Vegan baking has a reputation for flat and tasteless cardboard sponges. Modern vegans though, will say that’s completely unfair.
Baking with vegan substitutes can still mean delicious cakes, biscuits, brownies and trifles. Plus all vegan food shows respect to animals and the environment.
Why Baking With Vegan Ingredients Is a Good Idea
Veganism isn’t just a Millennial fad. There are several reasons why swapping to the vegan cake life is a good idea.
The calorific content of non-vegan baked goods is high because they’re packed with cream and butter. Cutting out those calorie-laden ingredients can make a difference to your waistline. (Vegan alternatives are not necessarily healthier so be careful. They can still contain plenty of sugar and some alternatives can be calorific, such as avocado.)
Another reason to eat vegan is that animals in the food chain are subject to infection from their dismal living conditions. Preventative antibiotics routinely used on factory-farmed animals move into the human food chain.
Medical professionals are warning us about the ‘antibiocalypse’. This overuse of antibiotics means they’re becoming less effective. Eliminating them from our food is a smart step.
Last but not least, a vegan lifestyle is kinder to animals and the environment. Going vegan or part-vegan is one of the best ways to support animal welfare and the wider environment.
We use a lot of resources rearing animals for food. These resources could be better used for growing a more varied, healthier range of crops. Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes are all foods proven to promote better health.
But Aren’t Vegan Cakes Horrible?
In all honesty, vegan baking is delicious, but it can taste different and this is where people fall down. We want a buttery, moist cake that tastes exactly like the one we’ve always eaten – but with different, kinder, ingredients.
Thankfully, the growing vegan trend has vastly improved the baking situation. Plenty of YouTube and Twitter tutorials show us how to bake well with vegan ingredients.
The ingredients available are better too. We can now use vegan margarine and egg replacer instead of mashed banana and olive oil. It’s getting much harder to taste the difference!
If it’s been a while since you tried a cruelty-free cake it’s time to give it another go.
Why Dairy-Free Baking Is Not the Same as Vegan Baking
Animal products are everywhere in the food chain. Often people don’t even know they’re eating animal products. When you’re baking the vegan way there are certain items to avoid alongside milk, butter, and eggs.
Honey – Made by bees so some vegans avoid it for exploitation reasons
Red food colouring – ‘Carmine’ is a ground-up cochineal beetle. It’s often listed as ‘natural colouring’.
Sprinkles and decorations – These often have shellac glazing, a resin secreted from an insect.
Jelly – Jelly tops my gag list. Gelatine gives jelly its wobble and is made from boiled up animal ligaments and skin.
Jam – May also contain gelatine.
Sugar – May be made with bone char, so check the label. Icing sugar may include egg.
It’s surprising where animal derived ingredients slip in!
Common Vegan Baking Replacements
It isn’t a mammoth task to make a vegan cake or pile of brownies; all you need is a list of swaps.
Vegan trending has pushed straight out swaps directly onto supermarket shelves. Whereas ten years ago vegans had to be inventive, now we can buy ‘vegan butter’ and ‘vegan eggs’.
Eggs are the first ingredient people ask about. “How can I make a cake or meringue without eggs?”
Amazingly, eggs are not the only foodstuff on the planet that binds. The quickest way is to buy a vegan egg replacement and use it straight out of the carton such as Orgran No Egg. Egg replacements are usually created from potato or corn starch and they work well.
Another way to replace eggs is by using a tablespoon of flaxseed mixed with three tablespoons of water. This is affectionately known as ‘Fleggg’. Or you could try soy yoghurt, mashed silken tofu, mashed avocado, or a mashed banana.
There is the mysterious aquafaba too, which we’ll look at later on.
Milk is simple to replace. Choose between soya, almond, cashew, rice, oat, or coconut milk. New plant-based milks appear all the time.
If you like a creamy taste, coconut milk is best. If you’re making a chocolate cake then choose hazelnut milk. There are so many milk substitutes and they enhance recipes more than plain old cow’s milk ever could.
Tinned full fat coconut milk is a great dairy alternative. Let the contents settle for an hour so the cream rises to the top and simply scoop it off.
You can also blend a silken tofu, but if that’s too much trouble just buy a dairy-free cream replacement off the shelf.
Buy a vegan margarine or butter – simple!
Sugar is not an animal product but some are bleached with bone-char. Check the label for one that is vegan – luckily most sugar is bone-char free in the UK.
Maple or golden syrups are perfect honey alternatives.
Flour and Yeast Replacement
Flour is vegan and yeast is made from fungus so you’re in the clear.
Shock, horror, you’re already eating some vegan food!
What About Using Cola?
There are rumours that vegans can bake cakes using cola and witchcraft. This is partially true.
Ready-made vegan cake mixes can be mixed with a can of cola instead of egg. It’s a quick and simple way to make a cake, but they never taste as good as ones made from scratch – but then what does?
Non-vegan ready-made cakes can be made with cola too – it’s not a secret reserved only for vegans.
How About That Aquafaba?
I mentioned aquafaba above, but it deserves it’s own section as it’s such a brilliant, low-cost vegan ingredient.
Aquafaba is chickpea or bean juice. It’s the stuff we usually pour down the sink when we empty a tin of chickpeas or mixed bean salad. It doesn’t look particularly appetising, but it’s a fantastic egg replacer in all vegan cooking including meringues and mayo.
You need to whisk it until it’s foamy and white. Use about three tablespoons to replace one egg.
Full credit to whoever first thought of whisking up bean brine!
Have You Tried Vegan Christmas Cake?
With Christmas looming it’s an ideal time to think about vegan Christmas swaps such as mince pies, trifle, and Christmas cake. I make vegan Christmas foods and people don’t notice the difference. It’s often the assumption it’ll be horrible that stops people trying vegan food in the first place.
