Hi everyone! I’ve had a bit of a break from blogging due to the Christmas festivities and the whole moving to Spain malarkey! That’s right, I’m writing this from
sunny RAINY Spain! Yes it is p*ssing it down – rotten!
Recently I’ve had a number of curious people ask me about going vegan and what it entails. It is such positive news for the movement to know that people are even thinking about transitioning to veganism! So, I’ve written this blog post to try and make it as easy as possible for people to learn how to eat vegan, which is usually the first step people take when going vegan (clothes, shoes, cosmetics etc. are another story but equally important).
Yes, it involves reading, and researching, and trying new things, and looking for new products in the supermarket, and, learning how to cook with new ingredients. And it’s actually really fun! Who doesn’t love trying new recipes and experimenting with different products?
So please enjoy this post and I welcome any questions or suggestions for new blog posts. 🙂
KNOW WHAT FOODS CONTAIN ANIMAL PRODUCTS
Meat: pork, beef, chicken, duck, fish, shellfish, etc.
Processed meat: ham, bacon, turkey slices, etc.
Dairy: milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, cream.
Baked goods: many are made with eggs, honey, milk and/or milk powder.
Processed foods: Many contain cheese, cream, eggs etc.
Hidden ingredients: honey, milk powder, lactose, gelatine, cream etc.
Most of the above are obvious and easy to avoid. However, when purchasing processed food, it gets trickier. Most prepackaged dinners in our supermarkets contain some form of animal products, so, it is important to always check ingredients. In recent years though the selection of vegan and veggie foods has grown massively. So, the next time you are shopping head straight to the “free-from” or vegetarian section and see what they have to offer. Many cereals have honey in them so that is something to look out for too. Surprisingly, most forms of bread are vegan friendly. The only ones that are not are the traditional Irish brown bread and soda bread loaves, as well as scones and other baked goods like cakes and croissants.
HANDY TIPS FOR FINDING VEGAN FOOD
When reading ingredients, you will see that eggs and any dairy products will show up in bold as they are allergens. Honey, gelatin and fish will not be in bold. So, when checking cereals, cereal bars, stir fry sauces, processed savoury foods and sweets, make sure to check for those ingredients.
There are many processed foods that are accidentally vegan. The PETA website has a list that shows you some of these products. There are also some YouTubers that do videos on this topic and show you what they bought in the supermarket that was surprisingly vegan. (WARNING: most accidentally vegan foods are not healthy)
Health food shops usually have a wide variety of vegan friendly foods that you wouldn’t find in a supermarket. Be warned though, the prices are a lot higher than supermarket prices – but often it can be worth it!
FIND YOUR FAVOURITE DAIRY ALTERNATIVES
If you LOVE a cold pint of milk with your biscuits or your dinner, you should find a good milk alternative. Thankfully there are plenty to choose from these days. Your local supermarket should have a whole section for dairy-free milks and they could range from almond milk to soya milk to coconut milk to oat milk to rice milk – to name a few! There are countless different kinds of milk out there. Personally, my favourites are Oatly oat milk, Koko coconut milk, and Alpro organic soya milk. These are all available in my local Tesco and Dunnes and might be in yours too! Another very good milk is Promavel soya milk which you might find in your local health food shop. Some milks work better in tea and others work better in cereal and others work better on their own as a glass of milk. Some come sweetened and some come unsweetened. Everyone has their favourites so try a few different ones to get you started and soon you’ll know what you prefer.
If you are a self-proclaimed “cheese addict” then you are in luck. In the last 2-3 years the quality of vegan cheeses really has improved, and, the amount of different brands has increased. Nature&Moi create a variety of cheeses in different flavours and they come grated and in slices. They are currently sold in Dunnes and Tesco as far as I know. These are delicious melted on bread or over a pizza or stirred into sauces. They are not great raw so I would only use this brand of cheese for melting.
VioLife is another fantastic brand of vegan cheese. They do all the usual flavours like cheddar and mozzarella and they are great melted and raw. Violife are available in Dunnes but I am not sure about Tesco.
Your local health food shop will have an even bigger selection, including cream cheese.
And, if you like to get creative in the kitchen there are plenty recipes online to show you how to make your own cheese. I’ve made a “ricotta” cheese before using the Japanese sea weed flakes agar agar, and I’ve made a kind of Parmesan cheese using cashew nuts. Everything is possible! Google is your friend.
You can find ice cream alternatives (basically the exact same as normal ice cream only not made from dairy) in most big supermarkets and health food stores. Some are quite expensive though so a great way to replace ice cream in your life is by making banana ice cream. It is possibly the greatest discovery ever. It is basically frozen ripe bananas blended together until they take on the consistency of ice cream.
