just having everything easily replaced; it’s about finding tastes that suit you and experimenting with different options that suit you best.
…and avoiding animal products.
Cheese and butter
“But what about cheese? I love buttered toast and tea!”
The crisp runny goodness of a crumpet straight out the toaster smothered in butter; is by no doubt, comfort food at its best.
The good thing is, butter has been veganised from quite a while back. The general nature of cheese is a whole other story and tends to be a lot more addictive. You’ve certainly heard somebody you know say at least once:
“I can’t live without cheese.”
Yeah with good reason, you see with traditional cheese, well, milk itself, there is a protein, casein; that’s a highly addictive protein that provides the brain with a dopamine hit every time it’s consumed.
So, if you feel that way about cheese, it’s likely because you’re addicted to it!See this post on the addictive properties of casein.
With vegan cheeses, in my opinion, the taste is great, they even managed to mimic the smell of it. All I can say as a caveat to that, is the fact that vegan cheeses need to overall improve in terms of its ability to melt.
I’m yet to see a vegan pizza with stringy cheese like the dairy kind; that’s not to say that vegan pizzas aren’t the bomb; ‘cause they are; it’s actually fun witnessing the evolution of vegan cheese.
Grilled cheeses are always a great comfort food that I still have the pleasure of enjoying.
With time, vegan cheese will only evolve. You don’t have to miss grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers mac and cheese, or pizza, so you can rest (ch)easy!
Sweet treats and sweeties
Once you go vegan, reading the labels becomes a tedious, yet necessary habit. Skim-reading the ingredients to quickly find the highlighted animal products, a lifestyle.
Some non-vegan products though, aren’t as vocal with highlighting these non-vegan ingredients, once of which being gelatine. Commonly found in gummy sweets, and other “fruit chews”.
With all these gummy sweets being based off gelatine and virtually all chocolate being based off dairy, can vegans still eat sweets?
Gummy bears, snakes, and cola bottles, all these childhood favourites, are having substitutes developed for them by the day. With many recipes also basing their jelly-element from wheat gluten, and some brands also experimenting with some types of seaweed.
Jelly is a common childhood favourite dessert, so it’s a shame it’s made of a pig or cow’s bones, tendons and skin ground up into a powder – With recent developments people have noticed that jelly can now be veganised using agar agar flakes; a type of dried seaweed; also used in some vegan cheese recipes – fun fact.
The chocolate industry, even various brands of dark chocolate, love adding the odd bit of milk here and there; sneaking it into the ingredients like I wouldn’t notice!
It’s almost as if these brands have forgotten that what makes chocolate, chocolate; it’s the chocolate, taken from cacao and cocoa seeds, not cow juice!
I’ve recently seen vegan easter eggs at the local Tesco this year, so change is already in motion. I even bought me a jar of fairtrade dark chocolate spread the other day, with no palm oil.
Gotta say: Dark chocolate spread 1 – 0 Nutella.
Luckily there are also many brands of dark chocolate that are dairy-free; as well as new plant-based brands starting to launch very tasty, almond-milk based chocolate; definitely something to look out for!
Cake n’ Cookies
As covered briefly in my previous post “accidentally vegan snacks”, there are biscuit brands out there you’d least expect; such as bourbon creams, that contain no dairy or animal products.
Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to stop eating cookies, cakes and croissants; there is only need for more diligence in selecting them, but we have a variety of options!
This world is now also going gluten free, and with that comes “free from” options which benefit us; by leaving out more than just harmful animal-based ingredients.
In UK Supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury’s; There are gluten free chocolate buttons, brownies and chocolate chip cookies; which definitely puts me at ease when in need of the munchies.
As well as the products that didn’t have animal products in the first place, there are also an array of vegan brands emerging from the shadows. With their own interpretation of veganised croissants, cookies, etc.
Even visiting a vegan-only fast food joint, you’re bound to find a vegan dessert of some sort. That, more often than not, tastes better than the non-vegan option.
The good thing about these new brands; although not always the case; a lot of the vegan-focused brands tend to be more organic, and leave out questionable ingredients.
As well as being mindful of sustainability, by not using palm oil, for instance.
A little insight…
Just as a little bit of insight and as a reminder, the vegan lifestyle, does take a transition. But it isn’t difficult, just takes discipline, and it certainly isn’t restricted.
All you must make sure you do is find the substitutes that work well for you and use them as and whenever necessary.
If you liked this post on foods you won’t miss when becoming vegan; or feel I’ve missed anything out; please drop a comment below – I’d love to hear your feedback!