If you are thinking about making your menu more vegan friendly, simply altering the menu is only one part of the picture. A number of factors come into play to achieve the goal of having a popular and inclusive vegan menu.
Unless all the team is on board, simple mistakes can be made. Identify any vegan or vegetarian residents. This should be in the care plan. You can simply ask your residents too. Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what a vegan or vegetarian can eat. Staff should be respectful and encouraging of individual dietary preferences.
The labelling of menus should be clear and unambiguous. A simple V next to a dish may work, but does that mean vegan or vegetarian? Labelling will assist your residents but also staff, particularly any new staff who may be unfamiliar with the menu.
Every time food or drink is served or requested you should have a suitable vegan or vegetarian option – not a last-minute swap. There are a number of important considerations when designing or updating your menu, all of which are interlinked.
Is the menu nutritionally balanced? Will the new dishes be popular with non-vegetarian residents? Do your new dishes fit well with established patterns, such as Sunday roast, or fish and chip Fridays?
Vegans and vegetarians still want to take part in the established traditions, but to have veggie options. Have you asked your residents what they would like?
Perhaps make an event of testing new dishes with your residents. Get the chefs to talk to residents about how the dishes were cooked. Dishes such as chilli, curry, dal, soups, pies, pasties and pasta dishes are all good candidates for delicious menu options. They are not unusual dishes but simple, familiar, and potentially nutritionally valuable.
Similarly, cakes and desserts can also be created easily without eggs or dairy. Fruit salad was once the standard vegan pudding option. Although it has a place from time to time, with a little imagination it is possible to create vegan tiramisu, lemon meringue pie, sticky toffee pudding etc. All these dessert recipes suggestions are on our website.
The name you give your dishes is also a factor to consider. 'Vegan tofu chocolate mousse' or simply 'chocolate mousse'? Some residents may be confused or reluctant to try something new. You know the people you care and cater for and what will be received better.
Food that looks good is far more likely to be eaten. All the techniques used to make meat dishes look attractive should also be applied to vegan options e.g., height, colour, contrast, aroma, sauce, etc.
If you buy meals in, look at the latest catalogue from your catering supplier. You may be surprised at the range of vegan and vegetarian foods available now, both sweet and savoury.
Vegan margarines can be used in a variety of ways such as in cakes, crumbles and sandwiches. With one simple swap and without altering the presentation or taste of the food, it is now potentially vegan.
Plant-based milk similarly can be a simple swap. Use in milk-based puddings and cakes. Again, potentially you have more vegan options everyone can enjoy.
If you buy in pre–made pastry such as Jus–Rol shortcrust and puff, these are both vegan. Some filo pastry is also vegan. Vegetarian instant gravy powder is another simple swap.
Treats such as vegan chocolate, sweets and biscuits are readily available. These small swaps or additions can make such a difference to a person’s wellbeing and sense of inclusion, as well as respecting their individual beliefs.
So why should you implement these changes when no one you cater for is either vegan or vegetarian? Well, you may not now, but you sure will soon.
The number of vegans and vegetarians is on the increase, particularly among older age groups. By making changes now you are staying ahead of the game.
In addition, cost may be a factor. Beans and pulses are excellent sources of protein and fibre and are generally cheaper than meat.
The environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption are now well established, and often cited as being one of the most significant steps individuals can take to lower their carbon footprint.
In addition, a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is also a healthy diet.
All good reasons. It’s now down to you.
For additional information on vegetarian and vegan diets, nutrition, training, menu planning and much more please visit www.vegetarianforlife.org.uk.