I get that not everyone wants to go vegan cold-tofurkey over night. For many people it takes time and small incremental changes to their diet to see how truly easy it is to be vegan long-term. I put together this list of 10 easy substitutes for products that you may currently be buying. Making the switch to these vegan versions is fast, easy, delicious, and affordable.
Any shift you can make towards a more plant-based diet makes an impact on your health, the environment, and animals lives! Why not try some of these super easy alternatives today and start making a difference?
1. Switch from Butter or Margarine to Earth Balance.
This is one of the smallest changes that you can make that will have a tremendous impact on the amount of dairy that you consume. A little butter here and there can add up. While some have avoided Earth Balance in the past for their use of palm oil, they are now leading the industry in sustainable and equitable farming practices. I love rewarding corporate responsibility and happily purchase their products, knowing that they listen to the concerns of their customers!
photo source: earthbalancenatural.com
2. Switch from Mayonnaise to Vegenaise or Just Mayo.
I know mayonnaise is pretty divisive. People take a pretty hard line pro or con for mayo and I get it. It took me many years to get on the mayo bandwagon but it was a quick switch over to Vegenaise. This creamy, delicious spread is light as air and has a fantastic taste. It doesn’t spoil out of the fridge the way traditional mayonnaise can- perfect for picnics or potlucks where you know it’ll be sitting out for a little while.
photo source: http://followyourheart.com/products/original-3/
3. Switch from Cow Milk to Almond or Soy Milk.
Many people don’t know that cows need to be pregnant or nursing to produce milk. If you, like many people, wonder how the dairy industry is harmful to the animals, this website is a great place to start: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/dairy/
With all of the incredible options available on the market, why not try an alternative to cow’s milk? Soy, Almond, Cashew, Hemp, Oat, Rice- take turns trying them and see which one is your favorite. I recently have gotten into making my own cashew milk and its deliciousness prompts a sweet dance in my kitchen every morning. Drinking my coffee with homemade cashew milk and cinnamon makes me want to get my day STARTED.
photo source: http://organicpowerfoods.com/health-topics/5-best-milk-alternatives
4. Switch from Sandwich Bread to Bakery Bread.
Sliced bread is awesome. What’s not awesome? All the weird additives and extras that have now become commonplace in commercially available sliced bread. Anyone know what DATEM is? Remember the whole Subway sandwich-gate with the yoga mat bread additive? Bread is one of the simplest foods on the planet: flour + water + yeast. How has it become this frankenfood all of the sudden?!
Check out the fresh bakery section of your grocery store for baguettes, loaves, or big boules of fresh bread. At our local supermarket, we have La Brea Bakery bread. We like to buy those, slice them ourselves and keep them in the freezer. They make our sandwiches fancy, delicious, and cost about the same as all that yoga mat bread!
photo source: http://printablecouponsanddeals.com/Tag/la-brea-bakery-bread-printable-coupon
If we’re talking straight-up sandwich bread, we sometimes buy Trader Joe’s or Dave’s Organic, but by far my favorite is Alvarado St. Bakery. These brands may not be available at every supermarket, so be sure to check the labels of the bread you usually buy and figure out what all those ingredients are!
5. Switch from Parmesan Cheese to Nutritional Yeast or GoVeggie.
Adding parmesan to a dish of pasta or a caesar salad always used to make me feel fancy! Now I top my pastas and salads with Nutritional Yeast.
photo source: http://www.evitamins.com/premium-nutritional-yeast-season-bragg-52209
Nutritional Yeast, lovingly referred to in our house as Nooch, is basically a cheesy vitamin B-12 supplement that you can sprinkle on everything. It’s healthy, delicious and so good for you! Even if you’re not ready to dump your parmesan, adding nooch into your diet is just extra fortified B12 goodness for your digestion and nervous system.
Nooch can also be used in recipes for soup, pesto, salad dressing, or even to make a mind-blowing cheese sauce (see #7!).
photo source: http://www.goveggiefoods.com/products/grated-topping/vegan/parmesan
Another good option is the GoVeggie Parmesan, which has double the calcium of dairy-based parmesan and 30% of the fat. It tastes exactly like parmesan to me. My non-vegan husband says it smells exactly like parmesan and tastes very similar.
6. Switch from Ground Beef to Ground Lentils.
I know you’re wondering, how can lentils be ANYTHING like ground beef? Just trust me on this one. The incredible Angela over at Oh She Glows has created a recipe that will blow your mind. Her recipe for Lentil-Walnut meat is a great way to pack any meal with extra protein and no added cholesterol.
Check out the recipe here! If you’re not that big on lettuce wraps (me either!) go for the gold and use a regular burrito tortilla. I’m giving you permission!
