Exploring A Vegan Diet (part 1)

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine. I can’t remember what made me decide at such a young age that I didn’t want to eat animals anymore. I just woke up one day and told my family I was a vegetarian. It was hard for them to take me seriously, I remember my grandma gave me a big speech about why being a vegetarian was wrong, but I honestly can’t remember what she said, something to do with Jesus?

I’ve never considered going vegan, I love cheese too much. But then a pandemic started and I finished every decent movie and tv series on Netflix, so I moved to documentaries, and that’s how I ended up watching Cowspiracy (2014) and What The Health (2017), both created by filmmaker Kip Andersen, that turned out to be vegan propaganda.

I was interested in Cowspiracy because it explores the idea that animal agriculture is destroying the planet and it’s one of the leading causes for climate change due to the insane amount of water use, the constant deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. What The Health focuses mostly on promoting a plant-based diet trying to prove that eating animal products is actually making people sick.

Infographic from Cowspiracy

While I liked both documentaries, sometimes they felt a bit too much like sensationalist journalism. Their main goal is to promote a plant-based diet and stop people from eating animal products. And it works because they only show the studies that benefit their narrative, interviewing only people that share the same ideals and trying to expose health and animal nonprofits that don’t mention the impact of eating animal products on their website.
Even knowing that, I felt convinced. Somehow, 4 hours of watching Kip Andersen talk about deforestation and the dangers of a meat and dairy diet made me question my eating choices. I had a cheese sandwich after watching What The Health, and for the first time in 26 years, it felt wrong.

How to start a plant-based diet

Against Kip Andersen’s wishes, I won’t be going full-on vegan, at least not yet, but I’m trying to buy fewer animal products by finding substitutes that I like. I don’t eat meat, but I do eat a lot of dairy (milk, yoghurts, cheese), eggs and sometimes fish. I made a list of the products I’m trying to replace:

Plant-based milk instead of cow milk

Plant-based milk can be a bit of a hit or miss, but I’ve found that soy and almond milk are the best ones because they can also be used for cooking.

Unsweetened soy milk is very light and doesn’t have much taste and it goes well with black teas like English Breakfast and Earl Grey. I’ve also used it to make a bechamel sauce, and the taste isn’t that similar to cow’s milk. I’ve used unsweetened almond milk for hot chocolate, and it gives it a nutty flavour which I really like.

vegan hot chocolate
Vegan hot chocolate made with almond milk, black chocolate chips and maple syrup, and topped with cocoa powder.

Chickpea flour instead of eggs

I love fried eggs and Spanish omelettes, and I still haven’t found a substitute for those. I tried this Tasty recipe of a vegan French omelette using chickpea flour and almond milk, but I didn’t like it! It was so disappointing, I had high hopes for this recipe, but the taste wasn’t right. 

vegan omelette
Vegan omelette made with chickpea flour, nutritional yeast and almond milk. Filled with mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes.

Nutritional yeast instead of cheese

I use nutritional yeast as a substitute of parmesan, or when I’m making a sauce where I would typically add melted cheese. It’s not the same but it does give it a cheesy taste.

I’ve had vegan “cheese” sauces in restaurants, and they all have this nutty, sometimes mushroomy taste, and it goes well with fries and nachos.

I bought vegan “mozzarella” sticks from M&S, from their Plant Kitchen line and they were actually good, but they had the same bechamel taste as the other “cheesy” sauces.

Chickpeas and lentils instead of meat

I’ve been making my own veggie burgers and veggie meatballs for years. My favourite burger is this chickpea and carrot from Tasty. The only difference is that now I add nutritional yeast instead of cheese, and a chia seed “egg” instead of a real egg. They are usually created with flax seeds, but I prefer to use chia seeds. A flax egg is a way to imitate the eggy texture and adds the binding properties a real egg gives to recipes when cooking. 

My go-to veggie meatballs are these I make with lentils, and they go great with spaghetti and tomato sauce.

lentil meatballs
Veggie “meatballs” made with lentils, tomato paste, flax egg, onions and breadcrumbs.

Is the future vegan?

Overall, I’m happy with the alternatives I’ve found, but it’s hard to cut all animal products out of my life. I’m trying to follow a mostly plant-based diet. I’ve stopped drinking cow’s milk, I’m staying away from eggs, but it’s harder to let go of cheese.

Whenever I go to the supermarket, I look for vegan products, and even though there are some options like vegan sausages or vegan mozzarella sticks, it’s still hard to find a substitute for everything. I do believe, though, that in a few generations, after people have finally accepted that intensive animal farming is destroying the earth, eating animal products won’t be a thing anymore. Most people will be vegan, or at least vegetarian.

Exploring A Vegan Diet is a series I’ve started on this blog, I’ll keep writing entries of new recipes I try and products I’ve discovered, so follow me if you’re interested in more posts like this!