February 1, 2019

Veganuary part 3: An overview of the month, favourite products, meal ideas & more

With January (finally) being over, I wanted to write a blog post all about how I’ve found the last month of veganuary! My aim was to see how realistic it really is to eat a totally gluten free and vegan diet, and share my thoughts with you all along the way. I’ve already written a couple of blog posts throughout the month, the first was my favourite places to eat out with gluten free & vegan options, which you can read by clicking here, and the second was a ‘what I ate in a week’ gluten free and vegan style, which you can read by clicking here. This blog post will be a round up of the month, how I’ve really found it, what I’ve learnt, my favourite products & restaurants and whether I’ll be continuing to eat a vegan diet into February. So here goes…

Firstly, I have to say that eating gluten free and vegan at home has been so much easier than I first thought, with the rise in vegan products in the supermarkets, I really haven’t had any issues finding alternatives, and I’ve been loving trying out different meals. It has been slightly more difficult when it comes to eating out though, especially trying to find something to grab and go for lunch. I tend to find that although there are a handful of restaurants that are great at catering for a gluten free & vegan diet, there are a lot of places catering for just a gluten free diet, or just a vegan diet, not both combined. This seems to be the case with grab and go lunches as well, and I’ve had to be a lot more organised by bringing in lunches to work, because it’s impossible to pick up a sandwich that’s both gluten free and vegan. Jacket potatoes with beans has been my go to, along with the Pret falafel salad!

In terms of how I’ve physically felt throughout the month, I started the first week feeling very bloated with the increase of veggies and beans! However, after week 1 my tummy was absolutely fine, and I’ve actually felt better than normal bloat wise! I’ve also noticed an increase in my energy levels, and have even managed to get back to the gym (which is something I have really struggled with lately!). I know a month probably isn’t long enough to measure the impact of a vegan diet on my physical health, but I didn’t have any negative side effects, and did feel a lot brighter, which is great.

One thing I have noticed throughout the month is that so many of the gluten free alternative products contain egg, which is really frustrating! I’ve been on the hunt for gluten free and vegan crumpets or pancakes but have had no luck. Another thing worth pointing out is the fact that not all products labelled as vegan are safe for someone with a milk allergy, so always check the label. This seems to be the case with a lot of vegan chocolate, as well as most of the Mark’s and Spencer’s products!

On a more positive note, if you are after a supermarket with great gluten free and vegan options, I’d definitely recommend Sainsbury’s, as they have the greatest and broadest range! Followed by Tesco and Asda. Here are some of my favourite products, which are totally gluten free and vegan that I’ve been loving throughout the month:

Bread: Sainsbury’s fresh white bread (the brown bread contains honey!) and Asda Free From white loaf (at £1.50 a loaf, is one of the cheapest alternatives).

Sausages: Sainsbury’s shroomdogs (mushroom sausages) taste just like the real thing!

Burgers: Beyond Meat patty’s (available in Tesco) or Waitrose gluten free jackfruit burgers.

Vegan mince: The Meatless Farm mince (available in Sainsbury’s).

Bread Rolls: Schar Ciabatta rolls.

Wraps: B Free white wraps.

Biscuits: Asda Free From Oreo alternatives or Morrison’s Bourbon biscuits.

Pastry: Jus Rol Gluten free pastry.

Milk: Alpro soya, Rude Health almond, Innocent hazlenut.

Yoghurt: Alpro Go, Koko dairy free.

Ice cream: Swedish Glace vanilla

Cheese: Violife (Melts perfectly!)

Chocolate: Vego bars (Available in Holland & Barrett).

Mayonnaise: Hellmans Vegan mayo.

Cereal: Nutribrex or Nature’s path.

Snack bar: Nakd bars in Blueberry or salted caramel.

Crisps: Hippeas or Eat Real crisps.

There are honestly so many great vegan alternatives in the supermarkets, and if you are reading this and are wanting to just make some small changes to your diet in terms of helping the planet and cutting down on your meat & dairy intake, I’d definitely say one of the easiest switches would be swapping your milk to a dairy free alternative. Another great easy way to start to reduce your meat intake is to have 1 meat free day a week, and I have some delicious meal ideas I’ve been enjoying throughout the month, which I’ll include below:

Sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry. Click here for my recipe.

Sweet potato, veggie sausage and cranberry plait, made with Jus Rol pastry, I used this to create a vegan roast dinner. Click here for my recipe.

Shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping and a lentil & black bean base. Click here for my recipe.

Chickpea and carrot burgers. Simply combine fried onion & garlic in a food processor with 3 tbsp gluten free breadcrumbs, 1 grated carrot, 1 tin of chickpeas, fresh coriander, 1 tbsp tahini and lime juice. Roll into burger shapes and cook for 20 minutes in the oven – perfect served in gluten free buns with potatoes and salad.

Burgers! My favourite are the Beyond meat alternatives available in Tesco or the Meatless farm available in Sainsbury’s.

