It’s week three of Parisa’s vegan challenge and she’s found that eating out as a vegan can be tough. Here are some of her favourite vegan food go-tos PLUS some of the best vegan beauty brands
It’s now week three of my vegan adventure and I’ve passed the halfway mark. At this point I’m still undecided about how I feel in my new life as a vegan and find myself constantly trying to figure out if I could make this work as a permanent lifestyle choice. The hardest part of being a vegan for the past few weeks has undoubtedly been eating out. I was doing just fine cooking on my own but when it comes to being sociable and joining non-vegans for dinner, saying no to a cheesy pasta dish suddenly becomes that little bit harder.
Vegan lunches on-the-go
Eating on the go is usually the easiest of things. Run into any supermarket, pick up any salad, sandwich or snack and you’re done. But ever since I’ve said no to meat and ditched the dairy it’s suddenly become a lot more difficult finding some midday munch. But as luck will have it high street shops from Pret to M&S have been making a point of catering for vegans this year with new menus launching this month to coincide with Veganuary.
Pret have had a meat-free makeover this year, adding 15 vegetarian and vegan options to their menus. The new menu launched on January 5th and included veggie pots, soups, vegan breakfasts and the option of coconut milk in all hot drinks. YUM. So I set out to taste and test the plethora of plant-based delight but much to my dismay I couldn’t find as many vegan bites in Pret as I had hoped. I tried a few shops and the vegan options were limited – maybe it’s because they’re so tasty they flew off the shelves but it left me wishing I had a few more options. That being said, the food that I did try was AMAZING.
Mango Chia pot
Breakfast has been the easiest part of the day as a vegan but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to grab a vegan breakfast on the go. It seems as if most companies throw things like milk into their foods for seemingly no reason at all. Pret made my mornings a whole lot easier with their new breakfast pots. My absolute favourite was the mango chia pot. The pot is made with a dairy-free coconut yogurt, chia seeds, diced mango and pomegranate. The taste was fresh, sharp and fruity – I definitely recommend.
Coconut milk coffee
Finally somewhere apart from Starbucks that I can get coconut milk in my coffee. I stand by my decision that coffee is distinctly better with coconut milk than with dairy milk. That’s one thing I can be certain I won’t be switching back to when this month is over.
Avocado, pepper and olive tapenade sandwich
This isn’t on Pret’s new veggie menu but it was DELICIOUS. I was actually gobsmacked at how good it tasted. Even throughout this month I’ve felt that sometimes vegan options can feel a little bit bland but this sandwich was far from that. The olive tapenade gave the sandwich a beautiful Mediterranean flavour.
Having spoken to vegans about the best easy grab-and-go bites to eat, the middle class mecca of M&S was quickly recommended. Their 2 for £3 salad boxes are mostly vegan so they really do have a huge selection. It was refreshing to finally find a supermarket that weren’t just throwing dairy and meat products into foods for the sake of it.
Rainbow veg sandwich
Here was another sandwich that was surprisingly full of flavour. The soft brown bread had little bits of red pepper running through it and chilli squash, pumpkin seeds and avocado meant that it was incredibly filling. I’m a big eater and I almost couldn’t finish it. That being said this wouldn’t be my go-to sandwich if I was able to eat something cheesy instead.
M&S have a great range of little pots to snack on including my fave which was the Glorious greens and seeds veggie pot. These little snacks have been a really great mid-afternoon snack to keep me going through the day. M&S also have also got plenty of tiny nut pots or even pots of dried fruit or dried wasabi peas. Essentially you’re not going to go hungry if there is an M&S nearby that you can scoot your little vegan self along to.
Edamame and black rice nourish bowl
Again I was amazed at how filling this rice bowl was. I could hardly finish. M&S really seemed to be packing their vegan options with plenty of filling, nourishing ingredients. I like that I wasn’t fobbed off with a wet lettucey salad. The bowl was bursting with colours and a soy and cashew nut dip gave it a delicious nutty flavour. Plus I am a huge fan of anything pickled so the pickled beetroot was right up my street.
Vegan dining out
I figured out pretty fast that dining as a vegan can be difficult. My first expedition to eat out as a vegan ended disastrously. As I watched my family gobble up delicious steaks, pies, fish and chips I ordered the only vegetarian meal on the menu – a veggie burger and chips. No mayo. No coleslaw. No moisture. It was a sad state of affairs to be sure but it taught me a quick lesson. Look at the menu before going out for food and maybe try and aim for somewhere with some good vegan options. My recent eatery excursions have been a lot more fruitful.
Zizzi’s have won the award of best vegan pizza at last year’s PATA food awards with their Rustica Margherita pizza. The thought of eating fake cheese usually makes me feel incredibly ill. But I love pizza and this one is award winning so it was something that I just had to try.
We headed down to Zizzi’s and when I asked the waiter the awkward question – ‘What are your vegan options?’ our waitress immediately ran to get us an entire vegan menu.
For our starter we had the vegan garlic bread and vegan bruschetta. Both of which were mouth wateringly good. The garlic bread had a strong rosemary taste and I dipped it in chilli oil and surprisingly did not miss butter at all. The vegan bruschetta was covered in pesto. Most shop-bought pesto is a no-go for vegans so it was great being able to be able to indulge in it.
My main course was the award-winning vegan magherita pizza. If nobody had told me the cheese was vegan I don’t think I would have known any different. It was creamy and didn’t have an overpowering taste. I topped mine with chilli and artichokes but there was a huge list of toppings to choose from.
