Written by Carole Beck on December 5, 2018 Reviewed by vegan chef Day Radley on December 7, 2018
You don’t have to be a veggie to know that certain foods and drinks in our everyday diets are 100% vegan, from fruit and veg to nuts, lentils and plant milks.
But did you know that plenty of other foods – some of which you might already be eating – could be classified as naturally vegan too? Here’s our round-up of some of the best – and they might actually surprise you:
Love chocolate? No need to give it up to go vegan – just choose dark chocolate instead, whether for baking or a treat. Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate is more likely to be dairy-free, made using cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Read the label before you buy – whey, a dairy ingredient, may be included in the list of some bars.
What to try: NOMO Dark Chocolate
OatcakesThese savoury biscuits are almost always naturally vegan, containing no dairy, honey or other animal products. They’re also low in sugar, a great source of soluble fibre and low on the glycaemic index, which means they can keep you fuller for longer.1 Spread your no-dairy cheese on them guilt-free.
What to try: Nairn’s Organic Oatcakes
Some brands of crisps are completely vegan, but not all, so it might help to know that quinoa crisps tick both vegetarian and vegan boxes. Grab a bag for a lunchbox or party snack, and don’t be turned off by a ‘dairy’ flavour: sour cream flavouring is often made using vegan ingredients, like rice flour and yeast extract powder.
What to try: Eat Real Sour Cream & Chives Quinoa Crisps
Sea vegetablesYou might already know that seaweed is high in fibre and protein, low in fat and an excellent source of essential fatty acids, plus minerals like calcium2 – but of course because it’s a vegetable, it’s a completely vegan food, too. Sprinkle sea vegetables into salads, or stir into soups for a rich umami flavour.
What to try: Seaweed Sheets
Nut buttersSalt and oil are the only ingredients that might be added to turn nuts into nut butter – which means that your favourite peanut butter or almond butter is also vegan. Serve on toast for a high-protein snack that’s rich in unsaturated fat.3
What to try: Meridian Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter
MuesliLooking for a healthy, vegan breakfast? You could already be eating it! Most muesli is accidentally vegan, containing just grains – like oats, malted barley and wheat flakes – plus dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Make sure you read the label – skimmed milk powder is included in some Swiss-style mueslis, while honey is found in others. Serve with your favourite plant milk for a nourishing, yet satisfying, breakfast.
What to try: Deliciously Ella Bircher Muesli
This yeast is a vegan store cupboard staple, giving a cheesy, nutty flavour to bakes, and a depth to soups, stews and casseroles. It’s good for you too – a source of protein, fibre and some B-vitamins, like thiamine,4 essential for the nervous system. Choose one fortified with vitamin B12 as vegans can fall short of this nutrient.
What to try: Engevita Yeast Flakes B12
Tomato-based pasta sauceNo meat, fish or dairy in your bolognese sauce? That makes it vegan! Tomato-based pasta sauces are rich in vitamin C and also vitamin K, important for blood-clotting.5 Layer into a batch-cook bake, or simply stir into pasta. No time to make it? Grab a store-bought jar instead. Shop Vegan Food Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
1. BBC Good Food. Spotlight on… low-GI. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/spotlight-low-gi
2. Ginger Hultin. Today’s Dietitian. Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables. Available from: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0616p46.shtml
3. Mayo Clinic. Nuts and your heart: eating nuts for heart health. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635
4. Danielle Dresden. Medical News Today. What are the benefits of nutritional yeast? Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323245.php