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What do vegans eat?

Consider this: you already eat plenty of vegan food and you actually quite like it! You're just not used to it being labelled as vegan. Essentially, vegans eat everything and anything that comes from plants: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, grains, seeds and pulses. Your favourite quick lunch of beans on toast? Vegan. That packet of salt and vinegar crisps you selected for your morning snack? Vegan. The falafel you grabbed at lunchtime? Vegan. The fruit salad you had for dessert? Vegan. Even some of biscuit packets lying about in your kitchen cupboard could be vegan. Vegan food is everywhere.

Eating out as a vegan

There are times when cooking dinner just feels like one chore too many. Not to mention those occasions when you want to let your hair down and go out for a special dinner with family or friends. So how do vegans manage during such occasions?

Choosing where to go

Search Happy Cow to see if there are any vegan restaurants or cafes in your area. If there isn’t a vegan place near you, then the restaurants most likely to include vegan options are those from plant-strong traditions, such as Indian (eg. lentil daal and rice), Italian (eg. spaghetti al'aglio and bruschetta), Thai (eg. green curry with tofu), Mexican (eg. vegetable fajitas with salsa), Chinese (eg. vegetable stir fry), Japanese (eg. vegetable tempura), Middle Eastern (eg. houmous and falafel) and Ethiopian (eg. red lentil stew).

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

Any chef worth their salt will be able to rustle up something vegan for you from ingredients they already have in the kitchen - and if you ask really nicely, many will rise to the challenge of creating tasty vegan mains and decadent desserts. Contact them in advance so they’re not put on the spot. Be prepared to help them out with suggestions of easy vegan meals – some chefs need a little nudge to realise just how many of the delicious ingredients they use happen to be vegan anyway. 

Receive the right meal at a catered event

Make your needs very clear when you accept an invitation to a catered event. Speak to the caterer beforehand for extra reassurance (but always take along a little something of your own, in case there’s a last-minute problem).

View eating out as an opportunity for vegan outreach; explain to the restaurant, pub, or caterers that good vegan-friendly meals are good for business, because they can appeal to and be suitable for just about any customer. Encourage them not to wait for customers to ask: if their menu doesn’t attract vegans, they’ll lose out to a competitor!

Choosing the right drink

You’re mostly fine with soft drinks, except for a small number of orange-coloured ones that contain gelatine (derived from collagen obtained from various animal by-products) and one or two red-coloured ones that contain cochineal (food colouring derived from a species of insect). These will be stated on the packaging. You won’t need to look too closely to tell if there’s milk, cream, or honey in a drink; as this is usually easy to spot from the name (don’t panic - you don’t need Baileys if you make your own vegan Irish Cream).

Hidden ingredients

Wines, beers, and ciders can be a little tricky. Yet wait a minute, isn’t booze just made from grapes and apples and stuff? Tell us about it! Distilled spirits (such as gin, brandy, whisky and vodka) are usually vegan-friendly, but it becomes somewhat complicated when you look at how some alcoholic drinks are clarified using protein from animals. Yet if you know where to look, this is easy enough to overcome.

Look for the Vegan Trademark

Some companies are proud to label their drinks as vegan, and it is becoming increasingly common to find supermarkets labelling their wines, beers and ciders as such. If you like to keep things really simple (and support our work while you’re at it), then buy products sporting the Vegan Trademark; meaning the product is guaranteed to be free from animal ingredients and will not have been processed using any animal-derived substances.

The sky’s the limit with vegan cooking

Many of the foods you currently enjoy can be made vegan with just a few small tweaks; and just about every animal product - from bacon to milk to cheese - has an almost indistinguishable vegan equivalent nowadays. Vegan meals are suitable for everyone – not just vegans – and are sure to impress even the most seasoned dinner party guest.

Check out our vegan recipes for inspiration and ideas on everything from a quick snack to a three-course gourmet meal. Still think vegan food must be bland? Watch the video below and think again.