Take your usual Christmas cake recipe and swap the milk for soya milk and the butter for a dairy free spread. It really is that easy, I use my granny’s recipe this way.
If you’re planning to use marzipan check the label for added non-vegan touches like milk, honey and icing sugar. Icing sugar is one of those ingredients you’d assume is vegan, but some companies add egg.
Thankfully, brandy is vegan. Which is good news because this year I’m going to make vegan eggnog using aquafaba and coconut milk!
Don’t Give Up Cake if You’re Going Vegan
Vegan stands for “Vegans Eat Grass And Nuts”. I’ve heard this many times, usually just after I’ve turned down food. It’s as old as the hills and simply not true.
Eating a vegan diet doesn’t mean you have to give up cake. You just need to make a few clever swaps to enjoy tasty treats with the knowledge you aren’t contributing to animal cruelty.
Often veganism gets a bad reputation from those who think it’s a massive hassle. It isn’t, but if you’re unsure, why not make a gradual change? Swap your milk first and next time try an egg replacement. Even using 50% vegan replacement products makes a difference to food chain animals and the health of our planet.
Don’t serve your family bland, boiled vegetables this Christmas! Here are seven quick, easy and delicious vegetable side dishes to wow your guests.
Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar and Bacon
I know it’s cliche, but everything really is better with bacon. Especially Brussels sprouts!
Add a little balsamic vinegar to the mix and you may have found your new favourite vegetable.
Add 500g of chopped bacon to a large frying pan.
Chop 1kg of sprouts in half and place in the pan
Add as much chopped garlic as you like
Cook until the sprouts start to brown in the bacon fat
Add enough balsamic vinegar to cover the bottom of the pan
As the vinegar loosens everything, you can deglaze the pan and coat your Brussels sprouts, ready to serve.
It can be difficult to time every Christmas dinner dish right. This can often result in mushy, overcooked food. Adding a fresh, crunchy Waldorf Salad to the mix will be sure to please even the pickiest guest and it’s so simple to make.
It’s traditionally made with mayonnaise, but I like to use creamy yoghurt instead for a slightly healthier version.
Mix cubed green apples, chopped celery, grapes and toasted walnuts with plain Greek yoghurt
Add salt and pepper to taste
Serving several courses? No problem! This dish is also a great way to cleanse the palate between courses.
Although it may be fun, it’s not always necessary to roast chestnuts on an open fire. No matter which way you cook them, they’ll be a big hit!
My favourite way to prepare them is to
Slice the bottom of each chestnut with a sharp paring knife (this lets the steam out)
Place each one slice side up in a roasting tin
Roast at 180°C for approximately 35 minutes.
While they’re still hot (be careful!) peel the skin off and serve as they are or lightly salted.
Cranberry Pear Sauce
Cranberries are so good for you, but they’re quite bitter and need a lot of sugar to make them palatable. Thankfully, if you cook them with a super sweet fruit, like pears, than you’ll need less refined sugar.
Mix one bag of fresh cranberries with six cored, chopped ripe pears and a cup of water.
Cook until soft and either mash or puree
If you want to spice it up a bit, add a cinnamon stick and replace the water with freshly squeezed orange juice.
Massaged Kale Salad
Kale is super healthy, delicious and a beautiful rich green colour; the perfect complement to the season’s evergreen decor.
Make your dressing. Combine the juice from one lemon, ¼ of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, and add salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over a large bowl of fresh kale and massage it into the leaves with your hands for a few minutes, to break down the fibres.
Finally, add a little bit of colour with dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Garlic Smashed Potatoes
This is the cheat recipe of the season. Loaded with sour cream, cream cheese and garlic this is a taste sensation.
Leaving the skins on red potatoes will add a splash of colour to your Christmas dinner. Plus potato skins are also packed with vitamins and fibre.
Boil two kilos of red potatoes
Smash them in a bowl with a large knob of butter, a generous scoop of cream cheese, a cup of milk and a cup of sour cream
Add a pinch of garlic and onion powders, plus salt and pepper to taste.
Baked Acorn Squash
Squash is the perfect side dish. It’s colourful, inexpensive and really good for you.
Slice into rings and place on an oiled baking tray
Roast at 200°C for approximately 20 minutes
Dress with a variety of toppings. Choose a savoury salt and pepper or a sweet butter and brown sugar
My kids like to pick it up and eat it like a piece of pizza!
A Christmas Dinner Like Never Before
And there you have it, no more tepid, mushy vegetables of Christmas past. These side dishes will add brightness, colour and texture to your table – and have your guests asking for seconds!
Nowadays, most of us associate Christmas with overindulgence and an overabundance of stuff. We buy gifts we know our loved ones probably don’t want or need. Then there’s the things we buy for ourselves, and the home, because it’s Christmas. All this stuff then sits in a drawer for a few years before finally making its way to the charity shop.
If you’re following a zero-waste lifestyle, this can be contradictory to your beliefs. You might even think you have to indulge, because it’s Christmas.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Zero Waste Living Is on the Up
Whilst generating zero waste is pretty difficult (even for the most avid of environmentalists), the trend for reducing waste is on the rise.
Non-biodegradable materials like plastic are often burned, releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Even more catastrophic is the fate of the plastic items that manage to evade this process. They’re sent to landfill, or make their way into waterways and oceans, where they have a devastating impact on marine life.
Many of us are vowing to reduce our environmental impact by avoiding the consumption of single-use items. Instead, we’re reusing and recycling as much as possible.
This can become trickier during the Christmas period. We typically produce more waste during celebrations than during our average week. But we can get creative. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the festive season, without the guilty conscience. Whether we’re looking for gifts for an avid eco-warrior, or to put on our own gift list, there’s lots to choose from.
