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What Is Vegan Food?

From Laura, published on 05/03/2018 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Cooking > What Is Vegan Food And Where Do I Get It?

Adopting The Vegan Lifestyle

Are you a vegan or about to become one and looking for some reasons to solidify why you have chosen this philosophy? Are you looking to find delicious and wholesome substitutes to basic cooking products? Are you keen to discover more about the nutritional benefits of consuming vegan foods and therefore more reasons to follow a healthier plant-based diet?

Whatever your reason for stumbling upon this series of blog posts, I can assure you that you will find answers to these all important questions and more! Changing the way you eat shouldn’t be taken lightly, so keep reading for a fact file on vegan eating.

For an overview of all things related to vegan food, visit the blog Vegan Food: What Is It And Why Is It So Good For Me?

Veganism – Is It For Me?

Eating vegan meals is not always the best choice for everyone, so if you have any concerns about this diet choice then consult your doctor to find out if it is recommended for you and your situation. This is often the case for people who are already deficient in certain vitamins.

Even if you choose to go vegan just for a month, week or a day, I hope that you can take away from your experience an appreciation for the huge positives that are gained from veganism.

In this blog, I will inform you on how to prepare yourself for embarking on a vegan diet plan, by telling you which products you can find in shops to replace your daily essentials, as well as keeping you up to date on the vegan-friendly ingredients that can be used in vegan dishes  or baked products.

They will taste just as satisfying, I promise!

What Makes A Vegan Diet Plan Different To An Ordinary Diet?

First of all, it is important to understand what veganism entails: what food is vegan, vegan health benefits, the principles behind veganism, etc… Once you have all of the knowledge you need about what is essentially a completely different way of living as well as eating, then you can make an informed decision on whether veganism is right for you.

Veganism is not to be confused with vegetarianism.

While ‘veggies’ abstain from eating animals, vegans neither eat meat or use any products that are made from animals, for reasons of cruelty or exploitation to livestock. Some strict vegetarians may also refrain from consuming foods that are made animals, like milk or eggs too.

Many distinctions are made between veganism and other forms of dietary choices, and likewise there are many different types of vegan.

Veganism is not just a diet, it is a way of life. Vegans do not eat or use animal-derived products because they are against the exploitation of livestock. Photo credit: ms_bulsara on VisualHunt

Ethical vegans, for example, not only choose to eat in a vegan way, they also extend the philosophy to their everyday lives, being cautious of products (whether dietary or household) that have resulted from the harvesting or industrial farming of animals. This is sometimes referred to as environmental veganism.

Regardless of how committed you are to the cruelty-free vegan principles, any move towards veganism from a traditional diet is life-changing in one way or another.

You may have to reconsider much more than just the products you use; you might have to, for instance, use or purchase new appliances for your kitchen (i.e. if you are used to sticking ready meals in the microwave, you might need to invest in a food blender or mixer to create new nutritionally balanced meals that meet your required intake of calories and vitamins), look for new restaurants to eat in or get take-always from (if there are suitable alternatives in your area that cater for vegans) and shop in different supermarkets to source the products you need.

But for each inconvenience of becoming a vegan, there are twice as many positives, the main one being a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Here is some information on the health benefits of vegan food. For a more in-depth exploration of vegan health benefits, visit my blog Vegan Health Benefits: Things You Should Know.

An Overview Of Vegan Health Benefits

Evidence suggests that, by following a hearty but healthy vegan diet plan, you could cut down on a number of common health risks. The major areas which have seen an improvement are those concerned with heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The health benefits of veganism are not limited to just the above. With evidence pointing towards a number of positive effects on the body, it begs the question: why aren’t more people following such a diet?

As it stands, the Vegan Society believes that there at least 542,000 vegans across the country, but expect this number to rise as more information emerges about the health benefits of being vegan.

Evidence suggests that a vegan diet can offer a range of health benefits. If you could cut down your risk of diabetes or heart disease by going vegan, wouldn’t you like to try? Photo on VisualHunt

An Introduction To Substituting Your Essentials

‘Out with the old and in with the new’ is not an understatement when it comes to turning your diet regime around, but unlike short-term, fad diets which encourage you to only eat certain foods or food groups for a predestined amount of time, going vegan means replacing some of your basic cooking ingredients for good.

Once you have established what substitutions you need to make, you can then continue to cook meals as normal using those alternatives. Okay, so you may need to find some new recipes to follow or change the way you snack throughout the day (to ensure you are getting enough essential nutrients into your diet), but there are many vegan products that will make following a vegan diet plan incredibly easy.

Just take a look at these vegan replacements which will surely become your go-to ingredients.

