Top Tips For New Vegetarians/Vegans
I’ve seen lots of people on social media who have given up meat and dairy (or at least reduced their consumption) in the new year, and I couldn’t be happier! There are also lots of people who took part in Veganuary which is great.
I went vegetarian four years ago, in my first year at university, and since then I’ve seen people’s attitudes change, and vegetarian food become so much easier to find. In that time I was also a vegan for nine months (also while I was at university so it’s doable on a low budget and whilst you have the kitchen skills of a moth). As a vegan I discovered so many foods/shops/substitutes that I was missing out on before and, although I’m not 100% vegan now (I’m always trying and cutting out more dairy products) I still use many of them.
I remember how difficult it was to get the right info when I was a new veggie (shout out to vegsoc forum!), so I thought I’d put together this handy little (okay, it’s quite long) guide as a starting point for those of you who may be struggling a little, or who have decided to make this a permanent change after doing veganuary.
A few of these tips are for vegetarians but the majority are vegan tips. Hopefully some of you will find this useful! If you have any questions feel free to ask, either in the comments, on Twitter, or email.
•Don’t take an all or nothing approach if that’s too difficult – I took an all or nothing approach when I went vegetarian but I think going from eating meat most days to going completely vegan is much more difficult.
•You will face criticism from friends/family/people you’ve only just met – stick to your guns and remember why you’re doing it. And learning some sassy responses / well thought out counter-arguments will make life easier.
•You will here some variation of ‘but where do you get your protein from?’ Or ‘I could never give up meat’ or ‘mmm bacon is so good’ or ‘animals are so tasty’ or ‘if you were on a desert island would you eat meat then?!’ far too many times – I’ve learnt that the best way to deal is to ignore and change the subject. You can try and argue and convince them that giving up meat is the right thing to do but people who say these things usually aren’t up for that and it’s better to save your energy for people who are open to listening.
•You will have to do a lot of research into what to eat to get protein etc, and what you can or can’t eat – You will also spend a lot of time in supermarkets reading the ingredients but you will soon learn what you can have and what you need so shopping won’t be a hassle.
•It’s easy to be unhealthy on a veggie / vegan diet – don’t think that just because it’s vegan it’s healthy. It’s like every diet, you need to find a good balance. There are a lot of carbs involved in a vegan diet, but the good thing is it’s easy to find comfort food!
•You will try lots of fantastic new foods and combination of foods that you wouldn’t try as a meat eater (as meat is usually the main part of the meal) – It’s a fun way to fall in love with food and cooking. Since become a vegetarian four years ago I’ve developed a love for foods I wouldn’t even look at before, such as mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes, and I enjoy cooking a vegan meal and feeling full after I’ve finished! The funny thing is many people see a veggie/vegan diet as giving up their favourite foods but it really introduces you to a whole load of new dishes!
Shops with good vegetarian ranges:
•Holland and Barrett: they do a great vegan range which includes nice tasting vegan cheese and chocolate. They also sell Fry’s which do the nicest vegan ‘chicken’ nuggets ever
•Asda: asda have a great vegetarian range (try the cheese and leek pastries) which does include vegan stuff too. They also sell a lot of Quorn.
⦁ Tesco: They have just introduced their Wicked Kitchen range which is totally vegan. They have wraps, ready meals and pizzas. I recommend the hoi sin mushroom wrap for lunch!
•Aldi: surprisingly, Aldi has a vegetarian range (and they’re bringing out a vegan range soon). It’s not as extensive as Asda’s but it’s great all the same. Try the chicken breast – it looks weird but tastes amazing!
First things first, I just want to say that fake meat is okay. Many people say they don’t see the point in eating fake meat but many vegetarians / vegans don’t give up meat because they don’t like the taste; they do it because they want to make a difference to the lives of animals and/or the environment.
I buy my substitute meats from Asda or Sainsbury’s but Lidl also do (limited) Quorn products, as do Tesco.
- Quorn – One of the Queens of veggie food. Quorn used to taste horrible but it’s by far my favourite meat free brand now! They do everything from cold ‘meats’, sausage rolls, ‘chicken’, and scotch eggs! They do use milk and eggs in their veggie foods but they are bringing out more and more vegan things (nuggets, ham slices, chicken slices, burgers, fish fingers)
- Linda McCartney is also a good brand (but they also use milk and eggs). Their cheddar quarter pounders are fabulous!
- Fry’s – They are completely vegan and do the most amazing chicken nuggets – you won’t even tell the difference. They’re a bit more pricey but definitely worth it.
- Gummy sweets – Haribo are out (except for their new limited vegan range) but the good news is Marks and Spencer have the greatest gelatin free sweet range, which include veggie Percy Pigs! This range has been a god send on more than one occasion for me. Sainsbury’s also do their own little bags of sweets without gelatine. Their fizzy fangs are vegan.
- Dairy free milk – my favourite by far is KoKo milk. It’s coconut but it tastes like a creamier version of cows milk (but not as sweet). It’s great on cereal and in coffee (and it doesn’t curdle in hot drinks). It’s not great it tea but it’s better than the others. The only place I’ve seen it sold is Asda, Tesco or Waitrose. If not Koko try oat milk before almond or soya as it doesn’t have a weird taste.
- Cheese – for great vegan cheese (yes, it does exist) try Violife. For the closest cheese to regular cheese get the original slices, which are sold in the fridges at Holland and Barrett or in other health food shops. It takes longer to melt than regular cheese but the taste is the closest I’ve found. They also do lots of other flavours, including cheddar and a smoked one. For an easier to get alternative, Asda do their own vegan cheese.
