By Lindsey Turnbull
‘Veganuary’ has caught on in leaps and bounds in recent years, a global movement that encourages people to turn their backs on meat and dairy just for January, in the hope that it will inspire them to become vegan for good.
According to The Vegan Society, if the world went vegan, it could save eight million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion. They say that interest in veganism increased seven-fold in the five years between 2014 and 2019, according to Google trends. Other sources say that veganism in the United States has grown 600 per cent in the three years from 2014 to 2017. Whatever your beliefs on the subject, smart restauranteurs and supermarkets are ensuring that they cater to vegan’s needs in growing numbers here on island.
Where to eat
Embracing the growing worldwide trend to turn from meat to a plant-based diet, people in Cayman have never had it so easy when it comes to enjoying vegan food.
Bread and Chocolate in George Town is an obvious starting point for vegans as their entire menu is vegan, so diners can be assured that everything they order is meat and dairy free. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all plant-based and with items such as their breakfast scramble, sunshine pancakes, island bowl, shepherd’s pie and black bean tacos, you honestly don’t miss the meat.
Island Naturals is another popular choice, not just for vegans but also for vegetarians (an important distinction in that vegetarians don’t eat meat or animal products but they do eat dairy and eggs) as well as those who just want to follow a healthy diet. Their emphasis is on eating nutritious, chemical-free, high quality ingredients and they offer a wide-selection of food for those with special diets, vegetarians as well as vegans. For breakfasts, vegans can enjoy oatmeals and açai bowls or a breakfast wrap which can be served as a wrap, over quinoa or over a bed of spinach. Notable lunch/dinner options include a buddha bowl, Thai crunch salad, spicy pan-Asian bowl, and a black bean and avocado wrap.
People also use Island Naturals as their quick pit stop for amazing coffee. Vegans are spoilt for choice when it comes to the milk alternatives that they offer, including oat, quinoa, coconut and almond milk.
Owner Lindsay Allen says: “The cafe offers a convenient location to grab, breakfast, lunch and dinner making a more balanced and healthy lifestyle easier than ever.”
Dining as a vegan can be problematic if you are dining in a group that wants to eat at a mainstream restaurant, but some restaurants in Cayman are rising to that challenge.
Italian restaurants have traditionally not had a huge vegan offering aside from a bowl of pasta in a tomato sauce, but Le Vele, situated on the waterfront in George Town, has been responding to the growing trend and now offers a strong selection of vegan offerings, including their Sunshine pizza with cashew paste, kale, roasted peppers, tomato confit and avocado.
Owner Paolo Cognolato says: “We also have vegan curry and our house-made breadfruit gnocchi in our house-made marinara sauce is another very popular choice,” he advises.
Unusually for an Italian restaurant, Le Vele also caters to those who cannot eat gluten, with gluten-free pasta and pizza options available.
Grand Old House, situated on South Church Street, is a lovely spot for lunch or dinner and the chefs there are tuning into the vegan movement with their vegan curry.
Manager Dunja Yeap says: “At Grand Old House we love to welcome vegans and our chefs are always happy to consider a vegan composition of the guest’s choice. Our chefs can really prepare ‘a la minute’, depending on availability, to our guests liking.”
Vegan at home
If you want to prepare your own vegan menu at home, Cayman’s supermarkets have lots of great options.
With the recent opening of their new Camana Bay store, Foster’s has been able to increase the number of specialty products they offer, including those suited to people on a vegan diet.
Foster’s Marketing Senior Manager, Julian Foster, says fresh produce is an obvious starting point when thinking of a vegan diet.
“Our range of fresh fruit and vegetables include organic and locally sourced products, that are essential for a balanced diet,” he advises. “We also stock meat alternative products from Beyond Meat, which include sausages and burgers, both fresh and frozen. We’ve also expanded our vegan product selection in our freezer department, with meals, snacks and ice cream varieties offered for those on a vegan diet.”
There are plenty of dairy-free options to traditional dairy, so vegans don’t miss out.
“In our dairy department at our Camana Bay store, we have increased our range of non-dairy, vegan products. With everything from Waitrose vegan cheese, plant-based bacon and hot dogs, ready-to-bake products, milk, yogurts and ready to cook meals,” Julian says.
Many vegans are taking the next step and not using any products at all that may have been tested on animals, but vegan beauty products are not always easy to find or obviously vegan.
“Head into our Health & Beauty department and we’ve got you covered with vegan products including brewer’s yeast, protein snacks and powders and more,” Julian says, adding that their Bay Market Café also caters to vegans and their bakery can produce made-to-order treats.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people on any diet or who have dietary restrictions to enjoy what they eat. That’s why we’re advocating that everyone should live to eat, not eat to live!” he says.