Vegan and Plant-Based Eating
“Have you got any Vegan or Plant based Recipes?” is a question I’m asked fairly regularly by clients. Of course, the answer is yes, as I am to work with all clients with all different lifestyles and requirements and since food is one of my big passions in life, I ensure that I have plenty of recipe suggestions to hand.
Questions regarding Vegan and Plant-Based lifestyles are likely to increase as more people are turning to plant based eating and veganism. Increasing awareness about the benefits of following a vegan diet as well as growing awareness about animal welfare is the key factors responsible for the growth of this market.
What’s the difference between Vegan or Plant Based?
“A vegan diet is based on plants and may be followed for environmental, cultural, religious, ethical or economical reasons. It can be very healthy if well-balanced and planned.
Vegans avoid all animal products (including dairy products, gelatine and honey).
Important food items are being eliminated making a vegan more likely to be deficient in certain nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin B12 and calcium. The latter are abundant in animal products.
You can provide protein from beans, raw nuts, quinoa, soy-based products.
Iron is abundant in vegetarian sources like pulses, lentils, enriched cereals and bread, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit. You may couple the above with vitamin C rich food, such as strawberries, citrus fruits to enhance iron absorption.
Yeast extract is a vegetarian source known to be rich in B12 vitamins. Vitamin-enriched cereals and fortified soy products and yeast extract are also a rich source.
In addition, it is recommended to prepare vegan food in a healthy way such as stir frying, grilling, steaming or boiling; avoid deep frying and the addition of processed and unhealthy food items such as sugar"
~ Yasmine Haddad (Nutritionist & Clinical Dietician
I come across a range of different clients running from those who are fully Vegan or transitioning to become Vegan through to those who are Plant -based to varying degrees so for instance I tend to come across people who are:
- Plant-curious: People who are considering eating more plant-based foods, and are wondering how to do it. (It doesn’t mean they have to stop eating meat.)
- Plant-forward or plant-centered: People whose diets are made up of mostly plants, but who might still eat some non-plant foods. These might be pescatarians, vegetarians, or folks who occasionally eat meat.
- Fully plant-based: People who only eat plant-based foods. This includes vegans, who usually eschew all animal products. (Not just food but also leather, fur, personal care products tested on animals, and so on.)
*above categories from Precision Nutrition
If you want a quick and easy refresher on the differences between Plant-Based and Vegan then check out this quick video by Health.com
Vegan & Plant-Based Food & Nutrition Trends
An article titled - The top 10 food and nutrition trends expected for 2021 by Healthline.Com- is predicting an increase in Flexitarian eating.
“Rather than trying to convince omnivores to ditch meat and animal products entirely, there will be a growing push to reduce the intake of animal products. Interestingly, up to 60% of millennials are interested in adopting a flexitarian diet, according to Statista.
Consumers may look to swap a few meat-based meals for plant-based ones each week. Alternatively, they may decrease the portion of animal products in their recipes and add more plant-based ingredients.
Who go on to say “Companies will continue to promote plant-based products but also develop products that contain higher amounts of plant-based ingredients and lower amounts of animal-based ones to help customers find a middle ground”
According to elGrocer, a UAE grocery delivery app “In 2021, we expect to see an increase in the demand for more vegan-friendly foods to rise across the UAE, and we will see a stronger emergence of local brands,” - Xavier Nunes, CMO, elGrocer.
What does this mean for you as a consumer?
Choice and Availability
From a consumer point of view, it’s much easier to follow a plant based or vegan lifestyle, here in the UAE than ever before. There are many more options for clients to find plant based options for dining and out and grocery shopping both online and in the supermarkets.
elGrocer report that “We have noticed an upswing in the popularity of plant-based diets and the products on our platform. People are opting for healthier choices in the aftermath of the pandemic that pointed out the vulnerabilities of those with underlying health conditions,” ~ elGrocer CEO, Raed Hafez.
elGrocer statistics showed that during pre-and post-COVID, vegan product orders rose by 300 percent with Jones the Grocer, Bid Food, Organic Food& Café with products like SkinnyGenie’s vegan cheese, Oatly vegan ice-cream, Kolios vegan shredded pizza cheese topping the list.
On the dining front, there are so many more Vegan or Plant-based cafe’s to choose from which is great. Plus it's more common to be able to order a vegan or plant-based item on the menu.
3 Practical Steps and Tips to Transition to a more Plant-Based Lifestyle
So what should you do if you want to transition to a more Plant-Based lifestyle?
1. Do your research
My number one suggestion would be firstly to do some research - read around the subject to do a ‘sanity check’ that it could be a good fit for you and perhaps pop out and try eating at some vegan and/or plant-based/plant-forward restaurants. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the variety of different menu choices available to you, that not only look good but taste good too.
Check out Dubai Vegan Days who help people enjoy and learn more about veganism, ethical living and how to live with more compassion.
