There is a lot of talk about vegan diets and how healthy they are. There is no doubt that eating more fruits and vegetables is a much better choice than eating processed foods. Abstaining from animal products also comes with perks for your overall well-being. However, deciding to become vegan may seem like a huge change. It doesn’t have to be hard, though. The best way to do it is to find vegan substitutes for foods you usual eat.
What Does Vegan Mean?
Before you make the decision to become vegan, it’s important to understand exactly what it means. Basically, it means anything that is not an animal product. Obviously, that means you won’t be eating any meat, but it also includes milk and eggs. Vegans also usually don’t use products containing animals or that were tested on animals.
You’ll probably find that the hardest changes are going to be finding things to eat instead of the usually protein and dairy products you are used to eating. Luckily, there are many simple substitutions that you can make.
The biggest challenge in adapting a vegan diet is to find substitutes for meat. You have to have good protein sources because your body needs protein in order to function. Since you won’ t be getting that from meat, which is the usual source, you have to be careful to make substitutions that are high in protein.
Beans are your best meat alternative. They can be used in place of meat in many recipes and provide a similar mouth feel. Plus, beans provide you with other essential vitamins and minerals. Because they are so diverse, you will likely be eating a lot of beans in your new diet.
Of course, you also want substitutes that will satisfy your cravings. There are plenty of soy-based foods on the market that replicate meat. You can find soy burgers, jerky, and even “turkey.” Vegetable based products are also on the market that mimic meat foods, like veggie burgers and deli “meat.” Nuts are another commonly used ingredient that often mimics meat. Lastly, portobello mushrooms are a great alternative to burgers. They can be grilled and seasoned to taste similar.
When it comes to eggs, tofu is often used as a substitute for scrambled eggs. When it comes to baking, applesauce is a good alternative, along with pureed tofu. You can also use bananas or a flax egg, which is ground flax seed and water mixed together.
One egg-based item that is tricky to substitute for is mayonnaise. Lucky, there are companies out there that are creating plant based mayo. It tastes similar and can be used just like the egg based mayo you may have eaten in the past.
As with protein, dairy is another big category where you will need to make smart substitutions. You have to make sure you are getting calcium and Vitamin D, which these foods would usually provide. Luckily, many substitute products on the market are enhanced with the needed vitamins and minerals so that you are getting what you need as if you were using a dairy product.
Cheese can be tricky to substitute because you can use tofu, but it doesn’t melt like cheese. If you want something that melts, vegan cheeses are the best option. These are usually soy or nut based.
When it comes to milk, there are many alternatives. Nut milks and soy milks are usually readily available at any grocery store. There are also oat and rice milk options. The same is true for ice cream. They are usually soy, nut, or rice based.
Butter and yogurt are other items that won’t be included in a vegan diet. For butter, you can use different plant oils. For yogurt, look for soy or coconut yogurt.
You may not think about it, but chocolate is not vegan because it contains milk and some chocolate products may contain butter. Fortunately, there are vegan options on the market, like carob, so you don’t have to give up on chocolate.
Once you have figured out how to substitute for protein and dairy foods, you should find it is fairly easy to make the full transition to a vegan diet. Remember that going vegan doesn’t have to be hard. As more people are turning to this type of diet, food companies are making great vegan alternatives to all your favorite foods.
What are your favorite vegan substitutes for the foods, tastes and textures you love?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.