Written by Iron Vegan
When starting out on the path to plant-based eating, you may not know where to start when it comes to swapping out animal products for plant alternatives. But fear not, there are tons of amazing plant-based diet staples and snacks that are super easy and convenient to swap into just about any diet. And guess what? You’ll likely be able to find many of these plant-based options where you usually buy your groceries - in the natural or produce departments of your local grocery store.
Cheese: many dairy-free options, made from ingredients like coconut oil, pea protein, nuts, and seeds (like cashews and sunflowers). Plant-based cheese alternatives come in many forms - spreads, blocks, and shreds, and many will have the same meltiness as the dairy version.
Burgers/patties: some brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger make plant-based burgers that look, cook, and satisfy like animal-based meats, but are made entirely of plant ingredients. There are countless other options on the market, in addition to making homemade patties using ingredients such as vegetables, grains, seeds, etc.
Meat and fish: tofu, tempeh, seitan, and beans will be the healthiest options for protein-rich swaps. They’re all so versatile and will be a filling and nutritious meat or fish substitute. Tofu and tempeh (which are both made of soy), are quite bland until you season them or cook them in a sauce; they will absorb all the flavours that they’re cooked with, so it’s just matter of preparing them well. Seitan is derived from wheat and, when cooked, it takes on a firm chewy texture that is similar to animal meat, making it another great alternative. If you’re just starting out eating less meat, there are some mock meat products, like falafel balls and ground-meat replacements, that might help you make the transition a little easier, but they are typically quite processed and ultimately, the aim should be on the healthier whole-food options.
Yogurt: there are many dairy-free options that use coconut as the base. There are also some yogurts made with almond, cashew, flax, and soy.
Butter/lard: apple sauce and nut butters make an excellent fat replacer for butter in baking recipes, such as for cookies, muffins, and bread. An easy 1-to-1 swap will work for either butter alternative in most recipes.
Milk: you’ll have no trouble finding plenty of dairy-free milk options; including almond, coconut, cashew, rice, hemp and soy. Stick to the unsweetened options to avoid any unnecessary sugar.
- Ice cream: there are so many dairy-free frozen dessert options available, including coconut milk, almond milk, and cashew milk as the main ingredient - all with creamy textures! Frozen bananas also make a naturally sweet, dairy-free ‘nice cream’ base if you’re looking to create a homemade treat – simply add cocoa powder, peanut butter, or whatever else you fancy!
Eggs: chia seeds and flaxseeds are a great way to replace eggs in baking. To replace one egg, simply mix one tablespoon of chia or ground flaxseeds with three tablespoons of hot water and allow it to rest until it gels (about 5-10 minutes). Other great alternatives to eggs are prepackaged vegan egg substitute, mashed bananas, arrowroot powder, silken tofu and aquafaba (the liquid in which legumes such as chickpeas have been cooked or stored).
Scrambled tofu is a good vegan alternative to scrambled eggs. Tofu can also be used in a variety of egg-based recipes ranging from omelets to frittatas and quiches.
- Chicken/pork: jackfruit makes a fantastic alternative to animal protein; its texture is even similar. You can cook it in chunks or shreds, and its flavour is neutral, so it takes to all kinds of seasonings and sauces. Pulled jackfruit is a must-try!
- “Wings”: cauliflower makes an incredible replacement for chicken “wings”. They have a phenomenal texture and tangy taste after being battered, baked and sauced!
As you can see, your choices for plant-based alternatives will not be limited! Peruse the natural section of your grocery store or venture into your local health food store to see a whole new world of food possibilities – you’ll be amazed at all the options. Keep an open-mind and open palate!