Christmas Gift Giving, Without the Waste
Here are five zero waste products that’ll make perfect pressies this Christmas!
Zero Waste Starter Kit
Are you or your giftee new to the zero waste lifestyle? A starter kit could be a great way to get going. Available from various retailers, they’re packed with essentials. These include eco-friendly items such as reusable straws and travel cutlery.
The themed kits from Lowtoxbox make particularly nice gifts. You can choose the gift box that’ll be most suited to the person who’ll be receiving it.
A toothbrush may not sound like the most thrilling Christmas present, but at least you know it’ll get used!
Perfect as a stocking filler, bamboo toothbrushes are essential for a zero waster. They’re not 100% biodegradable due to the nylon bristles, but they’re a great deal better for the planet than their plastic counterparts.
Organic Cotton Produce Bags
Trying to avoid plastic bags to pack fruit and veg can get us into a muddle at the checkout. Those like me, with germ paranoia, may also dislike their fresh produce touching grimy supermarket baskets and conveyor belts.
Organic cotton produce bags provide a great alternative. Items can still be separated and weighed, but the bags can be reused again and again! Find them on Amazon, Etsy, or in many health food shops around the country.
Beeswax Food Wraps
When it comes to kitchen waste, everything adds up. In an attempt to save food leftovers, we may end up using cling film or tin foil. These inevitably get thrown away once we’re finished with them.
A greener alternative is to use food wraps coated with beeswax. They’re all-natural, breathable, washable and reusable. BeeBee Wraps source their beeswax from UK hives. They stock a variety of wrap sizes, suitable for a range of food items. They’re decorated beautifully too!
Reusable Drinks Bottles
Plastic bottles are one of the worst single-use items that clog up our waterways. The amount we use is astonishing, especially since using them is often so unnecessary! There are many well-designed, good quality reusable water bottles on the market. You’ll probably find you’re spoilt for choice when trying to choose one.
The Chilly’s bottle is particularly popular. There are colours, designs and finishes to suit all tastes. For an extra £10, you can get a personalised engraving — making them perfect as a special gift.
For coffee fans, a KeepCup is also a great choice. With each reusable bottle or cup, we’re drastically reducing day-to-day waste.
Merry, Planet-Friendly Christmas!
Following a zero-waste lifestyle doesn’t mean being left out at Christmas. If you want to keep up the tradition of gift giving, there are plenty of sustainable, waste-free and reusable products. Or you could even try making your own gifts. Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to plan them!
The office party. Michael Bublé. Sprouts. Too much to eat. Squeezing everyone in, the house in lockdown. Relatives sleeping in the spare room/living room/bath/under the stairs. Family arguments. Sprouts. Fairy lights from the 1980’s posing as a pretty, potential fire hazard. More sprouts.
Ah, Christmas. A time that novelty socks, advocaat (and sprouts) were made for.
It’s also a time when plastic overkill becomes even more exuberant. Those fairy lights and all the accompanying tinsel and baubles. Glitter, table decorations, throwaway splash proof tablecloths and unrecyclable shiny wrapping paper. Rubbish Secret Santa gifts. Not to mention too many kids toys to know what to do with.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Many of us are now moving to a zero waste lifestyle. Or at least we’re looking to minimise the waste we create. The Christmas tree is often the centrepiece of the festivities and it is possible to have a planet-friendly one.
Don’t resort to a plastic tree that gets dragged, dustily, out of the loft each year. Here’s some sustainable and ecologically sound Christmas tree ideas you could try instead.
Wooden It Be Nice…
I have a wooden Christmas tree that I bought from Fairtrade retailers, Culture Vulture a few years ago. It’s made from sustainable teak, and I love it.
It’s extremely simple – think of it as a two-dimensional tree. It has one long vertical plank of wood. Ten horizontal planks of varying size are nailed to it to resemble the typical triangle shape of a traditional tree.
I don’t even need to make space for it. I just hang it on the wall once I’ve decorated it, like a low hanging picture.
If you love the sound of this, it would also be very simple to make. You could use offcuts of wood from other projects if you’re that way inclined. Other than that, it doesn’t have to be flat. You could get the kids involved in collecting fallen branches or driftwood from the beach. (And do a two-minute beach clean whilst you’re there!) Carefully fix it all together and hey presto, homemade, sustainable tree! (Make sure you give wood collected from outside a bit of a clean. Unless you want to invite creepy crawlies to Christmas dinner.)
Using the Greenery You Already Have
Buck the trend, go without a Christmas tree and decorate a houseplant instead. Aside from not having to buy something else, you don’t have to move everything around to make space either.
Make sure it’s a sturdy houseplant, one that can withstand things hanging from its leaves. One of my fondest childhood Christmas memories was making our own tree decorations. We’d wrap corks from wine bottles in silver foil chocolate wrappers – both of which are abundant in December.
Adorning a houseplant with your own creations is very satisfying. (I hang trinkets and holiday souvenirs in my many houseplants all year round.) You can also find plenty of preloved decorations in charity shops too – who said they have to match?
Having a smaller ‘tree’ could also mean you’re inspired to buy fewer or less extravagant gifts to place under it, too.
Grow Your Own Christmas Tree
Feeling green fingered? Buy a box of Christmas tree seeds and start growing your own tree! (This is an investment for the future, it’s going to take some time and dedication.)
Beecycle sells Christmas tree seeds that can be started off indoors. When the tree starts to get bigger, plant it outside in a pot and bring it indoors each year.
If you have kids or grandkids, you can measure them against the tree each year and see who grows quickest!
Keeping it Real
Many of us choose a real Christmas tree over a plastic one, and rightly so. Even though plastic trees are (hopefully) reused many times, a new, real tree each year is still the greener option. According to the Forestry Commission, real trees use ten times fewer materials and five times less energy to produce than fake ones.
