If you’re considering a transition to veganism or just want to reduce your consumption of animal products, there’s a good chance that you have no idea where to start. Don’t worry, I was once in your shoes!
2018 is a great time to become a vegan, or to start consuming less animal products. Unlike a few years ago, today we are lucky to have plenty of options when it comes to substitutes for popular animal products. When I first began to think about a transition to veganism, it was hard to consider giving up some of my favourites, like cheese and ice-cream (despite the fact I was, and still am, lactose intolerant).
As always, a bit of research saved the day. It turns out that there’s plenty of ways to swap your favourite foods for a completely vegan, not always healthy, cruelty-free version…
SWAP MINCE FOR MUSHROOMS OR BROWN LENTILS
I absolutely perfected my spaghetti bolognese recipe a few months before becoming a vegetarian. It was my all-time favourite meal; and when I finally realised that consuming the flesh of a dead animal was actually pretty gross, I knew I needed to recreate my beloved spag bol recipe in a cruelty-free kind of way.
Enter mushrooms and brown lentils.
You can use one or the other, but I find that combining them is the best option for a delicious mince-like consistency. The secret is to dice your mushrooms into tiny pieces, as well as using a variety of mushrooms if possible. I like using button, swiss, shiitake and enoki mushrooms. Then, all you have to do is drain and rinse your brown lentils and viola – a mince replacement for spag bol! Should I share my awesome vegan spag bol recipe with you all?
SWAP YOGHURT FOR COCONUT YOGHURT
I have to admit – I wasn’t always a massive fan of yoghurt. As those with a lactose intolerance would know, there are some dairy products that give you worse symptoms than others, and yoghurt was one for me. I tried soy yoghurt for a while, but found the consistency was a bit too runny for my liking.
I tried a few other options, like lactose-free yoghurt (which still contains dairy) and coconut yoghurt. The lactose-free yoghurt was okay, but when I decided to give up dairy altogether it was no longer an option. As for coconut yoghurt, I just couldn’t find one that I liked, so I decided to simply stop eating yoghurt.
Then, I discovered Nakula Organic.
Nakula Organic is owned by a guy called Lachy, who runs the business with his family. Lachy also happens to be a good mate of Scott’s. Starting with their Nakula Organic Coconut Water, the family brand began developing other coconut products to add to their range.
When they brought out their coconut yoghurt, I was willing to give it a go, and man am I glad I did. Their coconut yoghurt is literally the only one that I’ve actually genuinely loved. They have a variety of flavours (my favourite is mixed berry) and you can find it in the yoghurt section at Woolies. It is delicious on its own or mixed with fresh fruit and granola or muesli for a yummo brekky!
SWAP MILK FOR SOY/RICE/COCONUT/OAT MILK
Ahh, milk. Such a strange concept. Did you know that humans are the only species that still consumes milk after weaning? Not just any milk, but the milk of another species? Human are funny creatures. Anyway, you already know my thoughts on consuming milk so I’m going to skip right ahead to the whole swapping side of things. That is, after all, the point of this post.
Milk substitutes have been around way longer than any other vegan substitute. I guess we can thank all those lactose intolerant people who can’t handle dairy products. Did you know that most adults will go through a period of lactose intolerance or discomfort caused by the consumption of dairy in their lifetime? That’s because we’re not designed to drink it in adulthood! Oops, I’m getting side tracked again…
There are plenty of milk substitutes out there, but personally, I tend to drink soy, rice, coconut and oat milk. I always have soy milk in my coffee, but opt for coconut, rice or oat milk at home. I use them to make my regular breakfast of oatmeal (I usually go half coconut/half rice or oat milk), and when I make pancakes or a creamy sauce.
What’s your favourite non-dairy milk? Tell me in the comments!
SWAP SCRAMBLED EGGS FOR TOFU SCRAMBLE
Scrambled eggs were my absolute favourite way to enjoy eggs. I am ashamed to admit the age I was when I first learned how to make scrambled eggs properly (hint – I was definitely an adult).
Eggs were the last thing I gave up before committing to veganism. I thought it would be a lot harder than it was, but it still wasn’t exactly easy. These days, after nearly eight full months of living on a completely vegan diet, I must admit I don’t really miss them.
Sometimes, however, I do get a bit of a hankering for those scrambled eggs I used to love so much. Luckily, there’s an alternative in the way of tofu. Yes, tofu!
A lot of people assume that tofu (and lettuce) are the only things that vegans eat. Firstly, I’d like to say that I would happily chow down on a head of iceberg lettuce by itself even before I stopped eating meat. Iceberg lettuce is delicious. Secondly, tofu is extremely versatile.
Using medium firm tofu and turmeric, you can create a similar meal to scrambled eggs, without the horrendous cruelty that occurs within the egg industry. To prove this, I will post a tofu scramble recipe on my blog soon – stay tuned!
SWAP CHEESE FOR VEGAN CHEESE
Cheese – it used to be my kryptonite.
Before I became a vegan, I loved cheese. Far, far too much for a lactose intolerant person. I remember once going to a birthday picnic for a friend and eating pretty much an entire spring onion and chives cream cheese wheel. Afterwards, I actually looked about six months pregnant because I was so bloated. Did it stop me from eating cheese? Of course not!
