Plant-based Alternatives to Meat & Dairy

I wanted to share some alternatives to animal-based products we use on the regular. Most people don’t go vegan ‘cold turkey’ – a gradual transition is easier to manage and more likely to be sustainable in the long term. If you have tried to go vegan before but just couldn’t stick with it, don’t get down on yourself! Set yourself up for success by educating yourself about plant-based alternatives to your favorite regular foods.

I advise slowly cutting animal products out of your diet, unless you’re ready to do it all at once. Be sure to replace the animal products you currently eat with plant-based options, instead of just eliminating them – this is how new vegans suddenly end up eating mainly bagels and potato chips when they don’t know what to feed themselves! Research how to meet your nutritional needs on a plant-based diet and try new recipes. It’s a whole new world of variety when you adjust your diet 🙂

Try replacing one food group at a time with vegan alternatives to ease yourself into a healthier, plant-based lifestyle. Here are some simple swaps to begin!

Cow’s milk: The market is flooded with nondairy milk these days! A plethora of nondairy deliciousness awaits at your local health food store. Try replacing dairy milk with almond, coconut, soy, hemp, flax, rice,  or even quinoa milk! I like to use coconut milk for cereal and smoothies, and enjoy soy milk in coffee. I love hemp milk for homemade hot chocolate!

Dairy cheese: instead of parmesan, try sprinkling nutritional yeast over your pasta! You could even make your own parmesan ‘cheeze’ using cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt. If making pizza, try one of the many dairy free cheeses on the market (Daiya, Heidi Ho, Miyoko’s Creamery, etc) – just keep in mind these won’t taste like real cheese, but will give you a similar texture. For pasta sauces, I prefer to make my own cheezy sauce (for example a healthy vegan mac n cheez) from a mixture of cooked potatoes, onions, carrots, nutritional yeast, and paprika. Use the internet to find delicious dairy free cheez recipes! Plant-based cream cheese is available in most health food stores.

Sour cream/Yogurt: There are many kinds of nondairy yogurt on the market today. My favorite is the unsweetened So Delicious coconut yogurt, but there are also almond-based yogurts and soy-based yogurts. Try a few different kinds to see which one you like!

Meat alternatives: Try tempeh, seitan, tofu, or legumes! There are also many faux meat products on the market these days, such as Tofurkey, Beyond Meat, and Gardein. These products are great for those transitioning into a vegan lifestyle, but I prefer to use whole foods alternatives as they are usually more natural. Use cubed or crumbled tempeh or tofu in stir fries, pasta sauces, chili, and soups. Try a tofu scramble or crumbled tempeh instead of ground beef for tacos! There are so many protein-rich meat alternatives once – again, the internet is your friend. 😉

Ice cream: Make banana ice cream! Peel and freeze overripe bananas, then blend with your favorite flavorings (mine are vanilla extract, cacao powder, and peanut butter) and some coconut milk to get a super creamy, healthy and DELICIOUS plant-based ice cream. If you crave something richer, nearly all grocery stores offer nondairy ice creams these days – usually made of coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk. Just watch out for eggs hiding in the ingredients! Sounds strange, but there are a couple nondairy ice creams out there containing egg.

Eggs: Instead of scrambled eggs, try a tofu scramble with turmeric for an eggy look! There is even a ‘Vegan Egg’ on the market that looks and resembles a real egg. For baking, use 1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water, or 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp to replace 1 egg. Both of these alternatives need to be stirred and allowed to sit for a couple minutes, after which they form a gel that holds up just like an egg in most baked goods. You could also try Egg Replacer products – these work similarly and can be found in health stores!

If you would like to go vegan, but that currently feels too far out of reach for you, begin where you can. Baby steps are still progress! If you eat many kinds of meat, try eliminating 1 or 2 types of meat (for example, beef or pork) and replace them with plant-based protein alternatives. Alternatively, you could choose to eliminate processed meats from your diet (sausage, jerky, hot dogs, cold cut meats, etc) in favor of plant-based alternatives or a more whole version of that meat – for example, grilled chicken in favor of a chicken burger. If eliminating meat feels impossible to you right now, try starting with dairy products! Every step away from animal products is a step in the right direction.

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