McVegan, Helsinki (GF & Vegan)

I had to do it. I had to put aside my reservations and try it. The McVegan soya burger that has made an addition to the menus offered by McDonald’s in Finland and Sweden.

Available with a gluten free bun on request this burger really could allow coeliac, vegans to access fast food and I have to say it is refreshing to find something in the mainstream that’s suitable and not an afterthought.

The hype around this in vegan circles has been huge and it really has been hailed as the best food ever. From my perspective it’s not all that. It’s tasty but personally I found it a bit too “meaty” possibly due to decades of bean and chickpea burgers.

It has a high level of protein (19g) but definitely can’t be confused with a healthy dish (coming in at 462 calories per meal). I’d say worth a try if you are in a one off situation, and I’d love to see more vegan options in the mainstream, but overall I prefer home cooking.

Finland – Gluten Free, Lactose Free Paradise

Having developed Coeliacs disease and lactose intolerance this year in addition to my commitment to vegetarianism and a number of pre existing allergies we decided for our honeymoon to travel to Finland, as we had read that not only is it a spectacular country but also a great place for free from options.

IMG_2445 - Copy

No amount of reviews could have prepared me for the understanding and the number of options available for me across the country!

IMG_2265

Finland has a much higher prevalence on Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance than many other nations which could potentially be the result of less wheat based agriculture across the country. People in Finland are routinely tested for Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity as children and young adults which means there is a really wide and thorough understanding of gluten free requirements and options. Nearly all grocery shops, including small corner shops sell gluten free options in bread and pastries, cakes and biscuits. Key words to look for are gluteeniton, glutenfri and gluten free as they can label products differently. They also have many wheat free and low gluten products (especially bread) which are labelled differently so it’s important to be careful and to double check. As in the UK all allergens on ingredients lists are in bold so if there is anything on there you are uncertain of check it out!

Lactose intolerance is much more common in Finland than other EU countries as well, although it is more common across Asia and India. As a result of that lactose free options including soya, rice based and coconut milk products are readily available – soya yoghurts, spreads and even soya vegan cheeses are readily available. I really enjoyed a soya mozzarella which I used in a salad and was absolutely beautiful. Lactose free dairy options are much more abundant as well, many dairy products are treated with lactase to allow them to break down during digestion instead of causing the side affects when the lactose isn’t broken down. Treated butter, milks and cheese are widely available both in shops and across restaurants and cafes.

During my 10 days in Finland I spent time in Helsinki, Naantaali and also Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle. I was really well looked after by the hotels and had loads of options for breakfasts including specially prepared breads. I was really impressed by the Radisson Seaside who prepared me some stunning gluten and lactose free cinnamon buns… I never wanted to leave…

All menus will actually specify the dietary implications of each dish. Gluten free dishes will be labelled with a G, Lactose free with an L, Vegetarian dishes will either have a V or a K to indicate this on the menu and some dishes will be labelled either with LL or VL to indicate they are low in lactose, for example containing goats milk rather than cows milk. This makes it really easy although I have to be honest we really didn’t struggle at all to find things I could eat at all. I enjoyed some fantastic meals including a lovely soy beef hot salad at Chicos, gluten free bean and rice dishes, lactose free ice cream and to really top it off I was able to tuck into a gluten free, lactose free pizza… in a restaurant… amazing… I have really enjoyed my culinary experience in Finland, can’t wait to head back again as I feel I have really found my people…

IMG_2449