WARNING: Make sure your bananas are ripe before you freeze them! This means yellow with dark brown spots! Lots of spots! The more the better because this means they will be sweeter.
SECOND WARNING: Make sure you leave your bananas to freeze overnight – if you just wait until they are slightly cold and hard they will turn to mush in your blender.
THIRD WARNING: After you take your frozen bananas out of the freezer let them thaw for 5-10 minutes or you will break your blender. They will be rock solid. Sometimes, to speed up this process, I splash some boiling water over the bananas in the blender to thaw them out. Not too much though. I made this video a long time ago showing you how I like to make banana ice cream – apologies for the quality, like I said it is quite old.
You can make a lovely pouring cream to pour over your desserts using soaked cashews and water. You can also make a whipped cream using chilled coconut milk and some icing sugar. For creamy sauces you can use steamed cauliflower like what I did here for this béchamel sauce recipe.
Again, there are a lot of good butter alternatives in the shops these days. My favourite is Pure Soya Butter. Koko also do a coconut butter. All you need to do is spend an extra 2 minutes in the dairy section of the supermarket looking for these products. And if all else fails you can just use margarine!
ANALYSE WHAT YOU CURRENTLY EAT FOR BREAKFAST AND VEGANISE IT
Typical breakfasts include cereal, toast, eggs on toast, a full-Irish, a breakfast roll, bacon on toast, etc.
Make your cereal vegan by using a plant based milk instead of normal milk and choose a vegan cereal. I love to make porridge with lots of different toppings from dates and nuts to coconut and cinnamon. Berries and chia seeds are a deliciously healthy option!
Toast is simple. Use vegan butter instead of dairy butter and bob’s your uncle! You can have jam, peanut butter, almond butter, marmalade, avocado, etc.
Eggs are a tricky one to replicate but you can get a similar effect from tofu – scrambled tofu is a popular vegan breakfast. There is also an egg alternative available in the health food shops now and it is said to taste very similar to the real thing! For me, I just make avocado on toast instead of eggs on toast. Sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice, tabasco and black pepper and Holy moly – breakfast is served!
I love a vegan full Irish! It consists of Dees sausages or Linda McCartney sausages, baked beans, toast, avocado, mushrooms fried in thyme, hash browns and if you like tomatoes you could add a grilled tomato! Vegan bacon is available but it’s not for me so I avoid it. You can get it in the health food shops or order it online. Moodley’s Manor is an Irish vegan meat company that do a vegan bacon that could tempt you. It will never be the real thing but the real thing is dried, salted, thinly sliced pig flesh, so how that could appeal to anyone is beyond me.
A breakfast roll is an easy one to recreate. Stock up on some vegan sausages and bacon and load up into a roll with vegan butter and ketchup! Filthy but deliciously ethical.
Bacon on toast is what it says on the tin. Experiment with different bacon alternatives and have it on some sour dough toast with beans on the side or topped with some organic tomato ketchup – ooooh.
ANALYSE WHAT YOU HAVE FOR LUNCH EVERY DAY AND VEGANISE IT
I’ll be the first to admit that lunch is probably the most awkward meal to try an veganise. Because, it is either something you have to prepare in advance and take with you in a lunch box, or, it’s something you order in a café or restaurant.
Prepacked lunch ideas
- Dinner leftovers: Whatever you’ve made the night before for dinner, make extra and take some with you to work in a lunch box. Hopefully you have a microwave at work where you can heat it up.
- A grain salad: What I mean here is a salad of either cous cous, quinoa, rice, bulgar wheat, buckwheat or other grain, with your choice of extra ingredients. I like to have roasted sweet potato or squash, with toasted nuts or seeds, spinach or kale, and maybe some sliced fruit, and, either chickpeas or butter beans etc. There are thousands of recipes online for this type of salad – if you just type into google something like “vegan quinoa salad” you will find something. If you make a big batch on Sunday, you should have enough for lunches Monday – Wednesday. Bring some nice crusty bread to have on the side with avocado or cucumber.
- Sandwiches: Just like you can get vegan bacon, you can also get vegan ham. I’ve tried vegan ham and cheese sandwiches before and they are very tasty! Not the healthiest, but, they are just as quick and easy as a standard ham and cheese sandwich.
Another option is a mashed chickpea sandwich. You can add vegan mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and mustard for a take on “egg mayonnaise”, or, add avocado, nutritional yeast and lemon juice to mashed chickpeas for “tuna mayonnaise”.
Roasted veggies and hummus is another easy sandwich filling. If you slice courgette, aubergine, red peppers etc. and grill them until charred, and then add to a sandwich with hummus – delicious! The veggies can be prepped at the start of the week and used for a few days.