- Butter – I have Pure or Vitalite (usually it depends which is on offer) which are dairy-free vegetable spreads. Both taste great and you would’t know they were vegan if it didn’t say so on the packet. I’ve never tried Flora dairy free but I’ve heard it’s terrible…
- Chocolate – Holland & Barrett are your best friends when it comes to chocolate. They stock Moo which is so good, and it’s not all dark chocolate. Also, Vego bars are amazing! You wouldn’t know they were vegan at all and I think everyone needs Vego bars in their lives whether they’re vegan or not.
- Ice-cream – Ben and Jerrys do a great vegan range although they are hard to find in the UK. Bigger Asda stores usually sell them. Swedish Glacé are another good dairy free ice – cream, and this is sold in most supermarkets, big and small.
Surprising things you can’t eat as a vegetarian / vegan:
•Haribo – maybe not that surprising but a difficult one to give up for some people. I used to be sad that I couldn’t have Haribo when I first went veggie but I’m over it now. They have just brought out a few veggie friendly bags but they don’t look all that nice tbh.
•Parmesan cheese – Nothing annoys me more (that’s a lie; a lot of things annoy me), than a vegetarian recipe using Parmesan cheese. Cheese is made by coagulating milk and, to coagulate the milk, rennet needs to be added to it. Animal rennet is made from the stomach of slaughtered calves (source). Parmesan is always made from animal rennet so is never vegetarian.
•Many red coloured foods – This includes Battenburg cake and strawberry Muller Corners. The red food colouring is made from cochineal (sometimes called carmine or E120) which is crushed up bugs. Make sure you check that before you assume you can’t eat something because it’s red as many things are using harmless colouring.
⦁ Some wine – But don’t worry, many wine is vegetarian and vegan friendly – just remember to check the label. Sainsbury’s do a nice white wine which has a ‘suitable for vegetarians’ label on the back (which is also how I found out not all wine was veggie friendly!). Tesco also do a nice vegetarian friendly white wine for around a fiver.
Surprising things you can eat as a vegetarian / vegan: Everything in this list is vegan friendly:
•Meat flavour crisps – including steak McCoy’s, bacon frazzles (check these as some of the cheaper brands use actual meat). , Texas BBQ Pringles, chilli heatwave and original Doritos. Walker’s have a lot of vegan crisps – see the full list here
• Certain pot noodles – These include Bombay Bad boy and Beef & Tomato.
•Bourbon biscuits – Real Bourbon biscuits, as well as many own brand alternatives, contain no dairy. Just make sure to double check as some do. Own brand ones that definitely do not contain dairy are Asda’s and Sainsbury’s.
⦁ Party Rings
⦁ Fox’s dark chocolate chunky cookies
⦁ Chocolate chip hob nobs
⦁ Oreos – Basically a lot of biscuits
⦁ Betty Crocker chocolate fudge icing – I only learnt this the other day and I don’t know if I’m happy about this or worried for my body!
⦁ Betty Crocker cake mixes – Just substitue eggs for something else (bananas work well)
⦁ Skittles – if it says suitable for vegetarians they are completely vegan (some still have E120 in them as they are old packets so double check)
⦁ Cadbury hot chocolate powder
⦁ Jus – Rol pastry – pastry made without milk
⦁ Jelly – there are lots of vegan jellys available in supermarkets. Hartley’s, Tesco’s organge flavoured jelly with mandarin pieces, Sainsbury’s raspberry jelly and M&S raspberry jelly to name a few.
Best restaurants for veggie / vegan food:
•Zizzi – vegan pizza with veggies and vegan cheese.
•Wetherspoons (surprisingly) – They won a vegan award for their chickpea curry recently, and they have an extensive vegetarian range.
⦁ Pizza Hut – They now do vegan cheese
•Wagamama – The yasai Katsu curry is my favourite meal (not vegan as they use egg whites for the breadcrumbs).
•Pret-a-manger – They have a whole veggie / vegan section.
⦁ Las Iguanas – A South American restaurant chain with a great selection of veggie and vegan dishes including nachos (vegan), sweet potato burritos (veggie) and veggie chilli (vegan)
⦁ Cosy Club – Not only are Cosy Club’s lovely places they have a full vegan menu, which is separate from the other menu.
⦁ Toby Carvery – These do a suprising range of vegan options to replace meat. They also have a chocolate vegan dessert.
⦁ Vintage Inns – These popular pubs have more than one vegan option in starters, mains and desserts. Yes, that’s right, they have options!
⦁ Pizza Express – They now do vegan cheese on vegan pizzas and they have a vegan dessert.
⦁ Carluccio’s – They have an extensive, separate vegan menu. Separate menus makes me so happy because it means we’re not going to be stuck with a dry af bean burger!
These are just a few of the well – known chains that offer veggie/vegan options. A quick google search will bring up a whole load more. And hopefully, as more and more people switch to a more plant-based, ethical lifestyle more restaurants will take notice.
I hope this list has helped you in some way – if it’s only helped you see that vegan does not mean restricted! If anyone has any questions about becoming vegetarian / vegan (I’m not 100% vegan but pretty close) then please don’t hesitate to message me (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter)
Have you gone vegetarian/vegan this year, or are you trying to reduce your meat and dairy consumption? Did you find this guide helpful? Let me know in the comments!
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