1. Milk

Dairy milk is so easy to replace in most recipes, with so many dairy alternatives on offer like soya milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, and many more. While your local store won’t have a huge choice, you are sure to find at least two alternative varieties to diary milk in a standard superstore.

2. Cheese

Once again, there are numerous vegan substitutions for cheeses, all of which come in choices of blocks, slices or shreds. Tofu, for example, is a great replacement for ricotta cheese and daiya mozzarella is a perfect pizza topping. While neither will be as creamy as the real thing, you can add flavour when making them yourself by adding herbs and spices. Adding nutritional yeast will help recreate a cheesy flavour!

Warning! Don’t forget that not all vegetarian-labelled cheeses are vegan. Some contain a product called casein, which is not vegan, so check the label before you buy.

3. Eggs

Tofu is again a great alternative to scrambled eggs, and also appears in many vegan recipes as an egg-replacement (in its soft form). If you need a product to bind with, you can use rolled oats, oat or soy flour tomato paste, bread crumbs or cornstarch to do so. Finally, chickpea flour is really good for making omelettes with while aquafaba is perfect for meringues or as a mayonnaise.

4. Butter

Vegan butters can be found in most large food stores, and are preferred over margarines. Alternatively, use sunflower or olive oil instead of butter.

5. Yoghurt

Fruit flavoured and plain vegan yoghurts grace our big supermarket shelves for both consuming as a pudding or for use in vegan baking.

While they may not be as creamy, there are vegan substitutions to milk, cheese and yoghurt. You can find dairy alternatives like vegan yoghurts to purchase. Photo credit: Veganbaking.net on Visual Hunt

6. Meat stock

Quite simply replace any beef, prob, lamb or chicken stock with vegetable broth.

7. Honey

Contrary to popular belief, honey is not a vegan product. However, you can find a number of sweeteners in liquid form to replace the runny product.

8. Sugar

Beet sugar, fructose, date sugar, maple crystal and natural organic sugar are suitable for vegans as there is no risk of pesticides, nor are they refined using animal products.

9. Chocolate

Who says that vegans can’t indulge in a sweet, chocolate-y treat every once in a while? Thankfully there are many vegan chocolate alternatives out there, including chips for vegan baking .

10. Ice cream

If you can’t live without this old favourite in your life, then you’ll be pleased to hear that you can find vegan-friendly ice cream based on soy, nut, rice and coconut milk products. Whether you are cravi a fruity sorbet or nutty delight, you’ll find many options.

11. Meat

Finally, how do you replace meat and still get the necessary protein in your vegan diet plan? Well, luckily for you, the vegan industry has come a long way and, as a result, products that taste like meat and have a similar texture are emerging. You’ll find veggie burgers, meatballs, sausages, bacon, beef, patties and nuggets!

Can’t I Just Buy Vegan Foods From The Shops?

Now, if you’re not confident in the kitchen and would rather leave it up to the experts to create products suitable for vegans, then why not take a look in your local superstore to see what they offer in their vegan-friendly line?

You can discover which are the top-rated supermarkets for buying vegan food in the blog The Best Shops For Vegan Food.

Waitrose and Marks and Spencer have a great selection of vegan breads, puddings, frozen food, and even snacks (M&S even have vegan sandwich options to eat on the go, which was unheard of until recently!).

Meanwhile, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Co-Operative offer some super products and Morrison’s, Aldi and Asda too have some good finds. Even if there are not specific vegan friendly ready meals, products like quinoa, lentils, avocado, banana, hummus, spinach and potatoes are available in every supermarket so you won’t be limited.

Basic Vegan Foods Summary

Here is a quick roundup on the vegan alternatives to your everyday basics. Whether you want to learn some easy vegan recipes or indulge your sweet tooth with some vegan baking recipes.

So, as you now know, there are a wide range of products at your disposal to make becoming a vegan easier than ever before. If in doubt about what you can use to replace a particular product in your daily life or as part of a recipe, then consult our table below summarising the key substitutions.

Non-vegan productRecommended vegan alternative
Dairy milkSoya, rice, oat, nuts milk
CheeseTofu or vegan cheese
EggsTofu, chickpea flour, soy flour, oat flour, rolled oats, aquafaba
ButterVegan butter or some margarines
YoghurtVegan yoghurt
Meat stockVegetable broth
HoneyLiquid sweetener
SugarBeet sugar, fructose, date sugar, maple crystal and natural organic sugar
ChocolateVegan chocolate
Ice creamVegan ice cream
MeatTofu or vegetarian burgers, meatballs, sausages, bacon, patties and nuggets

 

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