With the success of Gregg’s vegan sausage roll and the annual Veganuary campaign, it seems that veganism has gone mainstream.
According to the Vegan Society, there were more than half-a-million vegans in the UK in 2016 – up from just 150,000 in a decade.
But many people are still bewildered by the diet and lifestyle – and alarmed at the idea of catering for a vegan family member or visitor.
So read on for our guide to plant-based diets, and how to find a Tunbridge Wells restaurant that meets your meat-free requirements.
Veganism – the basics
Vegans believe we should avoid exploiting or killing animals wherever possible. The term is most commonly used to refer to those who eat plant-based diets.
That means that all animal products – meat, eggs or dairy, and substances derived from these such as gelatine and lactose – are off the table.
Instead, vegans follow a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. They differ from vegetarians, who generally refuse meat but do eat eggs and dairy.
Vegans are also likely to avoid clothes, make-up or toiletries that contain animal products or have been tested on animals.
Why do people choose veganism?
The majority of vegans choose plant-based diets on ethical grounds.
For many, their primary motivation is to avoid involvement in the slaughter of animals. While vegetarians are happy to eat some animal products such as eggs and dairy, vegans avoid the meat, poultry and dairy industry altogether.
In recent years, veganism has also been promoted as an eco-friendly diet. Vegans say that giving land over to livestock farming leads to deforestation, which contributes to climate change.
Additionally, some people choose to follow a plant-based diet on health grounds. According to the Vegan Society, studies have linked veganism to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Are there health risks?
While there are health benefits to plant-based diets, vegans do need to take care of what they eat.
Certain nutrients, such as iron and calcium, are present in smaller quantities in plants than in meat. Therefore, vegans need to plan their meals carefully to ensure they are getting a balanced intake.
One essential vitamin, B12, is very hard to obtain naturally from a plant-based diet. Vegans need to take supplements or choose artificially fortified foodstuffs to get this vitamin, which is important for the nervous system and formation of red blood cells.
If you’re thinking of going vegan, it’s wise to do your research first – particularly if you have a health condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are planning to cut out animal products from the diets of your children as well as yourself.
Can vegans still eat out?
A decade ago, it was tough for vegans to eat out. Many establishments offered just one vegetarian option, such as a cheesy lasagne or an omelette – totally unsuitable for vegans. A dismal green salad might be the only alternative.
Nowadays, chefs in the UK are more open to the creative possibilities of vegan diets. As well as exploring cuisines where plant-based options are common, such as Indian, they are coming up with innovative ways to use plants to create tantalising new tastes and textures in their dishes.
Vegan desserts are also easy to find, with sorbets replacing ice creams and olive oil being used in cakes instead of butter.
In fact, many vegan options are now so tasty and appealing that meat eaters choose them too.
If you’re looking for a Tunbridge Wells restaurant that caters for vegans, Salomons Estate pub and dining rooms will give you a very warm welcome. Let our waiting staff know you’re vegan, and they’ll be happy to help.
Vegan family members
Veganism is particularly popular among today’s teenagers and young adults, leaving many parents floundering.
What do you do if your family has always enjoyed a Sunday roast together, but your teens are now demanding a plant-based alternative? How do you cater for a visitor with challenging dietary requirements?
With a little bit of planning, it’s possible to keep everyone happy and well-fed.
A mushroom wellington in butter-free puff pastry, for example, is one Sunday lunch option that can be served to everyone, or just offered to vegans while the meat eaters tuck into their roast beef.
Make sure there are plenty of vegetable side dishes, that the roast potatoes are cooked in olive oil not goose fat, and that the gravy uses vegan stock.
You could also try variations on the same meal: pizza with a choice of toppings, or pasta sauces with pulses for the vegans and mince for the meat eaters. Vegan cheese goes well with either.
Alternatively, look for a Tunbridge Wells restaurant where each family member can choose their own dish. Salomons Estate will be delighted to cater for the vegans and meat eaters in your party alike.
Vegan substitute foods
So how do vegans cope without milk on their breakfast cereal? And what do you do if you are hankering after a juicy steak?
There are many vegan substitute foodstuffs around – though opinions differ on how much they’re like the real thing!
Recent years have seen an explosion in the types of “milk” available: oat, almond and soy, for example. All of these are made by mixing oils, water and additives to produce a milk-like liquid that can be used in hot drinks and cooking.
Meat substitutes can be made from soybeans, Quorn mycoprotein, mushrooms, pulses, and tofu or bean curd.
Many diners find these disappointing, and say there’s no need for fake meats as plant-based diets can be delicious in their own right.
However, the phenomenal popularity of Gregg’s vegan sausage roll, which has a “bespoke Quorn” filling, suggests high demand for meat products, but without the meat.
Visit Salomons Estate today
At our Tunbridge Wells restaurant, Salomons Estate pub and dining rooms, diners can be assured of a range of options to suit all palates and dietary requirements.
We offer lunches, dinners and afternoon teas, all using locally sourced ingredients. Our seasonal menus are varied, tasty, and a little quirky, incorporating both classic dishes and more exotic fare.