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A Beginner’s Guide to Veganism

on 30th Sep, 2018
vegan-food-in-dubai-and-abu-dhabi

Not too far from tradition

There are many world cuisines that do not lend themselves well to a vegan diet. When we speak about food from the Middle East, however it is almost a tradition. While there are a number of meat dishes that come to mind as part of the Middle Eastern menu, most of what we talk about is vegetable-based. This may go some way to explain why the vegan diet is becoming more and more popular in the region, and why it has been easy for many to make the shift.

There are several reasons for this recent push towards a vegan diet within the country. For some it is due to concerns over the food industry, for others it has come about due to increased knowledge about diet and nutritional needs. Whatever the root cause is, this dietary trend has seen a steady and rapid rise in the need for cafes and restaurants to provide vegan options on their menus. Now that the Saudi, Dubai and Abu Dhabi Cafes and restaurants are offering vegan food, it is important to know what vegan food is exactly and where to get it.

In this guide to vegan food in the UAE, we will be answering some of the most common questions about veganism. We will also be looking at what the diet is comprised of and the vegan alternatives that allow vegans to continue enjoying their favourite types of cuisine. After reading this guide you will know what the best vegan food on offer in the region is and where to get it.

What does Vegan mean?

The term vegan is applied to a person who chooses not to use any products that are animal-based. While many vegans apply this philosophy to their whole lifestyle, there are also those who simply apply it to their diet. Whether the choice to become a vegan is due to concerns over the environment, health reasons or even ethics, this decision can have a massive effect on the way a vegan lives. These effects are more apparent in their diet.

The vegan diet consists of a wide range of foods all of which are plant-based. Fruits, vegetables and beans as well as nuts, seeds and grains, basically everything that are made using these ingredients are primarily what they eat. In some cases, the vegans even cut out foods that utilize animal products in their refining processes like white sugar. The term vegan was created by Donald Watson from the UK Vegan Society back in 1944 but both the diet and the lifestyle are becoming more and more popular.

Is Vegan and Vegetarian the same?

Vegan-sandwich-Dubai-Abu-DhabiCompared to the fairly new vegan diet, the term vegetarian has been around for a much longer time. Most people will know the vegetarian diet is quite simply a non-meat option (although there are some variations). Vegan diet, however, still remains somewhat of a mystery to many people. Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences between vegetarians and vegans.

For most vegetarians, it is as simple as not including meat in their diets. There are vegetarians who choose to include egg and other dairy products in their diet and then there are those who do not. With the exclusion of fish, meat and poultry from their diet, it is important for vegetarians to get all the nutrients and proteins that they need from a mostly vegetable-based diet.

Vegans share much of their dietary preferences with vegetarians. However, they do not eat meat, fish or poultry and in addition to this, they also exclude any dairy or animal products. The vegan diet is therefore a stricter version than that of the vegetarian’s. While vegetarianism is considered to be a diet, veganism is seen more as a lifestyle.

Do Vegans eat eggs and drink milk?

The easy answer to this question is no, they don’t. As mentioned above, this is because vegans also exclude any animal by-products from their diet. Both eggs and milk are produced by animals and therefore cannot be included as part of their diet.

Vegans will also exclude any foods that are made using either eggs or milk. Dairy is one of the larger groups of foods that are considered as animal by-products and it includes foods like butter, cheese and yoghurt. Dairy is often one of the harder food types for a new vegan to cut out from their diet.

Vegan Starter Kit                                                                                     

The easiest way for a person to begin their vegan adventure is by using a vegan starter kit. Generally, it is designed to help a person understand everything about veganism.

Many vegan starter kits will contain information regarding the various reasons for and philosophies behind the term. You will be able to find out why people choose to be one and what it means to live and eat as one. But simply being vegan is not as easy as it sounds so these starter kits aim is to support those who need all the help they can get.

A good vegan starter kit will include relevant information, tips, advices as well as recipes and guides. Because a vegan diet cuts out many of the usual sources of proteins, fats and other nutrients you’ll get from meat and dairy products, it is very important to know the alternatives to non-vegan foods to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

A balanced diet for Vegans

This is one of the most important things to take into account when you choose to be a vegan. In your average dietary regime, there are a large number of foods that offer a person the full range of nutrients, proteins and healthy fats that the body needs. The average non-vegan diet will consist of basically anything from different food groups to benefit from their nutritional values.

For vegetarians to still be able to enjoy a balanced diet is a little bit harder. This is why many of them still include dairy products and eggs in their diet. For a vegan, however, the task of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet becomes much harder because the proteins and healthy fats must all be plant-based.

Although it may seem daunting at first, it is possible to get all the nutrition your body requires especially when you get the hang of it.