7. Switch from Nacho Cheese to Potatoes and Carrots.
Stay with me here. It’s about to get even more magical. Did you know that you can have the most delicious nacho cheese in the world and it will count as your daily requirement of VEGETABLES? I’m speaking the truth here.
These cheese is creamy. It’s dreamy. IT’S MADE OF POTATOES AND CARROTS. And Nutritional Yeast. But you already have that from #5, so you’re good to go!
Check out the recipe here.
photo source: http://www.veggieonapenny.com/vegan-cheese/
8. Switch from Chicken or Tuna Salad to Chickpea Salad.
My go-to quick lunch is Chickpea Salad. Drain the chickpeas (keep the liquid- it’s a magical ingredient called Aquafaba…I’ll get to that in a bit), rinse them and put them in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher, mojito muddler, or a fork if you’re old-school. Add a few tablespoons of heaven from that shiny new jar of Vegenaise. Add carrots, celery, pickles, or anything else you’d normally add to a chicken or tuna salad. Sometimes I add minced apples and raisins to get real highbrow. Sprinkle on some celery salt (or regular salt) and pepper and you’ve got yourself a tasty lunch!
I then take the chickpea salad and put it over a bed of lettuce. Or roll it up in a wrap. Or add salsa and hot sauce and chips and Daiya vegan cheese to make a taco salad. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS! THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER MUSHROOM!
9. Switch from Eggs for Breakfast to VeganEgg or Tofu! (Advanced)
Ok. You’ve made it this far! You’re ready for some more advanced options. Many people say to me that they love having eggs for a quick meal and wonder how they would replace that if they went vegan.
I love this question. There comes a point when you have to break out of your mold and find new quick and easy things to eat. Now, I love a good tofu scramble. I find it incredibly delicious and satisfying. My all-time favorite recipe is from the wonderfully talented chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz and her website ThePPK. This tofu scramble may make you re-evaluate your relationship to tofu.
But I understand tofu is not everyone’s jam!
VeganEgg to the rescue!
photo source: http://sproutedmag.com/follow-your-heart-introduces-revolutionary-vegan-egg-product/
Watch this snazzy video. You have to see it to believe it. We’re living in the future, people!
If you’re thinking, “Wait, what’s wrong with eggs? It doesn’t hurt the chicken,” check out this informative page: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/chickens/
10. Switch from Baking with Eggs to Baking with SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS!
Baking without eggs prior to going vegan seemed like an impossibility. “Eggs are an essential ingredient!” I would think to myself (That never happened…I’m just saying that for dramatic effect. I never even thought about eggs in any critical way before. I just assumed they were necessary for baking because…that’s part of Western culture!)
Baking without eggs is easier than you ever imagined! You can go the healthy fruit route and add in a mashed banana or some applesauce instead of an egg. You can use extra vegetable oil in some recipes. My usual go-to is ground flaxseed. Take 1 Tbs of ground flax, add 3 Tbs of water and stir. Wait 5 minutes and you will have a thick gelatinous substance that is a great source of Omega 3’s and keeps your cookies together. Easy Peasy.
photo source: http://www.bobsredmill.com/shop/flours-and-meals/gluten-free-flours/organic-golden-flaxseed-meal.html
The last replacement for baking is using that chickpea (or other light bean) liquid from the can that I mentioned earlier. This stuff is called aquafaba and it is LIQUID GOLD and I’ve been throwing it down the drain for years. If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I’d take back all that bean liquid I threw out, and you’d have eaten a lot more of my cookies and we’d probably have world peace. Yes, I just loosely quoted Cher and no, I’m not embarrassed because…CHER.
A few days ago I made aquafaba meringue cookies and couldn’t get over it. I called/texted half my phone list. Please feel free to comment if you’d like to be included in the next round of late night baking communication!
The only ingredients to these cookies are: aquafaba from a 15 oz. can, 1/2 c sugar, 1/3 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. (I added chocolate chips because I like mixing it up.) Start whipping the aquafaba, vanilla and cream of tartar with a handheld or stand mixer, then slowly add sugar. Keep mixing for about 15 minutes. Put them in the oven at 200F for 2.5 hours. Let them dry out over night to keep crisp!
special guest appearance by: louie, the spaniel mix
They came out like little pillows of heaven and don’t have that weird aftertaste that eggy meringues do. They don’t resemble beans in the slightest and I froze a portion of the dough/fluff to eat as ice cream because I like to diversify.
If you’re wondering about other incredible uses for aquafaba, there’s a great group on facebook called Vegan Meringue- Hits and Misses.
Okay! That’s all. Congrats on reaching the end of this epic post. Try out some of these great substitutes and let me know what you think!