Luckily, with my transition to veganism came my resistance to cheese. I couldn’t stop eating it for my own health, but I could stop eating it because, well, not my mum, not my milk!
Still, I missed cheese so much, and it is probably the one animal product I miss most since becoming a vegan. In the past year, however, there’s been a rise in the availability of dairy-free cheese varieties, and for that, I am very grateful.
My favourites are Bio Cheese Cheddar Slices (perfect for burgers and toasted sangas), Bio Cheese Shred Pizza and Sheese Mozzarella Vegan Cheese (both great for pizza). You can even buy vegan versions of soft cheese like brie and camembert in some specialty stores!
SWAP MAYO FOR VEGENAISE
I’ve always been a big fan of the simple salad sandwich, and personally, no salad sandwich is complete without mayonnaise. Mmmm, mayo. Unfortunately for vegans, mayonnaise is made with eggs. Fortunately, Vegenaise is not made of eggs, and tastes just like mayonnaise – it’s a sandwich miracle!
Created by the wonderful people at Follow Your Heart, Vegenaise is available in Woolies and other specialty stores. Try it – it really is better than mayo.
SWAP MEAT PATTIES FOR VEGGIE PATTIES
Hands up if you’re a vegetarian or vegan and you’ve felt personally victimised at a BBQ? Just kidding, but just because you no longer want a dead cow on your burger, doesn’t mean you should miss out!
There are a gazillion different types of veggie patties, such as lentil, black bean, chickpea, potato or a combination of all the above. Most supermarkets sell a variety of veggie patties (as well as veggie sausages), or you can make your own!
SWAP HONEY FOR MAPLE SYRUP
I can hear you all now – wait, honey ISN’T vegan? Well, yeah, it comes from a bee, which despite being a buzzy little insect, is still considered an animal. Bees are actually very critical to the health of the environment and the survival of humans on earth in general.
Those little black and yellow bees are responsible for the pollination of over 80% of flowering plants on earth, including 70 of the top 100 human food crops – wow! So, why isn’t honey vegan again? Well, it is produced by the bees (duh) and is also their main source of energy. So, if we’re eating all their honey, how are they going to buzz around pollinating all our flowering plants and food crops? They’d be so tired!!
Honey is sweet but living in a world where our ecosystem functions properly is sweeter. If you want to learn more about the bee’s role in the ecosystem and why honey isn’t vegan, click HERE!
Oh yeah, I was supposed to include a swap here, right? Like I said before, honey is sweet, but MAPLE SYRUP is sweeter!! Yeah, that’s right. Maple syrup is the perfect swap for a natural sugar hit.
Make sure you buy the 100% Canadian natural maple syrup though, otherwise you’ll find lots of added nasties. I use maple syrup just about every day to sweeten my oatmeal, and it tastes even sweeter knowing that I’m helping to keep those bees buzzing around helping our planet survive!
SWAP BUTTER FOR NUT BUTTER
I was never a huge butter fan growing up, and despite my love for sandwiches as mentioned above, I never put butter on them. Sometimes, if I’m eating pasta or a curry and have some fresh bread, then I don’t mind a bit of butter but other than that, I’m pretty indifferent.
Using butter in cooking is another story, though. There’s nothing more delicious than frying up some mushrooms with garlic and greens to throw on some avocado toast for brekky, am I right?
So, what do I use if ‘real’ butter isn’t an option? Nut butter, of course! Specifically, Nuttelex Buttery. It tastes like real butter, it is delicious, and it is vegan. Enough said!
SWAP ICE-CREAM FOR COCONUT ICE-CREAM
I saved the best for last, trust me. By now, you are all well aware of my lactose intolerance and the fact that it didn’t stop me from eating my favourite dairy products before I turned vegan. Ice-cream was definitely high on my list of favourite dairy products, and high on the list of things that made me very sick.
I started eating dairy free ice-cream long before I cut dairy out of my diet for good, but I was always so jealous of the awesome flavours that non-vegans and dairy lovers could get. As for me, the only good flavour that existed was chocolate. Nothing else, just chocolate.
These days, that has all changed and there are now plenty of great options for a tasty, flavourful dairy-free sweet treat. There is one clear standout though…
BEN & JERRY’S DAIRY FREE ICE-CREAM!
Oh my lordy, if you haven’t tried it, then get to your nearest Woolies and buy a tub right now. I am not kidding, do it. I’ll wait.
Okay, you should be back by now. I probably should have told you which flavour to get but if you’re as smart as I think you are (and are capable of reading minds) then you would’ve grabbed the Coconut Seven Layer Bar, aka the most superior flavour out there. Sure, the other flavours are great too, but oh man, there’s something so incredibly delicious about that one. I can smash through a tub in one go if I’m not super careful. It is THAT good.
Even if I wasn’t lactose intolerant or a vegan, I would still go for Ben & Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar. Just try it, please. Oh, and yes, it is obviously totally worth the $12 price tag. You’re welcome.
So, there you have it – 10 easy swaps for transitioning vegans, or those who just want to consume fewer animal products in their diet. Your challenge after reading this post is to adopt at least one of these swaps in your diet this week! Let me know how you go.