2. Seek Advice
Seek some advice from a Nutrition Coach, Nutritionist or Dietician, depending on your needs.
Transitioning to a different way of eating can come with challenges both in terms of ensuring you get the right nutrients, that you can transition smoothly and equally important that you find a lifestyle that suits you.
I’m an advocate of a way of life that’s right for you which means that it can fit into your lifestyle, your budget, your health goals and is enjoyable. So it’s useful to get some help here to see how this could work on a practical level.
3. Read Labels & Don't Assume
My final tip (which applies to any lifestyle) - if you buy food that is prepackaged, read the ingredient label carefully.
With more choices of pre-packed vegan and plant-based food available, you should always read the ingredient list and nutrition label so you understand what it is that you’re actually consuming.
Don’t assume that plant-based or vegan products automatically mean that the food is low calorie, nutrient dense and a better nutritionally sound choice for you than a meat alternative. Some ultra-processed food items contain, on average, slightly less but overall quite similar amounts of saturated fat, calories, protein & sodium compared to their regular animal-based versions. *Source
More availability of ingredients mean that it's easier than ever for home cooks to get involved with more adventurous cooking. Ghalia Alul, co-founder of Little Erth, by Nabz&G (an award winning vegan restaurant) has shared some of her vegan ingredient swops plus some recipes below.
Recipes by Little Erth
- Tofu: made from soybeans, is mild in taste and easily absorbs the flavor of any recipe
Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast, which is sold commercially as a food product. It is sold in the form of yellow flakes, granules or powder and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores.
- Chickpea Flour makes amazing omelets
- Tofu: for scrambled tofu
- Aquafaba is useful for making recipes that originally call for egg whites, like mousse and meringue.
- Tempeh: made from fermented soybeans, has a meaty texture that can be used in place of ground meat and works well in curries, chilis, and stir-fries
- Portobello Mushrooms
- Dry soy beans: soak them overnight then boil them. You can use them as a replacement for minced meat
Stock Up Your Cupboards, Fridges & Freezer
Once you start the transition, you’ll need to hunt out some ingredients to stock up your pantry, fridge & freezer so I’ll end this post with some recommendations of what you should consider from 3 retailers who took part in a discussion about Vegan eating
Here’s what they recommended:
Marks & Spencer
Plant Kitchen Range (vegan friendly range, with a ‘flavour first’ approach).
- No Beef Burger 40 AED
- Cauliflower Popcorn 39 AED
- Crunchy Apple & Peanut Butter Dip 19 AED
- Cashew Mac: 35 AED
- Mushroom Pie: 39 AED
- BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Pizza: 45 AED
- Vegan Coleslaw 16 AED
- No Chicken Kiev 40 AED
- No Chicken Nuggets 35 AED
- Spinach Ravioli 35 AED
- Sweetcorn and Chickpea Burgers 35 AED
I’ve not tried any of this yet, but will be sure to check out a few soon, the Cashew Mac & No Chicken Kiev sound intriguing.
Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
- Banana, Philippines 3.75/AED per KG
- Mango, Kenya - 11.00/AED per KG
- Blueberries, South Africa 6.00/AED per 125g
- Cauliflower, Oman 6.00/AED per piece (approx 1kg)
- Kale, Netherlands - 35/AED per KG
- Spinach, UAE - 1/AED per 100g
- Eggplant, UAE, 3/AED per 1KG
- Mushroom (White), Oman, 5.50/AED per 250g
- Mushroom Portobello, Netherlands - 36/AED per KG
- Sweet Potato, Egypt 5/AED per 1 kg
- Beetroot, UAE - 4/AED per 1kg
- Asparagus, Peru - 28/AED per 500g
Happy to see some local UAE produce on the list of their recommendations. Affordable prices, whole foods always get a hearty tick for me. Personally I tend not to choose the imported food items with high price tags so sorry Asparagus and Portobello Mushrooms you’re off my list.
NOTE: All 3 companies supply products via elGrocer as well as through their own online channels and in store (Let’s Organic & M&S).
If you’d asked me 5 years ago about my thoughts on veganism I would have laughed and have said that I was the biggest non vegan going. I love my meat and couldn’t imagine meat-free days, I was brought up in the era of ‘meat and 2 veg’ for most of my meals!
However, times are changing and so are my thoughts. The more I learn about nutrition, the more I experiment and try new things for me and with my clients. I tend to eat much more plant-based, and in truth I probably would say I take a more Flexitarian, Plant Forward/Plant Centered approach to how I eat.
At the end of the day, I believe that people have to find the diet approach that’s right for them and that fits their lifestyle and health goals, plus it’s gotta be tasty! The foodie in me cannot move past that point.
~ Debbie, The Rebel Nutrition Coach
Also Be curious. Be mindful. Eat Right for You. Enjoy food freedom & flexibility.
Thanks to elGrocer for hosting an interesting round table discussion on Vegan and Plant-Based eating.
(PS - This is not a sponsored or endorsed post in any way).