With plant-based diets on the rise, and challenged by the Vegan Society to go vegan for Vegetarian Week, the food editorial team ditched the ham for hummus for five days. Here’s what we learnt …
Planning makes perfect
Think you can whiz out of the office at lunchtime and pick up a vegan lunch to-go? Think again – unless you live in a metropolitan city centre with specifically vegan-friendly offerings – because for most of us, a simple supermarket salad is the only takeaway option. Mayonnaise dressings? Not vegan. Or how about a bit of feta or a boiled egg to add interest to that salad? Obviously not vegan. Hummus is easy to find, but check the ingredients of bread to go with it, as we got caught out with naan bread which contained milk and egg.
The key to success, we discovered, was a homemade packed lunch, with the remains of last night’s curry, dhal, beanie stew, risotto etc and some nice fresh veggies to accompany. It meant we ate better than we usually would at lunchtime – and saved money too.
Vegan food is calorie light
Totting up the calories we ate per day compared to usual, saw us consuming about a quarter less calories. Mostly because vegetables and pulses are much less calorie dense than meat and cheese. And also because we weren’t able to dig into the usual mid afternoon choc biscuits that contain animal fats – apart from Party Rings, as we happily discovered on our last vegan day.
Did we feel hungry? Yes, but better planning could have sorted that. Did we lose weight? No, but it was only a week.
Eating out is a pain
While plant based diets are on the rise, it’s not filtered through to your average – or even very many – restaurants in the South West, so we clearly couldn’t do any reviews for food magazine that week. While good restaurants have sussed that vegetarians want something a little more interesting than yet another goat’s cheese tartlet for dinner, interesting vegan dishes are thin on the ground, restaurant-wise.
Milk substitutes are pretty good
Soya milk is actually pretty nice in coffee, as is almond milk – if a bit thinner. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t miss a proper cuppa with a splash of semi skimmed though.
Eggs, milk and butter are in everything
In fact, it’s these things we missed more than actual meat. Cheese too.
A useful reminder
As pretty healthy eaters anyway (we all eat lots of veggies, pulses and vegetarian meals), it was a useful reminder that making the effort to build a few exclusively vegan meals into the week is not difficult and is worth doing. The benefits, even if you are not doing it for animal welfare reasons: environmental, health and economic (it’s cheap eating), are hard to ignore.
Count us in for next year.
Read Kathryn Lewis’ review of Bristol vegetarian restaurant 1847 here.