But dessert was the course that really stole the show. I feel as though I’m constantly being surprised with how amazing vegan desserts can be. We shared a selection of vegan ice cream and sorbet scoops and a dessert calzone. The calzone was light and doughy and had a banana, blueberry and sweet pecan centre. Coupled with the coconut and chocolate ice cream it tasted incredible.
I think that Tibits on a Tuesday might be the place that all the good vegans go to when they die. The second I walked into this place I was excited. A huge buffet sat in the centre of the vegetarian restaurant that was exclusively vegan for the evening. I couldn’t believe the huge mix of food. There was no way I could fit all of it onto my plate even if I wanted to (which I very much did).
The system in Tibits is that it works by weight so the more food you pile onto your plate, the more you pay. It was quite a novelty putting my food onto the scales after scouring the buffet. All the items at the buffet are clearly labelled. There were plenty of gluten free options and nuts and other allergens were also marked on the food label.
It was amazing being able to have onion rings that didn’t have a milk or egg batter as most of them tend to. The green beans and walnut (which are hidden under my potato wedges) were delicious. The flavour of the nut and beans went so well together and the vegetable tartar had an amazing sharp pickled taste. But my absolute favourite of the evening was the walnut, fig and apple salad. The flavour was crisp and fresh and was a yummy contrast to the hot onion rings, okra tempura and wedges that I’d scattered my plate with. The one thing I wasn’t keen on was the miso aubergine which was a bit hard and cold. But I’d packed enough on my plate that I hardly missed eating that anyway.
I also had a gorgeously refreshing ginger lemonade drink to go with my meal. It tasted so sharp and not sweet at all. The flavour was really natural and the ginger was obviously incredibly fresh.
Tibits are also running yoga classes until March that end in a delicious takeaway. They have yoga breakfast classes for £30 that run for an hour on Tuesday mornings and a yoga brunch on a Sunday morning that runs for 2 hours for £40. Both classes are available to book online.
So, what happened in week three?
Funnily enough, this is the week when the cravings have really started kicking in. Even walking past the smell of sausage rolls and pasties at the train station is making me question my resolve and I find myself talking about cheese daily. At this point I feel as though cheese can’t really taste as good as I’ve hyped it up to taste in my mind. Not being allowed to have it somehow makes it seem that much more delicious in my mind.
I’ve also found this week a little more stressful than most. It was blue Monday this week after all and I think I’ve realised that when I comfort eat I often head straight for meat or dairy. Tonight is a Friday and I’d love nothing more than some red wine and cheese. I’m staying strong though and starting to feel really good about myself and the small impact that I’m having on the environment and our animal friends. And even though I’m just an honorary member of the vegan club I feel a small swell of excitement whenever I meet a fellow vegan. I can see how people get into this. I’m at risk of turning into one of those vegans that tell you about their dietary preferences 20 times in a day. I’ve also become a big lover of the #vegan hashtag.
In terms of how I feel health-wise, my energy levels have stayed pretty much the same. There has been absolutely no drop in energy for me since changing my diet. If anything I feel as though I might have more energy but it’s difficult to say as in December I was caught up in the unhealthy Christmas/New year bubble of eating chocolate and pigging out. My skin however, is totally clear. Not a single spot in sight. And although I don’t have particularly bad skin there is usually one sport lurking. My skin is definitely the best it has been in a while.
My skin is definitely the best it has been in a while.
The edit – 4 vegan beauty products we’re loving
Turning up to a vegan restaurant with a face full of makeup that has been tested on animals feels like a slightly more subtle way of strutting through the door in a full blown chinchilla fur coat. After all, I can avoid meat as much as I like but if I’m still using products that are unethical then it all feels a little bit fruitless. Here are some of my favourite beauty brands of the week.
Sukin supergreens facial moisturiser
This facial moisturiser is super smooth and glides onto my skin well. I suffer from quite dry skin and find that this really is rich enough to put the moisture back in. I also love that it doesn’t go flakey underneath my foundation. The only problem I have with it is that although it is described as lightly scented, to me it has a very distinctly natural, planty musk. But I can easily get over that because it really is a great match for my skin. This moisturiser is paraben free plus the packaging is environmentally friendly, recyclable and formulations are biodegradable. I also find that I only need a tiny bit on my face which means it’ll hopefully last me for a while.
Nyx liquid lipstick
This lipstick is my life in a bottle and that is no exaggeration. Along with my house keys it’s stored in the most reachable part of my handbag. The liquid lipstick glides easily on and dries matte. And it genuinely lasts all day long plus it’s waterproof. Sometimes it can take a little while to set but as long as you don’t go eating anything in the first 5 minutes of application you’re pretty much good to go for the rest of the day. Imagine my joy when I found out that my favourite beauty product is cruelty-free. Nyx is completely animal-friendly and has been a committed member of PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program since 2010.
Noughty hair conditioner
This conditioner from Noughty hair worked wonders on my tangled tresses. The formula is 97% natural and contains sweet almond and sunflower seed extracts. It smells incredible and is free from parabens, sulphates, petrochemicals and silicones. The only problem I had with this conditioner is that it does require a generous dolloping but afterwards my hair was left feeling silky smooth and easy to run a brush through.
Fair squared Lime body lotion
This lime body lotion smells as though you’ve bathed in herbal tea. The smell is organic and limey, it doesn’t smell fake and overpowering. The moisturiser glides onto the skin and dries quickly. It uses fair trade olive oil sourced from Palestine. It’s certified fair trade and certified vegan – an all round ethical pampering purchase.
Available for £12.95 here.