Buying a real tree still needs careful consideration. Try to source a tree from a local farm to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Also watch out for ‘potted’ and ‘pot grown’. A potted tree has been grown in a forest, dug up and potted. This can mean the roots are too damaged to take hold anywhere else. If you were to plant it in your garden to reuse each year, the chances are, it wouldn’t survive.
Pot grown trees are grown from seed to maturity and sold in the same pot. This means they’ll be more robust and likely to last you for years to come. Keep it in its pot outside and re-pot when it looks like it’s outgrown its home. Bring it inside each December, decorate and repeat!
Try to avoid real trees without roots. There’s no way it’ll survive past the twelfth night and you’ll be buying a new one each year. But do remember, each one comes with a lot of single-use plastic netting so you can get it home!
Renting a Christmas tree is simple and eco-friendly. You can leave all the tree-tending to the experts and still enjoy a real and sustainable Christmas tree.
Forever Green Christmas Trees and Love a Christmas Tree arrange delivery of a living, potted tree in early December. You can then dress it how you like before they collect it again in early January. Each tree is then replanted, ready for next year. Amazing!
Enjoying an Eco Christmas
Being zero waste or minimising what you consume doesn’t mean having to forego a Christmas tree. There are plenty of greener, plastic-free options.
Who knows where your eco Christmas tree venture might take you? A completely eco-friendly Christmas? A homemade Christmas? Volunteering at Christmas? Either way, enjoy, and have a merry one!
Food usually takes centre stage during our Christmas celebrations. From the snacks, drinks and sweet treats, to the all-important showstopper: Christmas dinner.
Finding unique foods from brilliant independent businesses could make your festivities even tastier. What better way to show you care at Christmas than supporting hard-working, local producers?
We’ve found some wonderfully different festive foods that all deserve to be celebrated. Some are perfect for the main event, others make ideal gifts. Some could even make it onto your own gift list!
Which will you be trying this festive season?
The Trimmings – Chutneys and Sauces
What’s Christmas dinner, without a few spoonfuls of something tasty on the side?
Dips was founded by Dipti, a mother and lover of cooking. Dipti was so renowned for her sauces and dips that friends and family would hoard them.
Buoyed by their popularity, Dipti created Dips, a range of chutneys, sauces and pastes. The Garlic Chilli Pastes (both mild and hot) are so good, they’ve won two Great Taste Awards!
There’s also a range of gift sets starting at £7.99.
At Christmas, even mayonnaise deserves a spruce, and this is where Fussels comes in.
Their delicious twist on a staple British condiment will jazz up any Boxing Day spread. Choose between mint, garlic or classic English from this Somerset, family run business.
Fussels are famed for their cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil, which is used in all their products. They also offer a range of gorgeous dressings, flavoured oils, sauces and gift box options. Gift Boxes start from £12.50 or you can grab two jars of mayonnaise for £5.99 on their website.
Perhaps you’re partial to a post-Christmas turkey curry? Or maybe you have a Christmas Eve family curry tradition? Twisted Curry have a spice mix specially blended for Christmas.
These spices also make the perfect gift for someone who knows a curry is not just for Christmas!
Christmas curry spice packs are £2.95 each.
Keeping Everyone Sweet
Snacking on the sweet stuff doesn’t have to involve a huge tub of bog-standard chocolates. Things can be a whole lot more interesting!
Traditionally baked Yorkshire biscuits from Sawley Kitchen have a real home-made feel.
Choose from enticing flavours such as Rhubarb & Custard, Cranberry & Orange, and Apple & Cinnamon. They’ll make a lovely addition to a handmade hamper and are the perfect after dinner treat with coffee.
Packs start at £2.50, and their mixed selection packs are available from £6.75.
Just Because Treats
South American sweet treats from Just Because Treats deliver a Latino allure to a UK Christmas.
Their handmade gluten free Alfajores are the perfect selection for any gift basket. We think they would make delightful table favours too, if you’re feeling extra fancy.
Grab a box of three from £4.50. Flavours include original Dulce de Leche, refreshing Lemon & Lime and indulgent Nutella and Pistachio.
If savoury treats is more your thing they also do an amazing looking sustainable pan de jamon from Venezuela.
If you want to add a little spice to your Christmas, then Chins Kitchen might be what you’re looking for.
Offering ‘artisan baking with a twist’ they have a delicious choice of biscuits. All add that special something to any feast. Or they could help you break from tradition and give spicy stocking fillers!
Try their Nankhatai biscuits which are just like shortbread. They’ve added warming ingredients such as peanut butter, chai spice, orange, ginger and cinnamon.
The biscuits are presented in a decorative box and start from £10, making them a perfect Secret Santa gift.
Luscious Organics have developed a delicious winter spiced orange ice cream. Which sounds like the perfect accompaniment to Christmas pudding!
‘Christmas in a pot’, this ice cream is made from organic ingredients and is vegetarian and gluten free.
There are lots of other delicious flavours to choose from too. Find them in Selfridges in London and other smaller outlets nationwide.
One for You, One for Me – Gift Sets
Boxed gift sets can be equally good for both you and your guests!
One of these nostalgia infused fruit cakes from Tipple Tales will flood your taste buds with the flavours of Christmas.
The creator, Jane, evolved her cake business from her popular Christmas fruitcake. With her cakes beautifully presented in a keepsake tin, they make the kind of gift you might not want to give away. With flavours including cherry, cinnamon and ginger we suspect that you might be keeping one of these for yourself.
Cakes start at £17.95 with a four month subscription service available for £65 – now that’s one for your Christmas list!
Ross and Ross – Christmas Roast Dinner Box
If you’ve been invited by loved ones for Christmas lunch this year then why not gift your host a box of goodies in advance?
