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"I could never go vegan!" - Me, a few years ago—when I loved chicken nuggets, milkshakes, and cheese.
From the start of my transition to veganism up until now, I've not only grown more and more passionate about the movement, but have also learned a lot about my body and how it responds to different foods. I attribute this to my newfound habits of openness to try new flavours and ingredients, which in my old diet, I would have never considered. This is mainly due to habit. Before, I already had easily accessible foods that I had enjoyed throughout my life—these were the flavours I was comfortable with. Milk with my cereal for breakfast... Chicken sandwich for lunch... Cheesy pasta for dinner... I didn't feel the need to experiment with flavour!
As I cut more and more products out, I learned to get creative—and now I love the variety of what I eat.
We, of course, live in a world where not everyone CAN go vegan. Not only this, but as a society there will never be anything that everyone will universally abide by or agree on. However, there are some simple adjustments we can all make in order to help out the animals and the planet that we all share. Every little thing helps!
This is probably the simplest thing to substitute, but I'd certainly recommend you do a bit of experimenting to see what you like. The great thing about plant-based milks is the range of flavours and textures you can achieve with different alternatives. Each kind has its own unique qualities. This is what I've found based on my own experience:
- Soya: This is great when you're transitioning from dairy milk: sweetened is similar to whole milk, and soya light is similar to skimmed, but standard soya has its own taste which is subtle enough to make it highly versatile. I've used it in tea, coffee, cereal, porridge... I can't think of anything it wouldn't go with. It's also available in the vast majority of shops, supermarkets, and coffee shops.
- Almond: Another very popular choice, almond milk is still versatile but with a more distinctive flavour. It's low calorie, and particularly great in coffee, hot chocolate, and porridge.
- Coconut: It's deliciously rich and decadent, yet surprisingly low calorie (the same calorie count as red top dairy milk). Coconut milk isn't as versatile as many other milks, but is great for baking! It's also lovely in coffee and hot chocolate.
- Oat: This is a great tasting alternative useful for those with soya or nut allergies, particularly great in a cup of tea, an iced coffee, porridge or a hot chocolate.
- Hazelnut: We all love an underdog—hazelnut milk is hugely overlooked in my opinion! It's subtle enough to be versatile, yet with a present enough flavour to make an everyday food extra delicious. This is another example where I can't think of something it wouldn't complement. (Try hazelnut milk hot chocolate and thank me later).
2. Milk-derived Products
Thankfully, vegan options are very much on the rise and there are fantastic alternatives available for all these staple items.
- Cheese: As a former cheese addict, the best mocks I've come across are the Violife range & the Koko "cheddar" block. If you're eating out, Zizzi's and Pizza Hut are great examples of accessible chains that offer delicious pizzas made with alternative cheeses.
- Nutritional yeast is also a fantastic ingredient to have at home. It has its own cheesy flavour which you can use to make your own sauce (with the help of some trusty cashews). You could even try mixing it in with your everyday savoury dishes for a subtle cheesy taste.
- Yogurt & Ice Cream: In my opinion, Alpro is top of the range for dairy-free yogurt and ice cream—and can usually be found in most mainstream supermarkets. In addition to this, the majority of supermarkets now offer own-brand alternatives for these products, which are not only delicious, but also won't break the bank. If you're feeling bougie and want to treat yourself, Booja-Booja and Ben & Jerry's also have a range of great tasting dairy-free flavours.
It's also always worth looking in the free-from section in supermarkets to find cruelty-free versions of products such as cream, custard, and biscuits! These ranges are ever-growing so it's worth keeping an eye on them!
The most obvious way of substituting meat is simply by purchasing mock-meat from your local supermarket! Again, these ranges are ever-growing and are becoming more and more delicious and varied—but if these aren't for you, there are other routes you can take to cutting down your meat consumption!
- Vegetable/bean burgers: I used to eat these before I even went meat-free! Vegetable and bean burgers are hard to get wrong and very accessible. Most supermarkets will sell them in the frozen aisle, and many fast food joints and restaurants will offer veggie burgers!
- Tofu: Widely accessible and affordable, tofu is great in a stir fry or fajitas! Its subtle flavour and varied textures (based on how it's cooked) means freedom to really experiment with flavours and seasoning.
- Seitan: Made out of solidified wheat gluten, seitan is a versatile substance that can be seasoned to taste like a range of different meats, but is commonly used to replicate chicken in vegetarian/vegan restaurants. (If you're ever in Hackney or Camden, check out Temple of Seitan, an all-vegan "fried chicken" shop!)
- Jackfruit: Perfect for lovers of pulled pork, jackfruit tends to have a smokier flavour with a meat-like, tender texture. It's great in a wrap or a bap.
Whilst many specialist vegan shops will offer dearly priced mock eggs to bake with or scramble, there are certainly other options available for those of us on a budget!
There's a range of substitutes you can use whilst baking. You can make a flax egg, or mix vegetable oil with water and add baking soda, but my personal favourite to use is unsweetened applesauce. It especially complements a vanilla or lemon sponge!
If you want to make meringue, use aquafaba (the excess water that comes in a can of chickpeas) instead of egg whites. There are an array of helpful recipes online which can help guide you, depending on what you're making with the meringue.
As for pancakes, simply don't add the eggs. They taste just as great, and have the same texture without it—just make sure you work quickly with the mixture!
Fancy scrambled eggs? Try scrambled tofu! Break it up and fry (for the texture) with some black salt (for the eggy flavour) plus any other seasoning of your choice.
Making the choice to give up or cut down on personal consumption of animal products helps make a positive and much-needed difference to our planet. From small adjustments to big lifestyle changes, it all contributes to the making of a better, more ethical world.
Let's show our planet and the animals some love!