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So, you’ll give this vegan thing a go…

I’ve yet to meet a vegan that regrets their decision to change the way they live.

You’ve seen the newspaper articles linking animal consumption to climate change, you have a family member who’s given up meat and a friend has been diagnosed lactose-intolerant. Things around you seem to be changing. Maybe you don’t really enjoy your roast dinner anymore, you even buy organic milk and free-range eggs, but is it enough?

Today, our guest blog is written by Heather Foster, owner and manager of The Green Kitchen vegan café in St Albans. Eating more plant-based foods is known to be a key factor for reducing carbon emissions… see if you can be persuaded to ditch the meat, fish and dairy in Veganuary!

Choosing a plant-based, vegan diet is something everyone can do, and it really does make a difference. It’s healthier as you are consuming less saturated fat and cholesterol, you increase the amount of fruit and vegetables and generally become more interested in what you are eating.

The production of animals for meat and dairy is a huge contributor to land loss, methane gases and pollution. The vast quantities of water needed; the antibiotics used, and intensive farming practises all have a massive impact on our planet (and that’s not even considering how the animals are treated). Many people love their dog but baulk at the thought of consuming horse meat; shouldn’t all animals be treated equally?

So, you’ll give this vegan thing a go – but what do you eat?

Firstly, consider what you eat regularly and swop for plant-based products: butter or dairy margarine for sunflower margarine, cow’s milk for oat (there are many plant milks now that it’s easy to find one or more to suit your taste) Oat milk seems to be the best all-rounder and a good place to start.

There are oat or soya single cream substitutes, crème fraiche and even ‘squirty’ cream.

What about cheese?

Cheese seems to be a stumbling block for many people, our advice is to stop eating it for a few weeks and then try some vegan versions.

Some people argue that what makes cheese so addictive is the extremely high concentration of the milk protein casein that, when digested, results in casomorphins, which are opioids, belonging to the same chemical family as morphine and opium, inducing euphoric feelings and lowering pain.  (Ed: Why not do your own research on this issue, see endnote [i] )

 If you use minced meat for sauces –  bolognese, lasagna, chilli, etc, try the frozen soya mince instead, it works just the same. There is also sunflower mince hitting the shelves, another great alternative to both meat and soya.

If you don’t enjoy cooking that much, you can opt for the convenience of a ready-made ‘sausage’ or ‘burger’ both easy to cook, tasty, increases your veg intake and reduces your meat consumption. As veganism grows the food manufacturers are adding more products, almost weekly it seems, and it’s becoming easy to enjoy tasty animal free meals.

If you like baking, then cake making doesn’t need eggs- find recipes easily on the internet. I make a really good sponge with soya yogurt and cornflower instead of eggs, along with the usual cake making ingredients. Cooking and baking doesn’t need to contain weird and difficult to source items.

For other egg options, tofu is a good substitute and can be ‘scrambled’, a good addition to a cooked breakfast, or snack on toast; adding turmeric, black pepper, nutritional yeast flakes[ii] and garlic salt results in a delicious alternative!

What’s in a label?

Becoming vegan will mean you start to check labels more intensely! It’s amazing and quite an eye-opener just what is in some foodstuffs. Gelatine, or isinglass (obtained from fish bladders) in wine…crushed beetles in food colourings (cochineal) and you may discover bread with milk in it and start to question why!

A vegan diet is far from limiting and even eating out is becoming easier. You may have heard of Veganuary’ – a campaign to encourage people to try living without animal products for a month- give it a go.

Switching from animal-based foods is just the start: a true vegan means living cruelty-free, where all life matters. Clothing, fabrics, footwear, cleaning and beauty/personal care products all are taken into account. It changes the way you look at the world and what happens in the bigger picture.

I used to think, as a vegetarian environmentalist, I was doing ok. I thought vegans were extreme, then I became vegan 13 years ago and I know for sure I wish I’d switched sooner.

I’ve yet to meet a vegan that regrets their decision to change the way they live.

Heather Foster is the owner of the green kitchen vegan cafe, St. Albans.

Heather’s Vegan Sponge Cake Recipe


  • 160mls plain vegetable oil
  • 250g sugar
  • 120ml dairy free milk of your choice
  • 180g plain Soya yoghurt
  • Flavouring of choice e.g. vanilla or almond extract, or lemon or orange zest.
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 30g cornflour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl put 146gr of plain vegetable oil (sunflower is good) with 250gr sugar, add 120ml dairy free milk of your choice, and 180gr plain Soya yogurt. Whisk well till combined, add flavouring of your choice- vanilla or almond extract, lemon or orange zest.

In a separate bowl weigh 200gr self-raising flour, 30gr cornflour, 1/4tsp salt and 1 tsp baking powder, sieve into the wet mixture and whisk gently till just combined. Pour into 2 sandwich tins ( 7cm diameter) and bake 180 o/c, till golden and risen, and a cocktail stick comes out clean. (about 25 mins but ovens do vary)

Cool and sandwich together with jam or icing (made from icing sugar and dairy-free spread.)

[i] (Ed: Many of the headlines about cheese being addictive come from the 2015 Michigan University study Which foods may be addictive? The roles of processing, fat content, and glycemic load’ that concluded that highly processed foods, including pizza (with cheese)  appear to be particularly associated with “food addiction.” The academics explain:

[ii] *nutritional yeast flakes are a useful and nutritional addition to savoury cooking and easily obtainable from Health food shops and some supermarkets.

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