Food

WW x Veganuary: Elisha shares her meat-free journey

Hi guys, I'm Elisha (or you may know me as @rainbow___room on Instagram).

I'm here to share my journey to veganism and all the delicious foods vegans can eat on the WW programme.

Join WW today

It is SO exciting to see that veganism has been thrust into the spotlight, not just in January but in general. It highlights how accessible a vegan lifestyle is and the benefits it can bring. It’s also a time when the carnivorous and vegan-curious among us might be inspired to adopt a more veggie/vegan-friendly lifestyle!

I could talk about this topic until the cows come home (no pun intended!), but below I share my vegan journey, top tips on transitioning towards veganism, store cupboard essentials, go-to meals and myth busters.

 

My vegan journey

 

I became pescatarian over 12 years ago, following a visit to a local farm on a school trip. I cooed over the pigs, cows and chickens, and my heart sank when the penny dropped. For me, this realisation really hit my moral compass and I just couldn't justify eating farm animals any longer.

I did, however, continue to eat seafood. From September 2017, this changed when my mum and I decided to move to vegetarianism.  Recent travels to Thailand and the Philippines opened my eyes to the reality of the fishing industry and I could no longer differentiate between eating meat and seafood.

Shortly after going veggie, in early 2018 I took the plunge and decided to try eating vegan-friendly meals. After seeing (and tasting!) first-hand how easy, accessible and yummy vegan food is, I knew it would be the right decision for me!

I can honestly say I've not looked back since, and I'm still in awe of the variety of vegan alternatives that are available in supermarkets and restaurants.  As well as eating truly tasty and colourful meals on the daily, I feel energised, less bloated and my skin has improved as a result of this lifestyle choice! My only regret is not taking the plunge sooner.

RELATED: Should I do a skin fast?

 

Top tips from a #WWVegan

 

1. Take it one meal, day, week at a time

Regardless of whether you're a burger lover wanting to try more #MeatFreeMondays, or you're a vegetarian dabbling with vegan alternatives, every vegan choice you make has a positive ripple effect on the environment. One tasty vegan meal a week may slowly snowball into many, without you even realising!

2. Get creative

You can easily spin meat-based recipes into vegan-friendly delights. I still get inspiration from meat/dairy recipe books! All it takes is some meal planning and a couple of recipe tweaks. My top tip would be to explore online and use Instagram for inspiration. Vegan mac n cheese (using butternut squash as the sauce) is my personal foodie fave.

3. Dining out

Don't worry – eating out as a vegan doesn't mean ordering a bowl of leaves! If you look up the menu online beforehand, you'll be surprised how many vegan options are available in most UK chain restaurants. If not, most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate dietary requirements, so don’t be afraid to ask your waiter or waitress.

4. Eat the rainbow

Fill up on plenty of ZeroPoint™ foods and make them a staple for most of your meals. I tend to bulk my meals out with a hearty side salad or fruit salad to keep me fuller for longer. This means you'll save your Smartpoints® for the other good stuff, like nuts, seeds and, most importantly, vegan cheese!

Vegan recipes

 

My store cupboard staples

 

There’s a misconception that a vegan diet is limited to bread, pasta, fruit, salad and veg! The truth is, even the most avid meat eater is likely to have a pantry well-stocked with vegan foods.

There has also been a phenomenal increase in the amount vegan foods available in UK supermarkets, and most have their own Free From section. If an item is not specifically marked as vegan, check the ingredients list, as non-vegan ingredients such as milk powder, egg and cream are usually marked in bold. 

Five key vegan ingredients that are regularly on my shopping list are:

  • Legumes (especially chickpeas, as I'm a hummus addict) - even better that they're a ZeroPoint food!
  • Tofu - perfect in Asian style dishes like curries, stir fries, and satay sauce. Get your tofu technique down to a T by investing in a tofu press, draining overnight and marinating in your chosen herbs and spices.
  • Nutritional yeast - magical flakes that are perfect for making 'cheese' style sauces, and they're packed with vitamin B12!  These can be purchased in most whole food stores (and in Holland & Barrett).
  • Meat / dairy-free alternatives – these vegan substitutes make it easier than ever to make meaty meals vegan-friendly.  My favourite meat-free alternatives are Linda McCartney, Oumph, Vivera, Quorn Vegan and Iceland Foods own vegan range.  I also love vegan cheeses (Buteisland's feta style and Violife block cheese are my favourites!).
  • Jackfruit slow cooked in Liquid Smoke - the vegan answer to pulled pork!  The liquid smoke will transform your meat-free TexMex meals (fajitas, chilli etc.), giving it a deep BBQ flavour.

RELATED: Try this homemade hummus recipe

 

My go-to meals

 

As you can see, there really are so many vegan ingredients to make your meals interesting, varied and most importantly, tasty!  You'll also be pleased to hear that most meals take no longer than 15-20 minutes to knock up.

Some of my favourite vegan meals are:

  • Butternut squash and chickpea coconut curry;
  • Smoky veggie sausage and bean stew;
  • Spicy black bean burgers with salad and vegan slaw;
  • Leek crumble served with mountains of veggies and veggie gravy;
  • Mushroom fajitas with a chunky homemade guacamole; and
  • My own recipe, Nutty Breakfast Bites (replace egg with 1 tablespoon of soya yogurt and ¼ teaspoon of Xanthum gum)

Vegan recipes

 

Vegan mythbusting

 

1. PROTEIN SOURCES: 'But where do you get your protein from?!'

Vegans get protein from where cows, sheep, pigs and primates get their protein – the direct source!

Green vegetables (kale, broccoli, seaweed, peas and spinach), beans and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, edamame, pinto, black, cannelloni), grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa and bulgur wheat) and nuts (brazils, peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios and walnuts) are all excellent sources of protein.

2. OUR ACTIONS: 'Isn't it impossible to be vegan as animal products are in everything?'

It's important for us to recognise that it is almost impossible to be a perfect vegan in an imperfect world.  This is even recognised by the Vegan Society, who state that being vegan is “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.

I by no means profess to be '100%' vegan, and am conscious that not all aspects of my lifestyle are perfectly vegan-friendly.  For me, being vegan is not a quest for perfection, but a way for me to make realistic and practical choices each day that help me live the lifestyle I’ve chosen.  My best advice would be to avoid sticking yourself under a rigid 'label', and focus on making choices that fit your lifestyle. In time, you can explore and expand upon these choices.

3. MAKING A DIFFERENCE: 'Surely my actions won't make a difference overall?'

Statistics show that in a lifetime, each of us will eat more than 7,000 animals, so every decision to go veggie or vegan makes a very real difference.

The wave of veganism is ever expanding, and now millions of us choose to eat foods free from animal products. In turn, this has a ripple effect and influences others to enjoy more meat-free meals, too.

If you have any questions, or are looking for some further hints and tips, please don't hesitate to give me a message over on Instagram! Let's try to have a greener November, together!

Elisha xox​
@rainbow___room

Useful resources:

  • Vegansociety.com
  • Veganuary.com/eating-out (comprehensive list of vegan options in UK restaurants)
  • Happycow.net (lists veggie and vegan restaurants worldwide, with reviews)