When I first moved to Scotland, I was nervous about my options as a vegetarian. I was accustomed to the meat substitutes and vegetarian-friendly menus that cluttered every grocery store and restaurant in Canada. Toronto has a thriving vegan and vegetarian community, with health foods and meat/dairy alternatives gaining popularity every day. After studying in England for a semester in 2016, I knew my choices would be more limited in the UK. It’s far from impossible to maintain a meat-free diet here, but you won’t find a Whole Foods Market or a vegan café on every corner.
Initially, I stressed about giving up my vegetarian amenities. My last apartment was right next to Fresh (a chain vegan restaurant in Toronto) and I had always lived within driving distance of a health food store. Moving to Scotland meant switching brands and finding new recipes. Sure, this might sound trivial to someone who doesn’t share a vegan or vegetarian diet, but it can be a big concern for a veggie if we’re not consuming all our proper nutrition. A balanced and healthy diet is important for energy, focus, and overall happiness.
It might be more challenging to maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet in the UK, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to abandon your beliefs out of convenience. There are options for you!
On my first trip to Morrison’s, I anticipated a challenge finding meat alternatives – Scotland loves its meat. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole section dedicated to vegan and vegetarian foods, just like the grocery stores back home. I found tofu, falafel, sandwich “meats,” veggie burgers, soy and coconut yogurts, and soy/oat/nut milks. I recommend searching in large chain stores, like Morrison’s, for a greater selection of meat and dairy alternatives. I also found a big selection at my nearest health and vitamin store.
Tip: Quorn is a popular “fake meat” brand in the UK. It doesn’t taste as authentic as my favourite Canadian brands, but it does the job!
In any central location, there will almost always be a community of non-meat eaters. Luckily, this ensures you’ll find at least one local café or restaurant that caters to your diet. Although I haven’t yet explored all the vegan food spots in Aberdeen, my favourites so far are Bonobo Café and Foodstory. Bonobo is a cozy little café that serves breakfast, lunch, and beverages – all 100% vegan. I visited recently and tried their salmon and cream cheese bagel (pictured here), which was absolutely delicious. Foodstory is a larger restaurant with an equally cozy vibe and tasty vegan menu. If you ever travel to Aberdeen, I recommend these places (whether you’re vegan or not)!
All in all, there will always be choices. If you’re unhappy with the in-store vegan and vegetarian options, search online for new recipes and get creative! You can always find basic ingredients for protein-rich meals, like chickpeas, lentils, beans, Greek yogurt, tofu, cottage cheese, protein powders, nut butters, etc. There are plenty of ways to satisfy your nutritional needs. You might need to make some compromises, but you won’t have to reinvent your whole diet. And if you live in a large, diverse city (i.e. London, Glasgow, etc.), you might not encounter any limitations or differences at all. I recommend exploring your options online while researching your future university town – it might save you some stress when you move. If you’re interested in starting the research process, please contact one of our ATP advisors for more information.