- Buddha bowls: If you’re at home this is a great option that can be made with literally anything. What is entails is basically throwing anything edible into a bowl. I’ve done this before with prepacked falafels, salad leaves, chickpeas, gherkins, microwave rice and avocado. But you could literally throw in whatever you have at hand: vegan meat substitutes, any kind of grain or bread, chickpeas, lentils or beans, roasted or raw veggies, pickled gherkins or sauerkraut….the list goes on!
lentils, chick peas, purple stemmed spinach (made that up myself), ground flaxseed, globe carrots, scallion and pomegranate with a tahini, tamari, agave and lemon juice dressing 👌🏽👌🏽👌🏽😋😋😋 DELICIOUS!!! got all these veggies at the Ballyholey stall at all artisan market at the weekend. it was full of beautiful colourful veggies that you can’t get in any supermarket! just amazing #eattherainbow
So as you may have noticed – there are so many options for lunch – you just need to experiment a little and research different ideas. Here’s a blog post I wrote quite some time ago with some lunch ideas.
ANALYSE WHAT YOU HAVE FOR DINNER EVERY DAY AND VEGANISE IT
In my opinion, dinner is so easy to make as a vegan. Thanks to my mum I can now veganise some of my old favourite dinners such as shepherd’s pie, lasagne, stew and spaghetti bolognaise.
REPLACE MINCE WITH QUORN MINCE
As I mentioned above, dinners such as the traditional lasagne, shepherd’s pie and spaghetti bolognaise can very easily be veganised! Just use your usual recipe but replace the mince with Quorn mince! It is far easier to use because all you need to do is heat it up from frozen. And honestly it tastes so similar to real mince! I know this because I tricked my brother into having a veggie shepherd’s pie once. At this present time, Quorn are in the process of making all their meat alternatives fully vegan. I am not sure if their mince sold in Ireland is vegan yet, but, if you are transitioning to veganism you could allow yourself to use Quorn mince to help with the transition.
REPLACE MINCE WITH LENTILS
If you’re a health nut and like trying new things then you could go one step further than Quorn mince, and, replace the mince component of your favourite traditional recipes with green lentils. I have a delicious Shepherd’s pie recipe post that uses dry lentils instead of mince, they are stirred into the veggie mix and stewed for a while which cooks them through. The same can be done for lasagne recipes – just follow a traditional recipe and replace the mince with lentils (and the cheese with vegan cheese…). Tinned lentils work just fine too! Especially with recipes such as bolognese and curry.
USE MEAT SUBSTITUTES
If it would be too strange for you to eat only vegetables and lentils, you can always use meat substitutes to help you stop eating meat. Quorn have a fantastic range which can be found in most major supermarkets. The only problem is that not all their products are vegan. Some contain egg white, but, if you are in the transitioning stage then don’t beat yourself up if you need these products to get you off real meat. You will eventually be able to transition fully to a vegan diet, or, by then Quorn will have developed a full vegan range. Other good vegan meat brands include Fry’s, Linda Mc Cartney, Moodley’s Manor (Ireland) and Dee’s Wholefoods. There are so many more so just check the freezer section of your local supermarket or health food shop. There are nuggets, “fish fingers”, burgers, sausages, gammon and chicken kievs, to name a few!
If you enjoy cooking, then making vegan dinners will not be a problem. There is an abundance of recipes online for all sorts of meals. Type your favourite food into google with the word vegan and recipe beside it and you will be presented with thousands of recipe ideas. Even Jamie Oliver and BBC Good Food have vegan sections now. And guess what, the simplest recipes that you already know are vegan! Pasta with pasta sauce! Throw a jar of passata over some cooked pasta and add whatever herbs and spices you enjoy and there is one ridiculously quick meal. For extra nourishment add in a can of chickpeas and a half a bag of spinach (which will wilt). You will learn to enjoy the flavour of vegetables, herbs and spices, and your taste buds will change. No two meals will ever be the same because there is so much choice of ingredients you’ll want to try a new combination every time you make something.
LEARN HOW TO READ MENUS IN RESTAURANTS
Chances are no dishes on standard restaurant menus will be vegan. So, you need to figure out what ingredients they have in the kitchen from reading their menu, and think of what they could make you. Usually I would ask for a pasta or stir fry dish and ask them to hold the cheese/meat. This shouldn’t be too hard for them to do. Also, all restaurants have rice, potatoes and veggies. You could request a plate of roasted veggies and spuds, which I did in a meat heavy restaurant in Dublin one time. It turned out to be delicious! You have to read between the lines and also see what side dishes they have. It does feel very awkward at first. But, we have to remember that if we don’t ask for something to be veganised, the restaurant will not know that there is a demand for vegan dishes. They need to know so that they can appeal to more people and so that the vegan message is spread. Indian and Italian restaurants are easiest to find vegan dishes. Indian waiters are always very helpful and knowledgeable and in a pizzeria just have a veggie pizza without cheese!
