How to veganise your fave meals

Are you trying to include more plant-based food in your diet after hearing all about how damaging animal agriculture is to our planet, the animals and our own health? It can be challenging to change the way you’ve been eating your whole life, but with loads of recipes out there, vegan products in supermarkets and delicious menus in restaurants, it has never been easier to include more plants in your diet.

I grew up being given animal products to eat, so it was empowering to be able to make the decision for myself to stop eating animals. It also felt great to be true to who I am and become conscious of the impact of my actions. In the 6 years since then, I’ve never looked back.

A fun shortcut

You might think going vegan involves learning new recipes and using new ingredients you don’t have the time to find but there’s a really fun shortcut – replacing the few non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites. Remember that meal prepping can be a real time - and money-saver too!

You probably don’t realise you might already be eating a lot of vegan food. The toast and porridge you have in the morning, or the bean chili or vegetable stew you serve for dinner may already be vegan. Anything can be veganised. Eating plant-based isn't about limiting or depriving yourself so start by replacing animal products; after a couple of weeks it will become as natural as anything.

Make smart swaps

You can get all the nutrients your body needs on a vegan diet, and here are some ideas for veganising your good old favourites:

  • Avocado or hummus can be used instead of mayonnaise in salads, sandwiches or on toast

  • Swap the cheese on pizza for a vegan one (I promise it tastes nicer when melted!) and top with lots of vegetables and olives [[instagram]]

  • Vegetable soup can be served with a swirl of soya cream, or for an indulgent option, you can create one using coconut milk

  • Dairy-free spread and other vegetable fats can be used in baking, and there are many foods that can replace eggs, including banana, jam, apple sauce and tofu

  • Swap meat, fish or paneer in a curry for chickpeas or lentils as a form of protein (it’ll be just as delicious with your favourite curry sauce!)

  • A lot of ready-made roll-out pastry is accidentally vegan. Use soya milk for glazing it

  • Gradually try all the different brands of plant milk to find your favourite – there are so many! If you don’t like soya or want a change, try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice next.

Vegan breakfast

Simply replace cow’s milk with plant milk for your cereal or porridge, and top with dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Your toast will happily accept dairy-free spread instead of butter, or you can have it with peanut butter, jam or mashed avocado.Think scrambled eggs can’t be replaced? Google ‘scrambled tofu’ and have your mind blown by a nutritious, cholesterol-free breakfast. Full English can include all the other usuals too.

Vegan lunch

Here’s a surprise. Not all vegans actually eat salads – I, for one, can’t stand them. If you like indulgent wraps, replace the meat with falafel or beans and add houmous. Vegan lunch on the go has become easier, with outlets like Subway and Pret a Manger serving a range of vegan options and supermarkets like Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Asda offering full vegan lunch ranges. Morrisons has fish-free sushi, onion bhajis and vegetable samosas, while the Co-op offers great sandwich meal deals.

Vegan dinner

Use the versatile soya mince in chili, Bolognese, lasagne or shepherd’s pie. You can use wraps as pizza bases to top with tomato puree, vegetables and vegan cheese. Stir-fries don’t need any meat – just add a good mix of vegetables to your noodles or rice and the right sauce, and dinner’s ready. For a Sunday roast, why not try a mushroom wellington or a vegan meat alternative, together with vegetable gravy? To make mashed potatoes creamy, use dairy-free spread and soya milk.

Next steps

As you can see, the formula is not so complicated; all it takes is thinking of what you usually eat during the day and how to replace the non-vegan ingredients. There are lots of really helpful Facebook groups to join - it’s a good idea to search for a local group, e.g. ‘vegan London’. You can also download the free VeGuide app that features short interactive videos which will explain veganism over the course of 30 days.

I hope you’re inspired to start making changes to your lifestyle that are better for the animals, the planet and our own health. As any vegan you meet will tell you, we only wish we had done it sooner…

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