If you are one of the 250,000 or more people expected to pass on the cheese and meat and take up a vegan diet this January – AKA Veganuary – then this post is for you. It’s also for you if you’ve been leaning towards plant-based eating and cooking for a while, but still need some extra inspo to make it work long term.
I’ve teamed up with Whole Foods Market to share my pick of vegan foodie products to help you have a successful Veganuary (and hopefully, beyond). From meat-free alternatives such as tofu and tempeh, vegan baking essentials, natural sauces and condiments (including vegan mayo!) to sweet treats and snacks, I’ve cherry-picked my faves below.
Stocking up your fridge and kitchen cupboards with essentials is, well, essential to making veganism work. You could, of course, live off vegan fast-food and pre-made convenience foods, especially as there’s so much of it now (Pizza Hut, Chicago Pizza, Pizza Express, Zizzi’s and Domino’s all launched vegan options this year, and Greggs is about to expand its vegan range, can you believe!) but it wouldn’t be healthiest way to do it.
When you’re cutting out three major food groups (meat, fish and dairy) it genuinely helps to get comfy in the kitchen and curious in the supermarket. Stock up on or swap cookery books with friends (I’ve listed my favourite vegan and vegetarian cook books here) and don’t be afraid to try out new ingredients and new ways of cooking the same ingredients, because there’s nothing more miserable than not enjoying food!
My Vegan Story
I decided to go vegan around 12 years ago in my mid-20s, after being vegetarian since I was nine. I remember reading up about the dairy industry and discovering it was just as bad as the meat industry – mass farming that kills off habitats and soils, antibiotics and growth hormones pumped into animals that we potentially end up ingesting, and the often shockingly poor conditions animals are kept in – so it was a no-brainer: I had to cut ties with dairy, too.
Back then, people were just getting used to vegetarianism and barely knew what being vegan was, so for a long time people didn’t really get it (and often thought I was a bit weird): why would I not eat meat, fish and cheese? What about butter on toast? Why on earth was I doing this?
How things have changed! Now every high street restaurant boasts a vegan menu and Veganuary – the charity month where people pledge to go vegan for January – had 250,000 people on board last year, more than the number of pledges in the previous four years combined, and is expected to be even higher for 2020.
Vegan ethics can extend far beyond the kitchen, too, which is why a vegan life can be a more conscientious and ethically minded. For me, it’s about doing as little harm as possible to ourselves, other beings and the planet, so it shapes the way I eat, shop and even dress.
These days, I don’t buy leather furniture or fashion, definitely not interested in fur, and now I pass on feather duckdown, silk and honey. Secondhand, vintage and thrift are always my first choices for fashion, too, as they’re more sustainable choices. Just a few examples but these decisions have evolved slowly, bit by bit over time and certainly didn’t all come at once.
That’s one of the reasons I love mooching around the aisles at Whole Foods as all the products have been selected for their ethics and provenance so I find the back-stories interesting and they fit perfectly with the ethos behind my blog, which is to inspire people to make more contentious choices that tread more carefully on ourselves, others and the planet.
Whole Foods Market also prohibits over a hundred preservatives, flavours and colours, and fresh produce is sourced from local, organic and independent farms. If products don’t meet the criteria, they don’t sell it, something which I wasn’t previously aware of.
Going vegan and staying vegan…
Despite its allure and popularity, being vegan can still be a challenge, especially if you don’t live in a fast-to-adapt city like London (or travelling through mainland Europe, which is always a low point for me).
So it’s good to question, Why are you doing this? What are your motivations? What’s important to you in this journey, and why? What are your boundaries and where and when are they movable? That last one’s important as some situations might need you to flex some rules and other times you can stick to the hard line.
A few more points I’ve learnt over the years…
Don’t be too hard, judgmental or strict on yourself (and others); it can only make you feel bad, you may not enjoy it and might even rebel. Try not to get frustrated with those around you if they’re struggling to understand or fully support, either. Don’t forget it’s your journey so you shouldn’t expect others to follow suit or believe the same if they don’t want to.