BE PREPARED TO MAKE A SACRIFICE
When you follow a standard western diet, you can eat anything you want on a menu and eat whatever you want in a supermarket. So easy right? Wrong. The vast majority of food available in restaurants and in supermarkets is high in animal fat, oil, sugar, or salt – or all four. All of which lead to a myriad of diseases, including the top killers in the Western World: cancer and heart disease. These are not easy to go through. So, to drastically reduce your risk of developing these diseases (or to slow the progression of or reverse them) you need to make the sacrifice and learn how to say no to the easy option. Ask questions in restaurants and spend that extra few minutes in the supermarket looking for the veggie section. In the long run, it is well worth it.
WHAT TO SNACK ON
HELLO!!!! my god the decadence!! all guess what?? ITS ALL VEGAN AND ITS ALL FROM TESCO!!!! 💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽 layers of vegan friendly ice cream, vegan chocolate spread(AKA cruelty free Nutella), vegan chocolate buttons, @nakdwholefoods toffee clusters and fresh cherries!!! 🙆🏽🙆🏽🙆🏽 cruelty free food is coming to the mainstream market! Yeow! 💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽
There are lots of healthy vegan snack bars like Nakd bars, Cliff bars, Trek bars and lots more! You can find them in Tesco, Supervalu, Dunnes and even Aldi have a range now! These are all certified vegan though so they will be slightly more expensive than your average bar – but they’re worth it!
There are also a huge number of sweets and bars that are “accidently” vegan, as I mentioned before. I will link to a video here of a Scottish vegan YouTuber showing a selection of accidently vegan snack foods. Also, I wrote this blog post giving you a few healthy snack ideas that are slightly out of the ordinary! You have to think outside the box when your vegan!
YOU WON’T GET ENOUGH PROTEIN
Long story short – you will. You just need to make sure you are eating enough calories. You can’t come to this lifestyle and still eat ridiculously small portion sizes or calorie restrict because plant based foods are naturally very low in calories so to meet your basic caloric needs you need to eat good hefty meals! This is a good thing! You can eat what as much as you want without overeating? Fantastic! Also there are heaps of plant based foods that are packed with protein such as bean, lentils, broccoli, tofu, nuts and seeds. To name a few. In fact, all plant foods contain a small amount of protein – around the same amount in percentage of calories as what a mother’s breast milk contains (between 2-10%). And when does a human need to grow the most in their life? When they are a baby and living off their mother’s milk. So, if a mother’s milk contains the perfect amount of protein to grow a new born baby into a toddler, doesn’t that say something about our protein needs as humans? This crazy marketing push for products with protein that has taken over the health and wellness market is nothing but a money-making scheme! Studies have shown that people are more likely to buy something that has the word protein on the packaging. But the reality is, it is nearly impossible to get a protein deficiency, unless you become anorexic or have some sort of eating disorder. All foods have protein – eat enough food, get enough protein.
YOU WILL GET AN IRON DEFICIENCY
Iron deficiencies are common among vegetarians but not vegans. This is because dairy hinders iron absorption. And vegetarians eat dairy. Cut out the dairy and make sure you’re eating lots of leafy greens and kidney beans and you should be fine.
YOU WILL GET A B12 DEFICIENCY AND DIE
This is unlikely, but, to be sure to be sure we should all be taking B12 supplements. Meat eaters included! Some people don’t have the ability to absorb B12 so they have to get B12 injections. But to be safe everyone should be taking B12 supplements. Ask in your local health food store for B12 supplements and be sure to ask for the cyanocobalamin version as there are more studies done on this one so it’s known to be safe. (Dr. Greger – How Not To Die)
I’M A TEENAGER I WON’T GROW PROPERLY IF I GO VEGAN
Again, if you make sure to eat properly, and eat enough, you will grow! Don’t go on silly fad diets that involve cutting calories and eating miniscule portions because that is a form of starvation with intent! Also, make sure to follow a healthy diet full of healthy starches, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds! Follow the guidelines of doctors like Michael Greger and John Mc Dougall. Use Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen as a guide on what you should eat every day. And don’t forget, plant-based foods are lower in calories than meat and dairy based foods, so you get to eat more food! Yay!
If you have anything else you’re not sure about drop me a line or comment down below. I would highly recommend following vegan Instagram pages and YouTube channels because that’s the best place to get food and recipe inspiration. Also, to get more information about why people go vegan, these documentaries are absolutely excellent and very informative on all different aspects of veganism from animal use, health and wellness, and climate change.