The truth is, that eating vegan is not synonymous with eating healthy. Many people think that if you’re vegan that means that you claim to eat “better” than other people. I’ve had someone assume that I don’t use the microwave because I’m vegan. Or that I don’t eat gluten. Or that I do juice cleanses and drink smoothies every day. But the truth is, that being vegan is a framework for choosing what to eat, but it has very little to do with how to eat.
Full disclosure: My go-to empty-fridge meal is called hummus pasta. It’s just cooked pasta covered in a heaping spoonful of hummus. I’m not proud of it and it’s definitely not winning any blue ribbons for “Most Nutritious Dinner,” but it’s delicious and in a pinch, gets the job done. Many people have that one vegan friend who just eats french fries and pasta all the time. Fatty fried foods can be vegan. Sour Patch Kids are vegan. Red Bull is vegan.
Eating vegan is simply the avoidance of animal protein in any form. Intrinsically, eating vegan has nothing to do with health.
On the other hand, eating a plant-based diet can have an enormous positive impact on your health. A thoughtful vegan diet consisting of adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals is not particularly challenging to adopt. Prior to going vegan, I wasn’t eating very healthfully. I ate junk food late at night and never thought about the quantity (or lack thereof) of the vegetables I was occasionally eating. I’ve always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, but I hadn’t spent much time intentionally consuming them. When I went vegan, I decided to avoid animal protein and improve the quality of my diet simultaneously.
While there are so many fantastic resources on the internet for finding nutritional information, I think it’s easy to get a bit lost in the shuffle when you’re first going vegan. You can read on one website that you have to take a B12 supplement, while another website tells you that your vegan diet is whole and perfect and better than any other diet. But who can you really trust to give you great nutrition advice?
The answer, in my opinion, is your intuition. Or rather, experts whose advice and credentials you trust and your intuition. Not bloggers on the internet.
If you are considering a vegan diet, I suggest you read up on everything you can in published sources regarding nutrition. Shortly after I went vegan, I took a college course in nutrition. My professor, Dr. Lisa Young, is an expert on portion control and adequate nutrition through whole, minimally processed foods. During her class, I gained valuable insight into the body’s relationship with the nutrients that we provide for it. From my experience in that class, I’m confident that the way that I eat is healthy and beneficial. I know that I’m healthy because I eat a well-balanced diet and my blood tests confirm that, despite the occasional dinner of hummus pasta.
I became vegan 10 years ago after my freshman year of college. With no intention of becoming a lifelong vegan, I set out on a little experiment to try to make myself start feeling better. I’d spent the year eating burgers at three in the morning and celebrating 40 oz. Fridays every Friday…
For the first time in my life I felt lethargic and slow. My stomach was always churning…not to mention steadily growing. The top of my jeans were rarely buttoned…
So there I was looking for a way to detox and feel better. A healthy classmate suggested going vegan and I thought why not? I like a challenge! I was vegetarian for three weeks in 5th grade! How hard could it be to be vegan for the summer?
So I decided to do it.
I didn’t have a lot of money or fancy kitchen equipment but I did have the internet. And books! I went to the Strand in NYC and bought Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis & Melissa Versanto…and completely devoured it.
My first week of veganism went a little something like this:
Vegan Deli Slices? OK. Wow, that’s gross.
I guess I should try whatever this tempeh stuff is? Do I eat it just out of the package? Gross.
Fresh Organic Carrot Juice that cost me $12 at Whole Foods? Yum! But help me…I’m poor.
Zucchini brownies! HOLY HEAVEN THESE ARE DELICIOUS!
Pita sandwiches stuffed with flavored tofu and veggies and sweet mustard. WOW!
Okay this really isn’t so bad…I think I can do it and maybe button the top button of my jeans on a regular basis by the end of the summer!
Annnd flash forward to today 10 years later. Full on committed vegan with a penchant for tempeh, tofu, nutritional yeast, flax meal, chia seeds, berry smoothies, raw kale salads, soba noodles, almond milk, miso dressing, and yes: VEGANAISE! I can eat that stuff right out of the jar with a spoon. But. I don’t. Haven’t I mean. I have never done that. Except when I make crispy breadcrumb-topped mac n’cashew cheese. Then I eat big spoonfuls of it with each bite. But now I can button my jeans! So there.
During a bridal shower game a few years ago, my heart melted into a puddle on the floor when my fiance (now husband) said that “Vegan French Toast” was his favorite thing that I’ve ever cooked for him. He generally hates french toast but loves it when I make it (using cinnamon raisin bread and coconut oil!)
I never gave up eating vegan because I never stopped finding exciting and delicious new foods to try. I’ve found so much joy in reading about food, trying new recipes, eating all of it and sharing it with friends. I love to cook for people who unsure of vegan food. They don’t realize that they eat vegan food every day…just usually alongside other foods that aren’t vegan.