Food is a joy in life so avoid unnecessary pressure that takes the fun out of eating. If your aunty or gran has made a homemade cake for a birthday, don’t fret, it’s ok to have a bit and get back to your vegan choices after. Maybe next time she’ll be inspired to make a vegan version.
7 vegan foods you will love
How do you get your protein? Get used to this question! It will be the first thing people ask you. Many pulses and legumes, as well as green leafy veg and nuts and seeds have a natural source of protein, so it shouldn’t be as hard as you might think to keep on top of your protein intake. Don’t forget peanut butter and tahini (sesame seed oil) and miso. The key is variety.
I try to have a protein-based food in every meal so I’ll stock up at least once a week on tofu, tempeh, and other protein-rich foods to add to lunches and dinners. And it’s not unusual for me to bring a block of tofu to a friend’s house for dinner :)
- Clear Spot OG Tofu Sea Cakes, £2.29
Some of my fave little tofu patties, these come in either original or smoked, blended with little shred of seaweed. Sea Cakes are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and are also GM free, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free and yeast-free. Just slice them up and eat warm or cold.
2. Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Style Tempeh, £4.29
Tempeh is tofu’s little cousin with a slightly harder, more solid texture. It’s taken me a while to find a tempeh I like as the natural flavour doesn’t always do it for me, but this product is delish. I also LOVE Tofurky’s other products, so do check them out.
CONDIMENTS & SAUCES
I try to cook most things from scratch but I also love seeking out good quality, natural sauces and condiments that take your cooking to another level. These come highly recommended…
3. Seggiano Raw Basil Pesto, £6.39
Once you try this, you’ll never go back to another pesto EVER AGAIN. I know it’s a bit pricey but honestly it’s worth it. Made with fresh Ligurian basil, this is a fabulous, raw, unpasteurised and vegan (obvs) pesto. Apparently the top leaves are washed, chopped and preserved in olive oil within hours of being handpicked.
4. Hunter & Gather Mayocado – Egg-Free Avocado Oil Mayo, £4.29
Mayonnaise is one of those foods that might be sorely missed so this product would be a saviour for mayo fans. Made with 100% pure avocado oil and pea protein, ‘Mayocado’ is made with eight avocados per jar and is free from all of the top 14 allergens including soya, gluten and mustard.
I’ve only recently got into vegan baking – I’m much more of a savoury cook – so if this is an area you’re worried you’ll miss out on, fear not.
5. Naturli Organic Spreadable Vegan Butter Block, £1.95
100% plant-based and 100% palm oil free, you can use this for frying or baking. The Vegan Block is made from shea, coconut, almond and rapeseed.
What’s a day without a good snack! We no longer have to put up with just fruit and nuts as now the snack aisles are bursting with exciting new brands and products. A few goodies from Whole Foods to try:
6. Nush Peach Almond Milk Yog, £1.79
Natural Almond Milk Yog has a smooth and creamy taste and feel, made with European almonds. Free from dairy, refined sugar and gluten. Lovely as a mid-morning, afternoon or post-dinner snack and the natural fat content keeps you fuller for longer.
It’s only in recent years that vegan sweets and cakes have upped their game. If you’re already a fan of dark chocolate, things are a lot easier as most are naturally dairy-free. There are many decadent, dairy-free sweets (Booja-Booja is the all-time favourite and even wins over dairy-lovers) now so you should never feel like you’re missing out.
7. Mummy Meagz Original Rocky Road Cake Bar, £2.09
OMG. This vegan rocky-road biscuit is SOOO good. Chewy vegan marshmallows (yes, vegan marshmallow!) coated in Belgian dark chocolate. If you buy just one thing….
The rise and rise of veganism has honestly been so unexpected but helped by celebrities, athletes and TV shows such as Game Changers, Cowspiracy and What The Health inspiring people that plant-based eating is better for us, animals and the planet.
So, whether you need a helping hand to get started or you need fresh inspo and recipe ideas, hopefully your vegan experiences and choices, whether at Whole Foods or beyond, will be successful, nutritious, tasty, and most of all, fun!