Fuelled by the wave of wellness bloggers and popular foodies such as the Hemsley sisters, the number of vegans in the UK has rocketed by 350% in the last 10 years*, with 42% of them aged between 15 and 34*.
According to the Vegan Society, veganism is ‘a way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose’. That means no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey, but normally lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds and pulses.
So, to figure out how we can better serve our vegan customers, Asda Innovations Chef Andrew Johnston and his colleagues challenged themselves to go vegan for seven days. Steering away from animal products, they had to try at least three new vegan foods, and ’fess up if they fell off the wagon.
Here, Andrew, 30, from Leeds, reveals how they got on...
This is going to be interesting! My first step is meal-planning for the week, so I need to work out what I can and can’t have. My wife Aneira and I don’t normally eat a lot of red meat – but fish and chicken, which we enjoy a few times a week, are out. So are eggs, my favourite for breakfast, and all other dairy products. I even have to say goodbye to fresh pasta, which contains egg, chocolate made with milk, and white wine, which is filtered using a fish by-product.
I stock up on fresh fruit, veg, pulses and grains – shopping takes longer than usual as I have to check every label for ingredients, but it’s exciting thinking about the fresh recipes I’ll be trying out! Back home, I knock up a lovely bean and lentil salad for lunch, then make ratatouille for dinner.
I’m starting most days with oats made with almond milk, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds and maple syrup. It’s a far cry from fried eggs, but it gives me lots of energy. For lunch, instead of a chicken sarnie, it’s Moroccan couscous salad, then my five-bean chilli for dinner. Containing fibre and protein, beans are a good meat alternative – and I find they help keep me full. Hurrah!
Peckish for a snack at work, I grab a granola bar (admittedly it wasn’t quite as tasty as my usual Mars bar!). Then it’s a veggie curry for dinner. I’m not feeling too deprived, even when I see Aneira snacking on chocolate. Meanwhile, my colleague Mark shows his support by texting a photo of aubergine burgers, rubbed with miso powder, chargrilled and served with leaves foraged from his garden. Impressive!
Aneira has gone out for dinner with friends so, home alone, I rustle up some ratatouille in front of the TV. I’m still full from my lunch – some leftover five-bean chilli with a jacket potato and olive oil spread in place of butter. Chuffed, I give myself a high-five for how well I’ve done so far. Later that evening, I can’t resist a glass of nut milk I’ve made from scratch…the taste is really starting to grow on me!
For breakfast, it’s Cheerios and hazelnut milk, which is actually very tasty. Delicious. I’m feeling pretty smug about my achievement… until a colleague informs me that Cheerios aren’t actually vegan. They contain a vitamin B12 fortifier derived from animal products – so that means I failed on day five. Gah! Anyway, it’s Friday, so to show their support, the team heads to Hyde Park Book Club – a vegetarian ‘butcher’ and restaurant in Leeds. We try the ‘beef’ chilli and burger, which taste just like the real deal, and the they-can’t-believe-it’s-not-chicken burger. Made from seitan, a meat substitute derived from wheat, it has the same texture and taste as poultry. Our colleague Sarah-Jayne, who’s off today, posts a pic of herself drinking Little Creatures, a vegan Australian beer. Like white wine, many beers aren’t suitable for vegans.
Desperate for a fry-up, I use vegan ‘bacon’ to make butties. The rashers taste like a mixture of smokey-bacon crisps and luncheon meat, which is surprisingly good.
It’s my final day and I knock up scrambled tofu with turmeric and sautéed onions, graze on fruit and seeds, then make my recipe for Mediterranean-style carrots, courgettes, beans and aubergines with baby potatoes in a parsley dressing.
Going vegan for a week wasn’t easy, but it’s inspired me to eat more plant-based meals. I’ll never give up meat and dairy entirely, but now I often eat vegan without really noticing and there are great substitutes. Meal-planning is essential as it takes a while to work out what you can and can’t eat – which was the biggest hurdle for me. We’re brainstorming ideas at Asda, like creating a vegan symbol for packaging and developing own-brand vegan products like hazelnut milk. It was a week well-spent that will definitely help customers, too!
Sign up free at vegansociety.com to receive a daily email with recipes, tips and advice.