Thai red veggie curry – perfect for using up all the veggies in the fridge! I use the blue dragon Thai red curry paste, a can of coconut milk, a can of chickpeas and lots of other veggies including carrot, peppers, baby corn and onion.

Vegan fry up! – Mushrooms, vegan sausages, toast, tomatoes, beans & hash browns!

Vegan pizza – My favourite is by Kirsty’s as well as the new gluten free vegan option by Morrison’s.

Mushroom mince chilli. This is just like a normal chilli but instead of using mince, blend the mushrooms up in a food processor and use as an alternative! Let me know if you’d like me to write up the recipe.

Gluten free and vegan sausage rolls! I made these using the Jus Rol gluten free pastry and the Sainsbury’s Shroomdogs.

In terms of the rest of my meals, for breakfasts not a lot has changed because my breakfasts are predominantly made up of vegan food anyway, such as overnight oats made with dairy free milk/yoghurt, porridge, granola or toast. For lunches I’ve been trying to make extras the night before so that I have a potion for lunch the next day as like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been struggling to find gluten free and vegan ‘on the go’ options. I’ve also not struggled with snacks either, because a lot of the snacks I usually have are totally vegan too! Here are some of my favourite sweet treats I’ve enjoyed throughout the month:

Borough 22 gluten free & vegan doughnuts, available in Selfridges food or online.

Floris Foods gluten free and vegan oreos, available at Broadway Market in London on Saturdays.

Tesco Free From chocolate – Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownie.

Lola’s gluten free and vegan chocolate fudge cupcake, available in Selfridges food and online.

Ruby’s of London chocolate and chai doughnut, available in Leon stores.

Homemade cinnamon sugar doughnuts, made using my own recipe! Click here for the recipe.

Bad Brownie gluten free and vegan mixed brownie box, available to buy online.

I also asked over on my Instagram if anyone had any questions about the last month, and I had lots of responses so thought I’d answer a few of the most popular ones in my round up..

Is eating a vegan diet expensive?

I’ve actually found that my weekly shops have been cheaper throughout the month, because instead of buying any meat I have been adding things like chickpeas, lentils and veggies to a lot of my meals. Yes, it is more expensive to buy some of the vegan alternatives, but if you stick to a diet which is mainly full of fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, potatoes, beans etc then it’s not expensive at all!

Where are your favourite places to eat out with gluten free and vegan options?

I wrote a blog all about this at the start of January, which you can read by clicking here. But my top 3 places with gluten free and vegan options are Honest Burger, Zizzi’s and Las Iguanas.

Best vegan protein sources?

Chickpeas, lentils, beans, nuts & seeds, chia seeds, gluten free oats, broccoli & spinach.

How did eating vegan impact your skin?

I’m not going to lie, my skin broke out a lot during the first couple of weeks, which I think was due to the change in my diet. After the first couple of weeks it calmed down a lot and has been very clear since!

What were your energy levels like during the month?

They were great! I actually felt like I had a lot more energy than usual, and my usual 3-4 coffees a day has gone down to just 1!

Did you bloat a lot?

I bloated during week 1 after the increase in veggies/beans but after this I was surprisingly ok and my tummy has been better than ever!

Do you need supplements whilst eating a vegan diet?

To be honest, this is not something I’m very knowledgeable on and after advice from a friend, I brought some vegan vitamin supplements which I’ve been taking throughout the month. If you are worried though I’d definitely talk to a professional for advice.

Cheap vegan meal ideas..

I’d definitely recommend batch cooking if you are looking for cheap vegan meals. You could make a big vegan shepherd’s pie or curry very cheaply using beans, veggies, herbs & spices and this could last up to 4 meals!

Vegan cookbook recommendations

Deliciously Ella, The Food Medic (Not totally vegan but has a lot of vegan meals), Feed me Vegan by Lucy Watson.

Will you be continuing to eat a vegan diet after January?

The truth is, I’ve been going back and forth on my decision throughout the month! I’ve absolutely loved eating a plant based diet, and have felt great, but I also know that it’s not always possible to do so (especially when eating out) when you can’t eat gluten either, and that’s always going to be the case! I’ve decided to try and continue to eat a vegan diet as much as I can, but I do also know its not going to be possible 100% of the time, and that’s totally ok. I take my hats off to anyone who is a full time vegan with Coeliac disease, you really are amazing, I just don’t think at this moment in time it’s something I can totally commit too. I will be continuing to eat as much of a plant based diet as possible, but will also be eating products containing egg (as most of the gluten free alternatives contain egg) and fish. This month has taught me that you don’t have to be 100% vegan to make a difference, and if everyone in the world was to just cut down on their meat and dairy intake it would have amazing positive impacts on the planet. I’ll be continuing to post vegan recipes and meal ideas, and I really do recommend trying a month of vegan eating, as it has opened my eyes a lot!

Alice x

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