Here is what a well-balanced vegan diet looks like:
  • A healthy vegan diet means you consume fluids at regular intervals. (Around 7 cups per day)
  • For protein, a vegan diet should contain beans and pulses, or food products made from these.
  • Vegan meals should be based around starchy carbohydrates like pastas, rice, potatoes (or other starchy root vegetables) and breads.
  • Wholegrain choices tend to be better for the Vegan diet.
  • A healthy Vegan should eat 5 or more portions of different vegetables and fruits every day.
  • Where possible when choosing your oils and spreads, you should go for the unsaturated option and consume in small portions.
  • A balanced vegan diet should contain some vegan dairy alternatives. Low sugar drinks made from soya and low fat soya yoghurt are great alternatives.
  • Dried fruits like prunes, figs, raisins and apricots are excellent sources of essential vitamins.
  • Seeds such as sesame and products made from them like Tahini are also rich in vitamins.
  • Green leafy vegetables like broccoli can help provide much needed iron.
  • Nuts are also essential for maintaining healthy levels of iron.
  • Avocado is a great source of healthy fat.
Knowing the ins and outs of being a vegan will make it easier for you to learn which foods are great alternatives for meat and dairies. As you go on in your journey as a vegan, you’ll soon realise that you can identify with ease which foods can meet your dietary requirements without going back to becoming your old carnivore self.

Vegan food pyramid

Healthy Pyramid - Vegan Food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi Now that you know just how important it is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet as a vegan, here is one of the tools that people find most helpful. This food pyramid is essentially a guide representing the various food types and amounts that go together to make up a healthy Vegan diet.

As you can clearly see in the diagram, the vegan food pyramid is made up of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, grains and herbs. It allows you to see how much of each food type you are advised to eat if you want to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. Below is a summary of what you need to remember from the food pyramid.
  • You should drink at least 2 litres of water per day.
  • You should consume fats and added sugars as sparingly as possible.
  • The base of the pyramid is between 6 and 11 portions or servings of grains or starchy carbohydrates.
  • You should eat between 3 and 5 portions or servings of vegetables.
  • You need between 2 and 4 portions or servings of fruit.
  • Try to eat between 2 and 3 servings or portions of beans, pulses, seeds or nuts as well as other meat alternatives.
  • You will also need to consume between 2 and 3 portions or servings of fortified dairy substitutes like soya milks and yoghurts.
Make sure to familiarise yourself with the vegan food pyramid if you want to supply your body with the necessary nutrients while still enjoying a diverse and satisfying diet. With the right combination of food types, you won’t have any reason to miss out on any vitamins, minerals, fats and other nutrients that you thought you’d only get from non-veg options.

Vegan alternatives

Once you start your vegan diet, you might find it frustrating sometimes if you can’ find yourself a food that meet the requirements. Do not worry though as there are a number of alternatives you can try out for yourself. When cooking, there are some vegan substitutes to your usual ingredients. Some examples include vegan egg substitutes or vegan butter.

Though not all vegan alternatives are found easily in any supermarket, it’s not yet the end of the world as there are also other options that you may opt for and still hold on to your vegan diet.

We recently published a blog about some vegan alternatives to your non-vegan cravings. Most of these items are available in supermarkets and are used in some restaurants.

Aside from vegan alternatives to your ingredients, you may also be able to find vegan options in some cafes and restaurants in the UAE. The vegan diet seems to have initiated a whole new trend of creativity amongst the famous F&B restaurant chains. This just broadens your choices to vegan meals available not only because more and more vegan restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi are popping-up, but also some other famous restaurants have allotted vegan sections in their menus.

Circle Café’s Vegan Menu

Circle Café also have started to embrace the vegan trend and recognise that some of our patrons also have dietary requirements that limit them from enjoying restaurant foods. So here are some of Vegan options you can enjoy from Circle Café.

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Cauliflower and BBQ Chickpea Flatbread

Why not try this delicious dish proving that vegan food in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia is never close to boring? It is made of roasted cauliflower, spiced fried onion, BBQ chickpeas, and avocado served on a brown flatbread. The brown flatbread and BBQ chickpeas provide fibre and protein, while the avocado adds healthy fats to this already nutritious meal.



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Brown Rice Noodles and Edamame

A brilliant fusion of nutrition and taste, this dish from Circle Café is inspired by Japanese cuisine. It consists of spicy peanut sauce, coriander, carrots, brown rice noodles, fresh green apple, sweet corn and edamame. This is indeed a very balanced dish.




vegan-food-dubai-pumpkin-tomatillos


Pumpkin and Tomatillos with Roasted Almonds

Vegan food in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE and Saudi doesn’t get much better than this. The dish contains roasted pumpkin, tomatillos, almonds, jalapenos, coconut milk and mixed quinoa. The quinoa in this dish is a superfood and when nuts and pumpkin are added to it, the whole dish becomes a rich source of fibre, protein and many other minerals and antioxidants.



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The Vegan Sandwich (Served with Sweet Potato Fries)

We at Circle Café are passionate about our Vegan options and this dish is no exception. It is made using slow cooked mushrooms, tomatoes, Italian parsley, white beans, garlic and chili, on your choice of sourdough, whole wheat or bagel. And it is all served alongside sweet potato fries.
 


Getting Your First Vegan Food in the UAE and Saudi

Why not head down to the Circle Café today to see how enjoyable vegan food can be. Or, you can now order online and have some of the best vegan dishes available in the region delivered to your home or workplace today.