Happy new year everyone, I hope you had a great start to the year and look forward to the many surprises to come. Many of you might know by now that in January you have the opportunity to sign up to Veganuary, a pledge run by a great charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year. You can read more about them here, you will find plenty of resources on how to plan your meals, where to eat and so on.
January is usually the month for change, going to the gym, being healthy, cutting drinking and so on - so what a better opportunity to try eating vegan food for a whole month. This is the perfect way to eat more veggies, stay healthy and why not maybe even loose some pounds! Whatever your motivation this is a great pledge well worth giving a go if you’re not already vegan.
Over the last few years being vegan has never been more easy! I turned vegan a year ago and yes it was hard at times but finding good food and places to eat wasn’t really a challenge, in the way it might have been a few years ago - if you know where to look everything becomes easier! So I thought I would share my experience and answer so many messages I received asking about cooking tips, weekly meal plans, nutrients etc. I tried to be as concise as possible but if you fancy reading more you will find plenty of links and resources below. I hope you find this useful and I look forward to hearing if you have managed to go vegan this January!
Do you have any tips for people looking to embrace a vegan lifestyle?
The very first thing I would say is be kind to yourself, and don’t expect to make an immediate transition. If you set yourself up to fail, then you’re less likely to stick at it. Set yourself a goal that feels achievable to begin with, such as only eating meat once a week, and see how it goes. And don’t let people preach to you. It has to start with you wanting to make the change, rather than someone imposing it on you.
Our simple and yummy vegan quiche, get the recipe here
So you’re ready for the challenge - where to begin?
Swap non vegan products for vegan products.
These days you can find literally all sorts of mock meat, fish and cheeses. Here are some brands you can find easily in the major high street supermarkets both in-store and online.
Jackfruit - this is my favourite meat replacement, it reminds me of pulled pork and is super tasty when seasoned with with barbecue sauce and slow cooked with herbs. IMO it makes the perfect burger. You can make your own, buy at the supermarket, Vivera is my fav (£3.29), or eat out at our friends Biff’s Jack Shack.
TVP (= Textured Vegetable Protein) - When I went vegan a year ago, I started veganizing Italian classics and realised that back in Italy I was eating lots of meat. In order to reproduce credible texture I needed a good alternative for all the meat in the recipes, so I discovered TVP (= Textured Vegetable Protein). It was easy to swap meat out of dishes by using this plant based alternative. I must say that soy has helped me making the transition to a vegan diet much easier. Why do I recommend it? It is inexpensive, you can store it in the freezer forever, and it is easy to find - and there are so many ways you can use it, from preparing a bolognese sauce, to a chilli to a delicious curry! Vivera (£2.49) and Clearspring (£3.69) are my favourites.
Tempeh - is made from cooked soya beans that are then fermented in sliceable,
oblong patties in which you can see whole beans. It’s packed with nutrients and so
many people love it. I am not a huge fan of it personally, but I can see why people love it, if well seasoned it can really taste like meat! Impulse Tempeh is a good one (£2.85).
As you can see from the links I have shared you can find mock meat pretty much in every supermarket from a variety of brands - these days major supermarkets will also have their own range, so keep an eye on the frozen isle.
What else can we swap? Everything!
Make your own simple cream cheese, perfect for spreads and sandwiches. I have made my very own cream cheese using cashews. How? Place the cashews in a large bowl and cover with water, leave them overnight, then drain and rinse the cashews, I use a cotton cloth for that. In a food processor mix the nuts with a spoon of nutritional yeast, 2 spoons of lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp water - job done! Store in a glass jar in the fridge.
Vegan spread: Vitalite (£1.20) dairy free spread is great, I use the coconut one to butter my sandwiches when I prepare our vegan Afternoon Tea at Lele’s. Violife is another great brand you can find everywhere.
Then there’s New Roots - I am absolutely in love with their cheeses and so happy to see young entrepreneurs thrive and help Veganism grow! You can find their tasty cheeses at: GreenBay and Wholefoods in London. Seriously delicious Kindaco Greek Style cheese marinated in garlic and herbs, perfect for salads! This is produced by Ellie in London in small batches, and you can definitely taste all the hard work and love that goes into it! You can find her fab products on her website and at Hetu. Hetu is a vegan zero waste store, that offers whole foods and sustainable reusable items without unnecessary packaging. Possibly one of my favourite shops in London, pay them a visit if you can.
Nutcrafter Creamery - This Fauxmage is a French double-crème style cheese. It comes in two flavours, Original and Fresh Chive. This lovely cream is buttery and rich in flavour, I really love it. My cheese supplier brought me some last week to try and I literally finished a jar in an afternoon! If you fancy trying this then check their store locator here.
My plant-based alternative is oat milk by Oatly (£1.80) the barista version which you can find also in supermarkets. I love everything about this milk, the texture the flavour and the creaminess. I also like Alpro a lot, which is available in most supermarkets the world over. Alpro has a range of yogurt too. If yogurt is what you fancy then I would definitely recommend Sojade (£1.33) which is also soya based - the cherry flavour is super. There’s also Coyo if you are looking for a non soya alternative and have some money to spend as it isn’t cheap - it is a real treat though as it’s probably the creamiest and most flavoursome I’ve had so far.
Chocolate of course!