This Christmas Roast Dinner Box from Ross & Ross is ideal. It contains Roast Potato Oil, Pigs In Blankets Dust, Brussels Sprouts Dust and Roast Turkey Rub. What else could anyone need to make their festive dinner stand out?
We also love that the Roast Potato Oil comes from local rapeseed oil producers, Cotswold Gold. Cotswold Gold is a small family business where there is a zero waste philosophy. The seeds are pressed for their oil, then any leftovers are turned into biofuel with the spent pulp used for animal feed.
Possibly the best roast potatoes you’ll ever have?
The English Cream Tea Company
What could be a more quintessentially British gift, than a festive scone baking kit?
The English Cream Tea Company endeavours to bring the luxurious tradition of a high quality cream tea to your own home. We were particularly taken with the Festive Kit, as it has all the elements you need to create a seasonal tea time treat.
It makes the perfect gift or even a kit to create a pretty afternoon tea display for your December table. They also have other charming gift tins. These include afternoon tea selections with a quaint tea towel and cute sugar hearts.
The Festive Bake Kit is £25.00 with all other gift tins starting at £23.00.
There’s bound to be at least one irresistible festive food in this selection. Whether for a loved one or to treat yourself. Support a small business this Christmas by thinking a little outside the gift box.
For teenagers and adults, making the decision to go vegan or vegetarian can be fairly easy. It could be triggered by a love of animals or by being old enough to question where our food comes from. Most often it’s a consequence of disagreeing with dairy and meat industry practices.
Going vegan can be a bit trickier, with more hurdles in the way. However the actual decision to be completely plant-based is often a well thought out, considered and informed choice. But what about when it comes to our children?
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan parent, then it certainly makes it easier at meal times if everyone eats the same thing. We make all other food choices for our children. If we’ve made an ethical decision to be vegan or vegetarian, is it moral to raise your children the same way? Do we have the right to decide that they should be vegan or vegetarian from birth?
Helping Kids Thrive
Making sure that a vegetarian or vegan child gets the right nutrients will be a big factor in your decision process. It’s similar with any child (or adult!) who might be fussy with food. You might even come across well-meaning friends and family members who will be concerned on their behalf.
Yet it is entirely possible for a youngster to get everything they need from a supplemented vegetarian or vegan diet. Knowing this may help you make your decision.
The NHS recommends that all breastfed babies are given vitamin D drops from birth and that children aged six months to five years who aren’t drinking 500ml of formula milk a day should have a daily vitamin A, C and D supplement. These recommendations are for all children, not just those on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
The Right Diet
Once you’re weaning your vegan or vegetarian child, you need to introduce as much variety as possible. The NHS specifically recommends iron rich foods. These can be fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils and dried fruits. Vegan children may lack calcium, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Supplements are a great option to make sure your child isn’t missing out on these vital nutrients.
Fortified plant milks and green, leafy vegetables such as kale are good natural sources of calcium. The Vegan Society recommends ground chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts for omega 3. Plant-based sources of vitamin B12 are tricky, even for adult vegans. Both the NHS and the Vegan Society recommend fortified plant milks and B12 supplements. Protein-wise, nut butters, pulses and grains are all good plant-based vegan sources. As a child grows, they need lots of energy. This can be provided by high energy foods such as bananas, hummus and smooth nut butters.
Opting in or Opting Out?
Ultimately, it is a parent’s choice to bring up their child as vegetarian or vegan from birth. If you’re struggling with your decision, consider the ideas of Simon Amstell. The writer and director of the vegan comedy film Carnage encourages us to think about choosing veganism as an issue of framing. We ‘frame’ being vegan as a choice, both for us and our children.
More often than not, eating meat is seen as the default; we don’t opt in, we opt out. But what if we looked at eating meat and feeding it to our kids as a choice? What if we saw veganism not as a choice, but as default? And given that children can, and do, thrive on plant-based diets, then it’s entirely moral to choose to raise your kids as vegans.
There are social aspects to consider. Organising school meals and taking kids to parties requires more thought as a vegan or vegetarian family. Unless you’re surrounded by like-minded families, or your kid’s school offers a particularly diverse menu, this can be tricky.
A vegan or vegetarian child of preschool age will probably think their diet is completely normal. But going to school and mixing with other kids that eat meat and drink cow’s milk might make them question why they’re different. Instil in kids from a young age why vegetarianism or veganism is important to you as a family, and these inevitable questions will be easier to tackle.
Start Them Young
It’s important for us to teach all kids to be open to other people’s beliefs and lifestyles. The same goes with vegetarian and vegan kids. Gentle, non-judgemental learning and appreciation for others’ choices is key – and something we could all benefit from practising!
Speak to your children about why you’ve brought them up vegetarian or vegan. Have discussions about how animals have feelings, that they have a face and can feel pain. You may choose to go into the living conditions of farmed animals. You can even watch films such as Carnage together if you have older kids. As your children get older, they’ll be fully equipped with the information they need to make their own choices.
A Change of Heart
Arguably, babies and young children raised vegetarian or vegan from birth don’t have the freedom of choice. On the other hand, how many babies or young children do have a regular choice over what’s for dinner? They may be given the choice between fish fingers or pasta, but their parents have already chosen the food in the house.
Once a child gets older though, they may decide for themselves that they want to try meat or dairy. This might be out of curiosity, or just good old fashioned defiance. It’s here that your moral code may be really tested. Do you insist that your house stays meat and/or dairy free? How much freedom do you allow your youngsters to explore foods and make their own decisions?
We all have to make these choices. Once we’re old enough to ask questions and form opinions, we have a certain amount of choice. Be that the clothes we wear, the TV programmes we watch, or the food we eat.
If your child has been vegetarian or vegan from birth and decides they want to eat meat or dairy when they’re older, then try and be open to it. Being gentle, accepting questions and not mystifying meat could help answer their inquisitiveness and manage rebellious tendencies!
