From Vegan donuts at Arrow Fresh to an eclectic mix of plant-based snacks from TK Maxx and an Oat Milk Lattes from the Grind cafe, throughout The Ridings alone you can go on your own sumptuous plant-based trail. With a renewed focus on the power of plant-based produce to help reduce our carbon footprint with COP 21 well underway. Now The Ridings Shopping Centre is playing host to its first Vegan Fair.

Vegan Market Co is holding its first market in Wakefield with a variety of ethical, sustainable and environmentally-friendly produce on Saturday 10th November from 10.30am – 4pm. 

That’s not forgetting the hand-crafted creations at Created in Yorkshire including Love 2 Grow cleaning products or the designs at Made or the charity shops offering a stylish alternative to ‘fast fashion.’ 

Here Sparkle Up North Magazine Founder and friend of The Ridings Sophie Mei Lan, who has transformed from a life-long Vegetarian to a Vegan in recent times, shares how she can still enjoy family favourites and traditional dishes whilst being more conscious about the planet.

Food as communication to connect communities and save the planet

My daughter announced to me recently “I’m Vegan mama,” shortly followed by her little sister asking what’s “Vegan” I’m going to be that.

Inside I quietly leapt with joy, as I’m Vegan too and whilst it’s increasingly popular, it’s still one of the most ridiculed diets by many with food labels so concerned by the stigma they rarely use the term Vegan in favour of ‘plant-based.’ 

If we all led a more more plant-based diet however, or had a Vegan day each week, then we could massively reduce our carbon footprint. 

What we consume not only impacts our overall health but the world too, we only need to turn to COP 26 briefly to hear this. 

My daughter is following wider trends at the moment whether it’s because it’s en vogue or she’s become more environmentally conscious, it’s a way of connecting with her friends and, I can’t deny being chuffed. 

It is also her way of expressing her own changing attitudes and values because I’ve always given her the option as my parents did with me but I never felt I was lacking as we enjoyed an array of cuisines which they separately ‘re-translated’ from their own backgrounds. 


From Sunday Dinners to home comfort food, the real staple of nutrition is feelings our grub can evoke which is why I know many meat eaters struggle with ‘giving up’ meat and fish. Yet if we look at ‘adding in’ a larger variety of plant-based food, suddenly it’s not a restriction but a conscious effort to feed ourselves well and in turn even just one meta-free day a week can help the planet. 

People often assume that as a largely Vegan and Vegetarian family, we will all be on a bland lacking diet, but you only need to pop to my Dads’ home in Sheffield to see the colourful array of recipes from Bosh brothers to Deliciously Ella cookbooks alongside his own recipes. 

We still devour Sunday Dinners, I love making Christmas Dinner and, as my sister announced via WhatsApp, last week: “Get in chips, scraps and mushy peas…oh and put the kettle on,” for when she arrived in Yorkshire for her first post-lockdown trip from New York after two long scraps-free years. We all knew the journey to the vegan friendly chippy would be worth it for her familiar ‘comfort food’ joy. 

It was also via social media that I had slathered over my Aunty’s Chinese and Malay dishes, to which I too had such a pining to return to Kuala Lumpur where the other half of our family reside. We have fond memories of delicious street food which comprises of Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisine which is largely Vegetarian. 

Through WhatsApp cookery classes from KL via my Aunty who creates food for those in need in her community, she shows her love via creating lavish feasts solely for them unable to afford to feed themselves. 

I too have been able to feel connected with her from my humble home on a Sunday morning as my mum and I cook along with her. 

Granted my daughters still don’t remember their last trip to South East Asia nor did they fancy trying my moon cakes which are popular during the mid-autumn celebrations that I used to love as a child because that’s the thing with food – it is all relative. We can create and reimagine dishes, gatherings and again the staple is the routine of sharing something with one another. 

Not only can this reduce food waste but by consciously coming together, sharing meat and dairy free recipes and dishes, we can reduce our consumption which is a major factor in climate change. A simple step, but a powerful one. 

Universally food can be a vital tool for communication and connection, not only for our own personal memories and our community but by being more conscious about what we consume, we can positively impact the environment too. 

Read more from Sophie about plant-based family life at or Vegan ideas at

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