If you go for dark chocolate you should be ok but always remember to check the ingredients as sometimes you might find milk powder. From regular brands to artisanal makers you can find a wide array of choices. Here are my fav: Pana cacao Strawberry & Pistachio, 45g: £2.99, Vego whole hazelnut, 65g: £1.99 (possibly my FAV!), Moo Free Mini Moos Bar Cheeky Orange 23g £0.99.
Swedish Glace vanilla non dairy frozen dessert 750ml £2.50, this is a great simple inexpensive alternative, perfect paired with brownies! Booja-Booja Caramel Pecan Praline Ice Cream 500ml £5.99 - this is a luxurious ice-cream, kinda healthy as it doesn’t contain too much sugar compared to other brands. I personally don’t think you should care much about the sugar when choosing to eat ice-cream! Alpro Ice Cream Almond Salted Caramel 500Ml, now £2.50 at Tesco.
I hope that all this links show that you can find everything vegan
from ice-cream, to cheese to meat, for all budgets.
So we have seen that we can replace pretty much everything, but how about the nutrients and the proteins?
I’ve often been asked where I get my protein and I always think this isn’t a silly question as many of us have been brought up thinking that you can find all your answers in meat, from iron, to protein - little I knew that veggies can do the job too. So how to proceed?
Do a little reading, you can find great resources online and in print Vegan Life Magazine, Vegan Living Magazine, Peta - my go-to source, support them by becoming a member and they'll send you newsletters with further reading. Simply look on google and you will find lots of interesting articles.
Here in a nutshell: many experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can provide you with all the nutrients you need. That said, certain plant foods contain significantly more protein than others. And higher-protein diets can promote muscle strength, satiety and weight loss.
Our mac and cheese....vegan of course!
Seitan, contains selenium. Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame are all rich in iron.Lentils - a single cup (240 ml) provides approximately 50% of your recommended daily fibre intake. Kidney, black, pinto and most other varieties of bean contain high amounts of protein per serving. Both beans and chickpeas contain about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml). They are also excellent sources of complex carbs, fibre, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and several beneficial plant compounds.
Spelt and teff belong to a category known as ancient grains. Other ancient grains include einkorn, barley, sorghum and farro. Spelt is a type of wheat and contains gluten, whereas teff is gluten-free. Spelt and teff provide 10–11 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), making them higher in protein than other ancient grains. The little green peas often served as a side dish contain 9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), which is slightly more than a cup of milk. Oats are an easy and delicious way to add protein to any diet. Wild rice contains approximately 1.5 times as much protein as other long-grain rice varieties, including brown rice and basmati. My fav, Chia Seeds, rich in fibre - I add a spoon literally everywhere, from my salads, to my yogurt.
Nuts, seeds and their derived products are great sources of protein, my favourite peanut butter is by Pip & Nut. If you come to see me at Lele’s you will often find me with a jar open in my hands, when I need energy a spoonful always sorts me out!
Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Our Superfood salad, get the recipe here.
So you now know where to shop to swap your meat and dairy, and what you need to get your protein and nutrients… but what to cook?
FEAR NOT there are seriously thousands of blog where to find inspiration for yummy dishes, easy to make and often inexpensive… Obviously starting with our blog! :-P to PlantBased On A Budget - I usually get my inspiration by flicking through Instagram looking for hashtag such as #plantbased #govegan #veganfoodshare.
To know how to cook tasty meals is great but to know where to go and eat out when you feel lazy is even better!
If you live and or visit london you are in for a real treat! Here is my list of favorites:
Purezza - for me the best pizza in town
Eatchay Vegan Asian Munch (these guys are the BEST)
Temple of Seitan - finger licking good vegan fried chicken
Lele’s - The best full english in town if I might say so myself!
Vida bakery - Lovely gluten free cupcakes
Fed by Water - Amazing lasagna
Club Mexicana at The spread Eagle - seriously good Mexican food!
Sutton and Sons - Their scampi are just !!!
More awesome people to follow for advice, discoveries and places where to eat: The Little London Vegan, and Brixtonfoodfiend if you want to have some real food envy.Serena Lee, queen of Vegans of London for places tips and advice of every kind. Portia The Vegan for beautiful pictures and hair/tattoos tips. If you are into fashion you really need to check Marta Canga out. Food ideas and recipe by queen Jack Monroe
Our Full-English breakfast!
I think by this point you are half way there, actually more than half! You have discovered brands, recipes and managed to eat delicious yet healthy food - well, unless you have spent every evening indulging with the delicious Temple of Seitan that is!
If you feel you need a little push to really make the final step to go fully vegan then I couldn’t recommend enough watching some of these documentaries, they will open your eyes and the viewing isn’t always going to be comfortable but it might really help you making the transit and go vegan: 3 must-see documentaries are Earthlings, Cowspiracy and What the Health.
If now you feel like a pro and want to read more about ethical consumerism then read this little article I wrote last year where I talk about beauty products not tested on animals, wool, vegan leather etc. If you want to take a quick look, below are some of my fav brands. It’s also useful to know that Peta runs The PETA Fashion Awards celebrating the biggest moments, greatest innovations, and standout brands that made 2018 a kinder year for animals and the environment.
Some of my favourite cruelty-free brands have to be:
Wearing Matt and Nat vegan leather bag
Hope you will enjoy this little guide, please feel free to share it with whoever might find it interesting!