For example, you may come to a mutual decision that meat is only to be consumed outside of the house. Or that you’ll only cook organic meat and only once a week. But either way, we should all have the freedom of choice.
An Informed Choice Is a Moral Choice
So long as you’ve done your research and armed yourself with all the info you need, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t raise your kids as vegan or vegetarian from birth.
Being judgemental of others who choose an animal-based diet isn’t kind. Refusing older kids and teens the freedom of choice to explore and make their own decisions will likely backfire and create conflict. But until then, it’s perfectly OK to revel in their delight as they discover the wonders of hummus!
Swapping gifts, celebrating with loved ones and telling bad jokes sums up many Christmas day celebrations. All while sporting paper hats and getting our fix of Christmas TV specials (even if they are repeats).
For many of us, the highlight of the day is tucking into a delicious roast turkey. Does this align with our values if we live a green lifestyle? Sadly not. Christmas dinner is often one of the biggest environmental disasters of the year.
With an increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable food choices, many of us face a dilemma over what to put on our plates at Christmas.
Here’s how we can make our festive feasts more sustainable. But first, the harsh reality of all that meat.
The Environmental Impact of Poultry Farming
Chicken and turkey farming has a relatively low carbon footprint. Particularly when compared to ruminant livestock animals. Lamb and beef farming produces an average of over 15 kg of C02 emissions per kilo of meat.
Yet this doesn’t make chicken and turkey farming problem free. After raising the birds, the poultry industry still requires large amounts of energy. This is used for operating processing machines and keeping the meat chilled.
A UN report published in 2007 found poultry slaughter consumes substantially more energy than other sectors of the EU meat industry. Processing beef is less than half as energy intensive as processing poultry. Poor manure management or improper disposal of bird carcasses also leads to soil and water pollution.
Poultry manure contains metals such as copper, zinc and arsenic. These are introduced to the birds through their feed. It can also contain pathogens or the residues of antibiotics regularly used in intensive poultry farming. In large quantities, these elements can be toxic to plants and to the insects which feed on them.
It’s Not Very Merry for the Turkeys Either…
There are also ethical concerns when it comes to large-scale farming. The majority of UK turkeys are bred through intensive farming. The birds spend their entire lives in cramped conditions, often without seeing daylight.
These turkeys are overfed and grown at such speed that their bones, lungs and hearts can’t support their weight. This often leads to heart failure and lameness.
What makes it worse, both environmentally and ethically, is that 2 million turkeys end up in the bin. This is an extraordinary amount of wasted food.
What About Other Festive Meats?
So, if turkey is off the menu this Christmas, what about roast pork or goose?
Unfortunately, pork has the third worst environmental impact of all meat. Pork creates 4.62 kg of C02 emissions per kilo of meat.
This figure doesn’t even factor in the C02 produced by transporting the meat from farm to kitchen. Nor the energy consumed by processing the meat into sausages and bacon for a side of pigs in blankets.
There are no stats that compare the environmental impact of goose and duck farming to chicken and turkey. The industry is certainly ethically questionable though.
According to Peta, millions of ducks and geese are raised in cramped factory farms. Over 31 million ducks are killed each year. Many of these birds are already deformed or crippled. Others are force-fed through a pipe two to three times a day and eventually sold as festive Foie Gras.
A Festive Solution for an Ethical Christmas
Nobody wants to miss out on the highlight of Christmas day. But it’s no longer possible to ignore the environmental impact of our Christmas dinner. Thankfully, there are some steps we can take for a more sustainable festive season.
For example, we can take a ‘less is more’ approach. We can reduce our typical meat consumption in the run-up to Christmas and on the big day itself. This way, we can help to balance out the meat-heavy period.
Another option is to leave meat off our plates completely this Christmas. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to find a tasty turkey alternative.
Perhaps the idea of a vegan Christmas has you spitting out your eggnog? Fortunately, there are other ways to minimise your Christmas carbon footprint. Without giving up your favourite meat!
Avoid waste by purchasing a smaller bird. Or try diversifying your roasted vegetable side dishes and use them in place of meat. Before throwing out food, try exciting new recipes to use up the leftover Christmas turkey.
Take the time to shop at farmers markets or source vegetables which are grown by local producers too. Or support responsible farmers by searching for sustainable farms in your region.
Enjoying a Jolly Green Christmas Dinner
We don’t have to abandon our eco values to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner. Responsible companies, such as Ross & Ross Food help us make the best of Christmas meats. They create Christmas Roast Dinner Boxes made using produce from British suppliers.
While Ross & Ross Foods are not Fair Trade, their spices come from Fox’s Spices. This is a family business based in Stratford Upon Avon. Fox’s Spices source top quality spices and oils from family-run farms in the UK and around the world.
Perhaps we can all take a leaf out of Fox’s Spices’ book. Together we can opt for quality foods and homegrown produce, and celebrate a more sustainable and ethical Christmas Day.
Spending, eating, drinking, partying, gifting – these are all things so many of us do too much of at Christmas. Partly due to our desire to let our hair down, and partly down to in-your-face marketing. As soon as the shops have packed away the plastic skeletons and fireworks, we’re enticed back in. (Novelty felt avocados with Santa hats seem to be the must-have tree decoration this year.)
All too many other people though, don’t have the luxury of having a home to put a tree in. Let alone adorning it with glass flamingos (another trend). Whilst I love avocado and flamingo curiosities, isn’t it time we also thought about our fellow humans who might be struggling? Even more so during the festive season?
There’s been a 50% rise in homelessness in England since 2010. We only need to walk around any town or city in the UK, to see the realities of people forced to sleep rough. According to Crisis, almost 5,000 people were sleeping rough on any given night in the Autumn of 2017. This figure only relates to rough sleepers.
