The health benefits of reducing the amount of red meat in our diets has been proven time and again, but cutting it out completely may be a step too far for many of us. With November being World Vegan Month, what better time to challenge yourself and try eating vegan for the month?
Some people see going vegan as a challenge because they think it involves learning a whole lot of new recipes and using a range of new ingredients they don’t have the time to find. But there is a simple and fun shortcut to going vegan – you can just replace the few non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites.
You probably don’t realise this, but you actually eat a lot of vegan food already. The toast and cereal you have in the morning, the pasta salad or crunchy wrap you munch on at lunch, or the bean chili or vegetable stew you serve for dinner may already be vegan – or at least contain a good number of vegan ingredients.
Let me tell you this: anything you eat can be made vegan. There are cruelty-free, delicious alternatives to anything you can think of from dairy-free spreads, to plant milk and yogurt, to vegan meat alternatives and cheeses. Becoming a vegan isn’t about limiting or depriving yourself so make sure you start by replacing animal products; after a couple of weeks it will become as natural as anything.
On your next trip to the supermarket, why not look out for soya milk instead? You can gradually try all the different brands to find your favourite – it will take a while because there are hundreds of options these days but it’s an exciting experiment. If you don’t like soya or want a change, try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice next.
Your cereal or oats are likely already vegan, so simply replace cow’s milk with any of the plant milks mentioned above and top it with dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Your toast will happily accept dairy-free spread instead of butter, or you can have it with peanut butter, jam or mashed avocado.
Think scrambled eggs can’t be replaced? Google ‘scrambled tofu’ and have your mind blown by a nutritious, cholesterol-free breakfast. Full English can be made with vegan sausages and include all the other usuals.
Here’s a surprise. Not all vegans actually eat salads – I, for one, can’t stand them. But for those of you who do like salads, it’s really easy to pack them with fresh vegetables and serve with fresh fruit on the side.
If you’re having a wrap, replace the meat with falafel or beans and add houmous, while you can make curry or soup creamy with coconut milk or vegan cream (available in major supermarkets).
There are so many ideas for vegan dinner – where do I start? Use the versatile soya mince (available in supermarket frozen sections) in chilli, bolognese, lasagne or shepherd’s pie.
You can use wraps as pizza bases to top with vegetables and vegan cheese (available in supermarkets and health food stores). Stir-fries don’t need any meat in them – just add a good mix of vegetables to your noodles or rice and dinner’s ready.
For a Sunday roast, why not try a mushroom wellington (just search for a recipe online and hundreds will turn up) or a vegan meat alternative, together with vegetable gravy? To make mashed potatoes creamy, use dairy-free spread (such as Flora Dairy-free, Pure or Vitalite) and soya milk.
It’s so easy to find vegan snacks in every supermarket that you don’t even need me telling you about this! Bourbons, ginger nuts, rich tea, digestives, any many crisps and tortilla chips are vegan.
Just pick up some of your favourites and see if they qualify too. All it takes is a quick scan of the label – look out for whey powder, milk, eggs or gelatine. Take it slow and learn as you go. And don’t forget fresh fruit is also a snack, one that we should be having more of!
Article written by Dominika Piasecka, The Vegan Society