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). Additionally, this page will help you find UK chains that offer vegan-friendly options. Just remember if you're buying chips from a fish and chip shop in England, ask first whether the chips are cooked in animal fat: traditional 'beef dripping' is more of an issue in the north-east than in other parts of the country.
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.
For more information on shopping vegan, including advice on E numbers, D3, shellac and more, head over to our blog 'How to avoid buying non-vegan products' as well as our shopping page. If your budget is severely constrained, check out our blog as well as our recipe section 'On a budget'.
Finding vegan replacements
Many health food and vegan stores (online and off) offer great vegan 'meat', 'dairy' and 'egg' substitutes: try Googling or searching for them via our Trademark search. Our vegan cheese blog may also help you choose the right sub for you, while our sandwich and wrap filling ideas have plenty of suggestions.
Living with food allergies and coeliac disease
Some vegans also have food allergies or are coeliacs. If this is you, you'll be glad to hear that it's perfectly possible to be vegan and avoid your problem foods, such as soya or wheat. A quick internet search will see you find many kindred spirits with fantastic recipes to try out, while more eateries than ever before are educated about both veganism and various allergies. If you're a coeliac, this blog by a fellow coeliac vegan provides tips and a meal plan for a happy and healthy gluten-free life.
Choosing the right drink
There are some soft drinks which are not suitable for vegans. A small number of orange-coloured drinks contain gelatine (derived from collagen obtained from various animal by-products) and one or two red-coloured ones 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).
One thing to look out for is concentrated juice. Juice missing its pulp may been distilled through non-vegetarian ingredients, so look for a vegetarian/vegan label or, even better, the Vegan Trademark. If none is available, it is advised that you contact the manufacturer.
Wines, beers, and ciders can be 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. To overcome these issues, try Barnivore: this website is a very good resource for finding out whether your favourite booze is vegan-friendly.
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: the product is guaranteed to be free from animal ingredients and will not have been processed using any animal-derived substances. You can find out what alcoholic drinks are registered here.
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.