Almost 80,000 families are currently in temporary accommodation. Crisis reports that many thousands more are the ‘hidden homeless’. These are the people living in unsafe squats. Or those moving from house to house with all their belongings – so-called ‘sofa surfing’.
The ‘system’ has created a vicious cycle. It’s hard to get a job without an address. It’s even harder to get an address without a job or a decent enough wage to save up for a deposit.
Rents and property prices are rising more than wages, especially so in our capital city. This makes already unstable families and single people even more vulnerable to homelessness. The current benefits system means that housing benefit is cut if you work more than 16 hours a week. This means higher rental costs and little incentive to seek full time work.
The physical and mental impact of all this, is insurmountable.
Fat Macy’s Supper Clubs – an Empowering ‘Hostel to Home’ Solution
But there is a ray of sunshine, in the form of Fat Macy’s. Fat Macy’s is a London-based social enterprise. They train young people living in temporary accommodation to cook for and host supper clubs and other culinary events. Volunteers earn the equivalent of £10 an hour, which is paid by Fat Macy’s into a secure housing deposit fund. Once the value is enough for a deposit and the young person has a tenancy agreement, it’s paid directly to the landlord.
Volunteers are not only helped onto a pathway of independent living. They learn valuable life and work skills such as financial planning and curating events. Plus, they learn how to cook amazing food, on a budget.
Emmanuel – a Real Life, Inspiring Story
So far, 60 young people have been trained in in-hostel catering bootcamps and 20 have volunteered at Fat Macy’s events. 24 have achieved their Level 2 Food Hygiene qualification. This can be used in other, paid, hospitality and catering jobs.
After attending an in-hostel bootcamp two years ago, 27 year old Emmanuel started volunteering. He says,
“Fat Macy’s changed my life and continue to help me. Working with the team has made me confident in my abilities and I’ve learnt a lot. They always believe in me and they’re always there to talk to. I finally feel part of a family”.
Emmanuel now rents his own flat in Enfield in North London. His enchanting grin says it all.
Fat Macy’s aim to to end the cycle of homelessness, and reduce the stigma surrounding it. At the same time, volunteers gain a higher sense of self worth and better future prospects.
Attending a supper club organised by Fat Macy’s means that you’re supporting this brilliant scheme. Plus, any tip that you leave will go straight to the volunteers. Struggling young people deserve this step up in life. And you get to enjoy a shared, social dining experience that you’ll only ever get at a supper club.
Can’t Get to a Fat Macy’s Supper Club?
Fat Macy’s run supper clubs and cater for events all year round. If you’re not in London and want to get involved, you can still help. They have the opportunity to earn £30k of offline advertising as part of the See Change Make Change campaign set up by UnLtd and JCDecaux.
If successful, the extra advertising money will help raise the profile of their mission. Plus, it will help their new permanent home in Peckham, South East London, thrive.
More Thoughtful Festivities
This Christmas, let’s all think a little more about spending our money on experiences that help people. Let’s not waste money on physical stuff that doesn’t mean anything. If you’re about to go and panic buy a token gift, pause for a second and think. Could your cash be better spent?
A ticket to a Fat Macy’s Christmas supper club is £35 and they’re being held throughout December in two London venues. The menu includes sherry braised chicken and squash stuffed with lentils and walnuts. And of course, sprouts.
Ditch the Secret Santa, gather up your mates and enjoy a festive Fat Macy’s feast. What a way to indulge. It’s money far better spent, anti-consumerist and you’ll change someone’s life for the better. How’s that for seasonal warmth and joy?
Christmas is a time of excess in every way. From electricity usage to presents galore, an overload of food, packaging and energy. The festive season takes its toll on the environment, as well as our bodies and bank accounts.
It’s a time of fun, laughter and love. If we’re a little more aware, we can have a lovely time whilst being more mindful of the resources we are using. With a little effort and imagination you can have a planet-friendly Christmas. Here’s how…
Deck the Halls with Recycled Decorations
When decorating your home for Christmas, use the decorations that you already have. Or, buy ones made from recycled materials or from craft fairs to ensure they will last for years to come.
There are lots of eco-friendly decorations on the market now. For example, you can buy stockings and bunting made from recycled sari fabric. Instead of buying store-bought advent calendars, buy or make a fabric or wooden one. You can then fill it up with little gifts that you choose, year after year. Skip the disposables and use fabric napkins and tablecloths that can be washed and used again.
To save electricity, use fewer lights and make sure the ones you do use are LED. Put your lights on a timer so they can turn off automatically at a certain time. Remember, if you’re all congregated in the kitchen, to make sure the lights and TV are off in the living room!
Although artificial trees are reusable, they do use resources for manufacture and shipping. If you are interested in one, check out Gumtree, eBay or Freegle for a pre-loved tree.
Real trees are a preferred option as they are better for the environment. Try to buy a potted one that will have an extended life rather than being thrown away after the holiday. There is the option to recycle trees after Christmas in some local areas. You can even rent Christmas trees online. For an alternative tree, decorate a potted plant or spray a bunch of twigs and hang decorations from them.
Crafty Christmas Cards and Wrapping Paper
Get crafty and make your own Christmas cards or wrapping paper. Store-bought cards consume a vast amount of resources and will be thrown away within a few weeks at most. Homemade Christmas cards are thoughtful, personal and fun, and are appreciated even more.
E-cards are becoming much more the norm these days, so you can send your Christmas spirit online instead of using paper. An increasing trend on social media is to send a small donation to charity instead of sending a card. Or, reconnect with loved ones by making a festive phonecall!
Recycle as much as possible. Reuse old wrapping paper again, or buy recycled wrapping paper. Old comics, magazines or calendars also make great wrapping paper. Last year’s cards can be cut up to make festive postcards or gift tags. Or forget the gift tags all together and write straight onto the paper.
