Wednesday 1st November 2017 is World Vegan Day and as I have been trialing a vegan diet for over two months now I thought this would be a good time and place to share my journey so far.
I’ll apologise firstly for my brash and quite naive blog post after my first fortnight on this diet, where I was enjoying trying out new foods and recipes but still learning about why I was really trying to be plant-based. I’m still continuing to research and educate myself about the environmental and health benefits of my current diet and I wasn’t in the right space to drop any ill-researched facts, especially as a full-time scientist who should know better than to rely on poorly-sourced journal articles and journalistic writing. I’ve fully embraced the now essential foods in my daily diet and learnt how and where to eat out when I can’t be in my own kitchen.
For breakfast I still rely on my go-to oats usually as porridge made with almond milk, but with the addition of flax seeds for a reliable source of omega-3, maple syrup instead of honey and usually a handful of nuts for protein and essential fats. Lunches during the week are usually in tupperware and now in the cooler seasons I’ve swapped my salads for mixtures of roast veggies with a grain or sweet potato and beans (either hummus or own their own). My favourite combinations to build are
- miso glazed aubergine with roasted tomatoes and red onion, cooked in a balsamic glaze, and butter beans
- roasted turmeric-spiced cauliflower and chickpeas with kale, courgette and mixed wild rice
- courgette ribbons with roasted beetroot and sweet potato, topped with puy lentils
I also try to top my lunches with a sprinkle of mixed seeds – pumpkin, sunflower and linseed (flax) – for healthy fats and a squeeze of lemon or lime for freshness.
Warming soups have also become a staple and I prefer to have these in the evenings – my tupperware isn’t quite safe enough to transport beetroot soup on-the-run – and my favourites are
- Spicy beetroot with cumin, chilli and smoked paprika
- Pumpkin or butternut squash with carrot and ginger
- Root veg with barley or lentils
I serve these in my favourite mug alongside sourdough or rye toast with marmite, or a new discovery – marmite topped with smashed avocado!
Out of the kitchen it’s been a little hit and miss trying to eat well and feel satisfied when dining out. For breakfasts I usually opt for the classic avocado on toast – making sure there’s no butter spread on the toast before hand – but a recent favourite was at Local Hero, Kingston where I enjoyed their creamy (but dairy-free) mushrooms on toast and I’ve also found similar at Le Pain Quotidien.
If it’s a Monday and I’ve not had time to food shop or prep, I usually pick up lunch at Pret – their vegan salad boxes are great, though their sandwiches and wraps are a little boring – or Leon – where I choose a really lovely, warm sweet potato falafel wrap. When sitting in at cafes I usually go for a soup or an all-day brunch option of toast and veggie toppings.
Our dinners at restaurants have provided the biggest challenge. When eating with friends and family, I like to choose places that serve a wide range of dishes – not solely veggie or vegan – so Italian restaurants have been our first choice. You can’t usually go wrong with pizza, however I was disappointed by Novapizza in Edinburgh – where the toppings were bland and the crust underwhelming – but impressed with ASK Italian, Edinburgh.
In London, we tried the pizza at highly recommended PickyWops in Fulham and while Nige enjoyed it, I was still unsure about the use of cheese alternatives, though the range of grains used to make dough was inspired.
In Edinburgh, we enjoyed HUGE nachos topped with veggie chilli, vegan cheese and ALL the guacamole at the Auld Hoose, and have never had a bad meal or chocolate brownie from the Herbivore Kitchen, at their cafe in Newington or their stall at Stockbridge market.
Happy World Vegan Day. Maybe this post will inspire you to cook up a veggie-filled meal this evening, roast up some colourful root veg, whizz up some beans or peas to make a creamy hummus or choose a plant-based option the next time you’re out for dinner. I hope so, enjoy!