Category Archives: Agony Aunt

Here you can ask our Agony Aunt any question you like about going vegan. Use the form at the bottom of the page to fill in your details.

Here you can ask our Agony Aunt any question you like about going vegan. Use the form at the bottom of the page to fill in your details.

Agony Aunt

I live outside the UK, can I still take part in the Great Vegan Challenge?

Yes, we welcome Vegan Challengers from all countries. We have links with some international groups, so there may be a group nearer to home: check our list.

Every time I put soya milk in my coffee it goes all weird. Am I doing something wrong?

I’m afraid that soya milk curdling in coffee is an age-old vegan problem. My first piece of advice is to ensure that the coffee has cooled slightly before adding your soya milk. Then, stir the coffee whilst adding the soya milk and add quite a lot. Some brands also work better than others, such as Sunrise Café Expert, which is specially made for coffee, and Alpro Soya Original, which seems to work better than most. You may also wish to try a different type of non-dairy milk, such as rice, oat, almond, hemp or coconut.

What are the best supermarkets for buying vegan products?

That depends on whether you’re looking for a good selection of vegan products, or ones that are clearly labelled. The best supermarkets for labelling vegan products are Sainsbury’s and the Co-op, as they label almost all of their vegan-friendly own-brand goods. However, Waitrose and Tesco tend to have a better range of speciality vegan products, but aren’t as good at labelling their own-brand stuff.

Can you recommend a vegan vitamin supplement?

Absolutely, there are a whole range of vitamin supplements on the market that are suitable for vegans. However, both Holland & Barrett and the Vegan Society produce ones that are specially formulated with vegans in mind.

What’s wrong with eating honey? Don’t we need bees to pollinate plants?

Bees are certainly important for pollinating plants, especially crops like fruit trees, but farming them for honey is not the best way to support them. Honey is the bees’ winter food store. When beekeepers take the honey they often kill many bees in the process, and the sugar syrup they replace it with leaves them malnourished and impairs their immune system. ‘Surplus’ queen bees are also killed at the end of each honey season and the honey industry is ultimately about exploiting animals. A better way to support bees would be to provide them with a suitable hive in a quiet spot and then leave them alone to pollinate, make honey and do what they do naturally.

You can read more about this subject here.

I’ve been feeling really tired and under the weather this week, could it be because I’ve gone vegan?

It’s very unlikely that after just a few days you will be experiencing any kind of health problems as a result of going vegan. Nutrient deficiencies, which are rare even with a vegan diet, take some considerable time to become a problem. One possibility is that there is now less water in your diet and you are slightly dehydrated, so you could try drinking more fluids. It could also just be a coincidence that you’ve caught a bug or are feeling exhausted at the same time as starting the Challenge, but if your symptoms persist, be sure to speak to your GP.

I’ve stripped my diet of all animal products, but can’t afford to replace my leather shoes. Am I still vegan?

Don’t worry, no one expects you to throw out all your old leather/wool/etc clothing and buy new ones straight away, I certainly didn’t when I went vegan. I just bought vegan replacements when my old stuff wore out. So yes, as long as you’re not buying animal products, you’re still a vegan.

I have a wheat/gluten intolerance and I’m struggling to find vegan products I can eat. Do you have any advice?

Fortunately you can meet all of your nutritional needs on a wheat-free vegan diet, but, as you say, finding products is a bit more challenging.

A lot of vegan meat-substitutes are made with wheat gluten, which obviously makes them unsuitable, but some companies are introducing gluten-free options. Fry’s, for example, now produce quinoa and brown rice burgers, rice protein and chia nuggets, and quinoa and fresh cilantro falafel burgers, and Vegusto sells a gluten-free vegan sausage. You can also find gluten-free soya mince and soya chunks in most health food shops.

I’m glad to say that when it comes to vegan cheese, things are much easier. All of the Sheese and Creamy Sheese products from Bute Island Foods are gluten-free. Bute Island Foods also supplies Tesco and Sainsbury’s with their own-brand dairy-free cheese, so these are fine too. Violife, which you can now find in most supermarkets, is gluten-free, as is much of the cheese made by Vegusto.