Whilst some gifts need to be bought new, there is no point in spending silly money on presents that won’t be used. Gifts are meant to be thoughtful. Think about making something homemade that you know the recipient will love. Or visit local craft fairs, boutiques, farmer’s markets or family run businesses. These are great for recycled or ethical gifts, and you can ask where they were made or came from.
A great idea to save on money and unwanted presents is to have a Secret Santa between friends or family members. Write down everyone’s name and place it in a hat. One by one you can pick out a name and this will be your recipient. Who picked who should be kept a secret and you can put all the presents in a pile so there is still an element of surprise. Establish a budget so that everyone will spend around the same amount. This way, everyone gives and receives one special present. No more stressing about buying good presents for everyone!
Festive Food – Watch the Waste
Most people make the mistake of buying too much food over Christmas. Then they either stuff themselves to prevent waste or throw most of it away. Write a practical list of everything you need before you shop.
Whether we walk on by, drop some change into a cup or donate our lunch, homelessness exists. It often hides in plain sight, but it’s still there.
According to the Independent, the number of homeless people in the UK stands at an all time high. The official numbers tell us that “on any given night in autumn 2017, 4,751 people were sleeping rough”. This figure has more than doubled since 2010.
Any initiative that helps get people off the streets is to be celebrated. One that gets people off the streets whilst providing new skills and a job? Even better!
Change Please are doing just that. They produce great coffee and they’re helping to change lives.
They’re turning our love of coffee into a solution for homelessness. They provide homeless people with the skills and tools they need to run their own coffee cart. This includes barista training and a London living wage as well as support with housing, setting up a bank account and help with mental health problems.
What Makes Someone Feeling Bad About Homelessness Do Something About It?
According to Change Please, the average Londoner buys two coffees a day. This is reflected across the country, with 21,000 coffee shops predicted in the UK by 2020. This means 100,000 jobs in an industry that is currently under skilled. Making fresh coffee takes skill, passion and essentially, the right training.
But all this coffee being sold, and jobs being created, are no use to someone who doesn’t have the skills or the knowledge to get trained and get a job. Once someone is caught in the web of being without a fixed address, a job, food and money, it becomes increasingly difficult to get out of it.
The ah-ha! moment for Change Please was when founder Cemal Ezel was on a work trip far away from London, in Vietnam. He paid a visit to a silent tea house there, a social enterprise run by women who are deaf and mute. These women and their passion for their trade struck a chord in Cemal. On seeing how homelessness was becoming more of an issue on his return to London, he was inspired to take action.
Why not use our willingness to spend money on good coffee, to help end homelessness, and in turn help plug the barista skills gap?
Why not indeed. Change Please started with one coffee cart in November 2015 in Covent Garden in London. They now have carts dotted around the capital and are immensely proud to have coffee bars within the iconic Shard building and the head offices of media behemoth, Time Inc.
Good Coffee, Doing Good
I spoke to Laurence Higgens, Director of Impact and Fundraising at Change Please. He’s been with them from the start, initially driving the carts to their locations, working a full day getting the enterprise off the ground and then packing the carts up again in the evening.
His passion for this business is plain to see; not once did Laurence think his 15 hour days weren’t worth it.
Change Please is a social enterprise, “staffed by the homeless, to help the homeless”, Laurence explained. Funding comes in part from the Big Issue. Change Please “empower the homeless community” by training them to be baristas.
If someone is interested in being trained, charities helping the homeless, including Centrepoint and Shelter will refer them to Change Please. Laurence says they’re always keen to meet new people with a passion for coffee who would like to be involved in the catering and hospitality industry.
Changing Lives, One Coffee at a Time
Change Please think it’s vital to pay their baristas the London Living Wage. Laurence told me this has two positive effects. It proves that paying the Living Wage can work in the hospitality and catering industry. And it provides an adequate income with which people can rebuild their lives.
As well as new skills, a job and a coffee cart, employees are given valuable help with housing. Change Please barista Liam Mulligan has had his life turned around. He says, “not only is it helping with my housing, it’s getting me back into society. It’s a stepping stone out of the darkness.”
The Big Issue Isn’t Just About Selling the Magazine
The founder of the Big Issue, John Bird, wanted to get involved with Change Please “because not everybody wants to be a Big Issue vendor”. It seems he’s onto something because, as Laurence told me, “the support [from the Big Issue] has always been incredible. But with so many people interested in getting involved, it was a little overwhelming in the early days”.
Change Please sold 1,000 coffees from their first coffee cart in their first week. And like they say themselves, “good coffee doesn’t just taste good, it does good too”.
Barista, Jattinder Budwal, says that some people look on the homeless as lowlives, and dirty. But since being trained and running his own coffee cart, he’s “never met such genuine, caring, appreciative people”.
To me, that’s even more warming than a cappuccino on a chilly morning. Besides, aren’t we all only ‘two pay packets away’ from being on the streets?
The fact that homeless people get “lost in the system” spurred founder Cemal on to make a difference. “If we can give them the opportunity, give them a job, then we’re going some way to reducing homelessness” he says on their website.
A Brilliant Example of How Social Good Can Create Jobs
The more coffee sold by Change Please, the more coffee carts they can buy. The more carts, the more people they help off the streets. Within their first four months, they sold 78,000 cups of coffee. Each one helping to fund more training, and more support.
Change Please say this is only the beginning. Their self-sustaining business model can be scaled up nationally and internationally, there’s a BBC documentary in the making and Sainsbury’s now stock Change Please beans and ground coffee.
And as Cemal says, if you want to change the world, all you have to do is change where you buy your coffee. So if you’re in London, and you fancy a coffee, you know what to do…