What do you eat for breakfast?
Are you worried that whatever it is, if you became vegan you wouldn't be able to eat it?
One of the worries a lot of people have when they choose to move to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and diet is to what level it will disrupt their usual routine. We're all creatures of habit to a certain degree, and the changes you decide to make when becoming vegetarian/vegan can seem daunting and quite scary.
So I've decided to do a little series of posts about what vegans eat - or, in any case, what I eat! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, eating out, eating with friends, on the go, you name it.
If you're interested in transitioning to veganism, I hope you find these helpful. Perhaps you're a committed vegan already and just want to see what others eat; or you're an omnivore who wants to know what to feed visiting veggie friends. Here's my easy and affordable guide to eating vegan in Ireland, where we certainly are not a vegan country! I want to show that it really isn't that hard - most of the time - and that you do not have to be 'deprived'.
Above all, I want to dispel the myth that vegans only eat cardboard, or junk food. Sure, I like my crisps and chocolate, but I believe the core of any diet - vegan or not - is real, nutritious food. Not fake food. Not fake meat. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
If you're a picky eater and think there is no way you could eat all these 'foreign' foods, then take heart in the fact that three or four years ago I would have been the exact same. Putting pesto on my chicken wrap was probably the extent of the 'exotic' food I'd eat...and I'm only slightly exaggerating there.
So to kick things off, here's my guide to what vegans eat....for breakfast. Please chime in with any of your tips and favourite breakfasts, I'd love to hear about them.
Cereal and milk
Growing up, my sisters, brother and I ate bowls of cereal at least once a day. We wouldn't just have them for breakfast, we'd have them as snacks or as a supper before bed. We loved them so much that my dad used to call a bowl of cereal at night a 'bowla'...we'd pour lots of milk onto crispy Cornflakes or Coco Pops and settle down in our dressing gowns to watch TV (and probably fight over something silly).
Yes, you can still have comforting bowls of cereal and milk as a vegan - but with a slight difference, of course. Just choose a vegan cereal (some Kelloggs cereals are no longer vegan, so please double check) that has no added milk, honey or animal-based Vitamin D, and pour on lashings of non-dairy milk.
My favourite combination these days is organic gluten-free Nature's Path Mesa Sunrise cereal with Kara coconut milk (it's a milk made from coconut milk), a tablespoon of flaxseed and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
Why flaxseed? It's a source of Omega 3
Why chia seeds? They also contain Omega oils, protein and calcium
Alpro Soya range
Kara coconut milk*
Rice Dream rice milk
*My favourite as it has a sweet yet unobtrusive taste and has added calcium
[double check ingredients]
Kelloggs Fruit N Fibre
Kelloggs Rice Krispies
Kelkin corn flakes
Dove's Farm - wheat biscuits, corn flakes
Lots more listed here.
Oats look bland and unassuming, but cooked with water or non-dairy milk they become a filling and nutritious breakfast. I have mine cooked with water, then add flaxseeds, freshly chopped or stewed apple, and lots of ground cinnamon.
Experiment with toppings to find your favourite combination - adding some fruit and nuts is a great way of upping the nutrient content of the breakfast. Just don't add lots of white sugar...
Two days a week I travel by train to work at a newspaper in another county - along the way I see so many beautiful animals like these cute sheep below. The first thing I do when I get into the office is get my porridge ready. It's part of my routine and if I don't eat I turn into a very crabby co-worker....
Smoothies and Juices
I've written about Green Monsters before and they might seem like an odd thing to have in the morning but they're invigorating and a fantastic way to get a serving of greens in before you've even left the house. Non dairy milk, fresh or frozen spinach or kale, frozen berries and a banana are all you need to get started. Add some flaxseeds, chia seeds or almond butter (about a tablespoon) and you've got yourself a refreshing and filling start to the day.
Vegetable juices (juiced using a juicer) are another lovely way to start the day. But as they don't have any fibre in them, you should eat something with fibre as soon as you start feeling hungry. Why not have one an hour or so before a bowl of porridge?
Granola and yogurt
When I don't have the time to make porridge and I'm not in the mood for cereal, I go for granola and soya yogurt. Here in Ireland pretty much the only non-dairy yogurt choice that we have is soya yogurt, but I believe it's possible to get coconut-based yogurt in other countries, you lucky things! I either make my own granola - here's a good recipe - or I use a shop-bought one like Lizzi's granola.
My basic requirements for granola are: low to no-added sugar; no honey; added flaxseeds; no wheat; lots of oats; lots of seeds.
This makes a great snack too - you can even add some fruit. Yum!
Don't worry, I'm not advocating that you take Sundays off 'that vegan thang' and chow down on some pork sausages, but this section is here to prove that you can let loose and have a greasy fry up now and then without having to eat meat.
I had some friends (one of whom is vegan and the first vegan I ever knew - my inspiration for going vegan) stay recently and in the morning we had a feast of Redwood vegan sausages, white spelt bread and white sliced pan, baked beans and Ballymaloe relish - with lots of black tea and Kara milk (with a bit of sugar for me).
Man, it was so tasty....not the healthiest by any means but it really hit the spot. If you're having friends over who are vegan, or if you're staying at someone's house and you know they'll want a fry the next morning, why not bring some veggie sausages and be prepared? They look just like the real thing and taste delicious with relish.
I have to have a hot drink in the morning. I start the day off with some hot water and freshly squeezed lemon and then after my porridge (etc) I have one of the following....
Fruit, Glorious Fruit
Whatever you have for breakfast, why not add some fruit? A crisp apple, sliced banana or juicy pear is what I usually reach for.
When berries are in season, I love them too - nothing like fresh raspberries in the morning!
Those are my main choices when it comes to breakfast. Where I can, I go for organic or local options without added sugar. I usually go for porridge as oatflakes are wholegrain and don't have anything added to them (although make sure to read the label if they say they are flavoured).
But when I don't have porridge, I'll go for something that is a bit more processed (soya yogurt) or maybe has a bit of sugar (granola). Other mornings, I'm all about the Green Monsters or juices.
Although I have experimented with different breakfasts, I always go back to the simplest options. I'll usually have at least one piece of fruit with breakfast, and I always try to add ground flaxseeds too.
Vegan breakfasts...so much choice, eh? What's your favourite?