The first question I had when I heard about the vegan diet, was ‘But, what do these vegans eat?!’. This question changed and became edged with despair when we actually adopted a plant-based diet ourselves to ‘But, what the f*** do we eat now?’. In previous posts I’ve shared our joy at how we got to keep biscuits in our biscuit barrel, and my unease with fake meats, but now, 10 months in to this plant-based eating, and as it is ‘veganuary’, I thought it would be good to share the snacks and meals which have become part of our regular diet (most of them with recipes linked). If you’re vegan curious and fancy fooling around with some plants to see how you feel about it, then this post might be useful to you.
This meal has probably been the easiest change for us. Most bread is vegan (a source of protein, if that’s your worry) , and switching from a dairy spread to non-dairy was straight-forward. So, TOAST! I f***ing love toast (and a lot of the main brands of crumpet). Marmalade, jam, Marmite, beans (more protein–like all legumes). If we want a fry-up, then Linda McCartney sausages, beans, mushrooms, hash browns (and TOAST!). Cereal is a bit trickier as most of it has no nutritional value, so they are ‘fortified’, and vitamin D3 is derived from an animal. But, we loved Jordan’s Country Crisp before we went plant-based, and it’s vegan, so that got to stay. Yay! There are loads of plant milks out there now, so finding the right one is just a matter of trying it. Jus-roll pastry is vegan, so home-made pastries will be happening at some point. There’s porridge too, (another big source of protein, along with all your whole-grains). I make a porridge bake which I enjoy. I have changed the recipe linked to my own taste.
Put 150g of porridge oats in a mixing bowl. Add 300ml of warm water and allow it to soak while you chop 60g of Brazil nuts and 60g of walnuts, and weigh out 60g or sultanas or cranberries. Add these along with 150ml of plant milk, and tbsp of cinnamon and mix together. Pour into a 20cm square baking tray, chop an apply and poke evenly into the bake. Sling it in the oven at 160 degrees c (fan) for 40 minutes. Serves 3 and a portion is approx 15g of protein.
Lunch & Snacks
Eh, never been a big fan of lunch, so not so many choices here just because of me and my lack of motivation. We’re also creatures of habit for lunch, and pretty much had the same ham sandwich lunch year in year out at work when we were omni. We now have a new staple sandwich–which I would choose over a ham sandwich if I was omni again to be honest. It’s crumbled falafels on hummus with grated carrot on brown bread and it is epic (again, falafels and hummus are both good sources of protein as they are made with chickpeas–not all makes are vegan though, so we have to check the ingredients) . I used to love tuna and hummus and grated carrot, so this switch out worked well for me. Otherwise we have peanut butter (more protein) and jam sandwiches, beans on toast, and soups, and garlic bread (certain store garlic breads are dairy free. PB&J has always been a go to comfort food, and I’m so glad I got to keep that. There are plenty of cereal bars out there that are vegan (Trek and Nakd bars). I have even made healthy oat bites myself. Homemade banana bread (I have added chocolate chips, or I add sultanas and extra cinnamon) makes one of our favourite snacks and is a great way to use up bananas too. Chocolate tiffins are also really nice. These are festive ones, but you can switch out gingernut biscuits for dairy free digestives and cranberries for raisins or sultanas (I would add the biscuits slowly as I found the chocolate to biscuit ratio wasn’t right when I made this). My other half didn’t like them because of the ginger nuts, so I ate about 20 pieces of it over a week and I didn’t get sick of it.
While I didn’t like any of the dairy free chocolate, a lot of dark chocolates are vegan. I always preferred milk chocolate, but I really like the dark chocolate with fruit and/or nuts in them–so chocolate gets to stay. Crisps can be a bit of a minefield because of milk and flavourings, but we’ve found plenty of choice for a savory hit. Banana smothered in peanut butter has become a thing for me too… I think my most common thoughts since switching to plant-based have been ‘is that vegan?’ and if yes, ‘can I put peanut butter on that?’… It has to be tried. For science.
There are plenty of jars of sauce to choose from, so pasta or rice and Quorn vegan pieces/tofu and veg can make a bunch of different Italian and Asian meals. There are also some basic meals, like Fry’s schnitzel with sides of spinach and sweetcorn, and mixed bean salad and wholegrain rice mixed with sriracha, and pie, and sausage and mash, burgers and wedges. But, going plant-based we became more conscious of what goes in sauces and foods generally and started using lentils and beans and veg and tofu more than the heavily processed vegan meats, making our own sauces from scratch at the weekends. I say we… I mean my husband. As our diet had suddenly become healthier, we decided to make it even healthier still by switching to wholegrain pasta and rice.
We have found a bunch of nice meals which have become our regular meals: Cosy sweet potato and butternut squash stew, shepherd’s pie, chickpea curry, sweet and sour vegan pieces or tofu (this recipe is for a dip, we double it for a sauce), chili and guacamole with store bought tortilla chips, tomato risotto, mushroom risotto, mushroom stroganoff, Moroccan chickpea stew, Singapore noodles, pad Thai, and Srilankan curry. Oh, and roast dinners, so all the usual trimmings with Linda McCartney’s beef roast or the Artisan mediterranean nut roast. All of these is enough for us to switch in and out for variety, and we are finding new recipes as we go.
We haven’t had it ourselves as we’re not big ice cream eaters at home, but Ben and Jerry’s now have a great line of dairy free ice creams, and Hagen Daz is meant to be releasing some too. My go to cakes are chocolate brownies and this amazing chocolate cake (for the chocolate cake I used unrefined sugar and regular peanut butter or biscoff spread). Meat eater or plant-based, I’m pretty sure all differences could be put aside over this cake.
The lifestyle change for me and my partner to vegetarian and then vegan has been a process of giving up life-long staple, favourite and comfort food, but there is plenty to eat! Not grass, tree bark and seeds like everyone who isn’t on a plant-based diet seems to think.
Beyond the peace of mind this diet gives me I found myself wondering whether I will ever see food in the same way again, and enjoy it as much as I always have. I certainly don’t see food in the same way–I can’t believe I used to eat meat, knowing what I know now, but society conditions us into not thinking about the relationship between animal and meat. Thankfully, after some trial and error, we now have a diet we really enjoy.
This irregular series of non-preachy blog posts will follow us, two regular guys, meat and dairy eaters for all our lives, as we explore the reasons for and the challenges and rewards of a plant based diet as we go on our new veg munching adventure…