Bread is likely to be a problem as most gluten-free versions seem to use egg, but things like gluten-free dried pasta are usually vegan. Some products in supermarket ‘free from’ aisles are both vegan and gluten-free, but you will have to check I’m afraid.

For more gluten-free vegan products and recipes, check out our blog posts on savoury and sweet options.

My friends and family aren’t very supportive of my choice to go vegan and it’s getting me down. What should I do?

I’m really sorry to hear that, it can be hard when those closest to you don’t understand. If it’s any comfort, it’s my experience that even if friends and family don’t accept your decision at first, they will often come round to the idea. But another way of dealing with this problem is to make friends with other local vegans. It’s good to spend time with like-minded people who understand your life choices and most areas now have vegan social groups. Facebook is a good place to find them, as is, or get in touch with is and we will do our best to help.

I’ve noticed that some wines are marked as vegetarian, but not vegan. What is in vegetarian wine that’s not in vegan wine?

Many wines are clarified using animal products, including isinglass (from fish), blood, bone marrow, insect shells and gelatine. Obviously these are unsuitable for both vegetarians and vegans. However some wines are clarified with egg white or milk products, which makes them okay for vegetarians, but not vegans. Sainsburys, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer all label their own wines as suitable for vegans, where applicable. The website also has a very comprehensive list of which wines (as well as beers and spirits) are suitable for vegans.

Can you recommend some vegan sandwich fillings? I’m stuck for ideas for packed lunches.

No problem. You should find a list of ideas for vegan sandwich fillings on page 32 of ‘Your Guide to Going Vegan‘, included in your welcome pack. But here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Mashed avocado with marinated tofu
  • Peanut butter and Marmite
  • Houmous and roasted vegetables
  • Dairy-free cheese and chutney (I prefer Vegusto or Violife vegan cheese)

What’s a good vegan alternative to cod liver oil tablets?

Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, is a great substitute for cod liver oil tablets as it is a good source of Omega-3 oils. It should be eaten cold (not used for frying) and kept out of direct sunlight. It’s even available in capsule form from certain retailers. Rapeseed oil and walnuts are also good sources of Omega-3 oils.

Do I need to consult my GP about going vegan?

Unless you have an existing medical condition, especially one relating to your diet, it’s probably not necessary to speak to your doctor about going vegan. A vegan diet can provide all the nutrients you need, as long as it is balanced and varied. Your Great Vegan Challenge Welcome Pack has information about the best sources of specific nutrients and you can also get vegan supplement tablets from most pharmacists if this is a worry. Of course, if you are concerned, there’s no harm in speaking to your GP as well.

I’ve heard some E-numbers are not suitable for vegans, is that true?

Yes it’s true. Whilst a lot of E-numbers (food additives, such as colourings and preservatives) are artificial chemicals, some are derived from animal products and so are not suitable for vegans. The most common ones to avoid are E120 (cochineal), E441 (gelatine), E542 (edible bone phosphate), E901 (beeswax), E904 (shellac), E913 (lanolin) and E966 (lactinol). There are others that can be either plant or animal derived, so it’s often a good idea to avoid foods containing lots of E-numbers.

There’s no healthfood shop in my town, so where can I get things like vegan cheese and burgers?

More and more supermarkets are stocking vegan products these days, so that’s a good place to start. Check the ‘Free from’ section, as many of the products there will be vegan friendly. Both Tesco and Sainsbury have an own-brand vegan cheese, which can be found in most larger stores, and Violife is available in many supermarkets. Also, in the freezer section you can often find products like Linda McCartney sausages, pies and burgers, most of which are vegan, and Quorn’s vegan range, which are clearly marked to differentiate them from their non-vegan products. Morrisons has also started selling Fry’s products, which are all vegan.

If you still can’t find what you’re after, you can also get vegan goods delivered right to your door. Online supermarket Ocado has an extensive vegan range, which includes products often unavailable elsewhere. And there are several specialist online shops that sell vegan products, including: