Apologies for the very much on the beaten track topics so far, but I need to set a few things straight for personal satisfaction, if nothing else so that I can get business cards printed up with the link to this blog and just hand those out instead of answering the same question over and over again.
So, what do vegans eat? I have learnt that sighing and replying “everything, except things that come from animals” isn’t really very helpful. People actually tend not to ask if we are eating, as they can see that what I have in front of me, whether I have made a packed lunch or whether we are out for dinner, usually looks a lot more interesting and appetising than what they are eating (I’m not just imagining this; probably about 9 times out of 10, people down any length of table will crane their necks to see what I am eating, and – if they have been given a set menu at a formal-ish event – generally lament that they’d rather have what I am eating). Failing that, I have also learnt that diverting people’s attention to the fact that Hobnobs are vegan generally works quite well too.
Eventually, after years of answering this question, I have summed up my answer to, “To be honest, my diet is more varied now than before I was vegan”, so I thought it might be quite handy to have a go-to list of delicious and nutritious foods I have discovered as a vegan.
I am not going to list meat/dairy analogues because I don’t count them as expanding my diet. These are also not foods that I am claiming no omnivore eats – though on the whole I don’t know many omnivores who do eat any of these, even if they have heard of them. But they are all foods that I heard about from other vegans, that I probably would not have explored without being vegan. I hope to continue expanding this list so any suggestions are more than welcome!
- Tempeh – higher protein than tofu, it is a bit of an acquired taste but now it is one of my favourite treats!
- Quinoa – a seed (not a grain) from the same family as spinach – crunchy and light, full of protein and vitamins,
- Creamed coconut – adds creaminess and depth to dishes effortlessly, normally really cheap from international food stores
- Agave nectar – low GI, mild taste, adds a softly sweet undertone to porridge and smoothies
- Nutritional yeast – a must for any fan of cheese, mixed into cheese-style pasta sauces, or sprinkled on a rich tomatoey pasta dish
- Blackstrap molasses – one to avoid for licorice-haters, but a new discovery of mine – very sweet but surprisingly not calorie dense, and high in iron
- Kale and avocado – yes, not one food, but a combination I would never have discovered without being vegan; apparently the massaged kale salad has become a hit so I’m not going to say any more, just try it!
- Flax/Linseed – not delicious on its own, but personally I quite like it sprinkled on top of porridge or in a yoghurt, and I like the health benefits of added omega 3 oils
- Tahini – not sure if I would have discovered this as a non-vegan, but my main uses for it are to add some richness and depth to otherwise potentially dry dishes, or for creamy salad dressings, and I know it is often used with nutritional yeast in “cheesy” sauces – again, super cheap if you can get it from international food stores, and a decent calcium hit
And let’s not get started on testing out different vegan cakes, vegan ice creams, vegan yoghurts, burgers, sausages, pies – shop-bought, recipes, recipe adaptations, etc!
It’s quite fun to set yourself a new food to try out weekly too, I would recommend it to any new vegan – or anyone really, though I have to say the single largest collection of people I know of who are so dedicated to eating consistently delicious foods, are vegans!