Vegan misconceptions 101

Despite the fact that interest in veganism is growing rapidly, there still seem to be quite a few misconceptions about veganism hanging around, which is completely understandable. If you're not vegan yourself, or you don't know anyone else who is, then I can see how a plant-based lifestyle may seem extremely restrictive, or prohibitively expensive, or like a sure-fire way to end up with a calcium deficiency. So, because I've learnt along the way that many of these things are in fact true, let's bust some myths! 

All vegans can eat is fruit and veg.

This couldn't be further from the truth. Whilst, yes, fruit and veg are an important part of a vegan diet, as they are for any diet, that really isn't all there is to eat! It can seem like, in cutting so much out of your diet, the remaining choice must be pretty limited, but the more vegan recipes you try out and the more vegan blogs and cookbooks you read, the more you realise there is so much delicious food still available. Almonds, pistachios, cashews (a personal favourite!) and other nuts and nut butters. Polenta, chickpeas, rice, beans, couscous and lentils. Tofu, seitan and tempeh. Spices, herbs and seeds. And – I've saved the best till last – many brands of Bourbon biscuit! Happy days.

Just some of the delicious things you can still eat as a vegan

Just some of the delicious things you can still eat as a vegan

It's really expensive.

I won't lie: veganism can be expensive, but it really doesn't have to be. Whilst some ingredients, such as almond butter or cacao powder, are admittedly not cheap, many of the staples, such as grains, pulses and vegetables, are more than affordable. If you're on a budget, it's still entirely possible to go vegan as it's up to you whether you fancy 'splashing out' on some of the more expensive items or not. I go for a balance of the two. I buy cashew butter as it's cheaper at my local supermarket than almond butter, but, whilst I tend to buy pretty standard staple ingredients, occasionally I'll do a spot of baking that calls for more expensive foods such as cocoa butter, maple syrup or a big pile of nuts. Suffice it to say, a lack of money shouldn't put anyone off going vegan!

It's almost impossible to eat out.

Again, simply not true. It requires a little more thought and planning, but eating out as a vegan is more than doable – and you don't always have to go to strictly vegan establishments, either. That said, I never book a table without checking the menu first. Luckily, as the popularity of veganism is constantly increasing, it's getting easier and easier to find vegan dishes on menus. Sometimes they're hidden and you have to read between the lines and confirm when ordering, but more and more restaurants are marking dishes with vegan, vegetarian, lactose-free and gluten-free symbols – which makes life so much easier!

Cuisines such as Indian or Thai are often great choices for vegans, as there tend to be a good number of dishes that are either already vegan or can be made vegan if you ask. However, I've recently eaten everything from a delicious vegan pizza at a restaurant in Zoetermeer in Holland through to the excellent vegan buckwheat 'pankuka' pictured below at a pancake bar in Frankfurt. So, in conclusion, vegans can, and do, eat out!

A delicious vegan pankuka at  Baltique , Frankfurt am Main

A delicious vegan pankuka at Baltique, Frankfurt am Main

Vegan diets don't have enough protein or calcium.

Where do vegans get calcium from? How about protein? Surely a vegan diet doesn't contain enough of these? This misconception is definitely pretty common, and I understand where it comes from – many non-vegans have little reason to know any plant-based sources of calcium or protein off the tops of their heads! So let's take a look at some. You can get calcium, for example, from dark green leafy veggies such as kale and pak choi, fortified plant-based milks such as almond or soy milk, and other soy products such as tofu and tempeh. As for protein, good sources include lentils, chickpeas, beans and tofu. Vegan diets do definitely need to be planned carefully to ensure they contain the necessary vitamins and minerals, but it is doable. Some vegans also take supplements containing things like calcium, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids to be really sure they're getting what they need.

Cakes, ice cream and chocolate are out!

I am so happy to say that this is not true – vegans can definitely still spoil themselves with the occasional naughty treat! More and more supermarkets now stock vegan ice cream, biscuits and chocolate. Many a café has a vegan cake or two on their menu and, for the bakers among us, the internet is full of recipes for vegan brownies, cakes, muffins and cookies. So, thankfully, vegans really don't have to miss out – I, for one, have definitely spent an evening or two on the sofa with a spoon and a tub of vegan ice cream!

The beautiful vegan treats I sampled earlier this year at  Patio Rose Cafe , Tauranga, New Zealand

The beautiful vegan treats I sampled earlier this year at Patio Rose Cafe, Tauranga, New Zealand

So there you have it. Five common vegan misconceptions that, I'm happy to say, really are just that – misconceptions. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a tub of vegan ice cream to finish!