Hey everyone! Thank you for your patience with school resuming – the semester is already crazy stressful, and the meme above comes to mind every time I look at my schedule….
I also quickly want to thank everyone that provided me with some constructive feedback in my last post! If you haven’t responded to that feedback form, you can still fill it out here. Any input on what you would like to see is important to me, so please take a moment to share!
Many of you said that you love posts that include quick tips for healthy living and improving your well-being, so I’m answering with this post! Most people I talk to feel overwhelmed thinking about plant-based nutrition – they want to embrace it, but just don’t know where to start. Below, I’ve compiled some of the common suggestions I provide: easy swaps that are attainable from an accessibility and financial standpoint, but can make a big difference for your health and environmental impact.
1. Plant-based Milk
This is definitely the easiest swap you can make to decrease your animal product consumption. Plant-based milk – whether its soy, almond, cashew, coconut, rice, oat, etc. – is not only super accessible (you can find it most grocery stores) and affordable (usually $3-4 for 2L), but I guarantee you’ll barely notice the difference. If you are looking for an alternative to dairy milk that has a similar macronutrient profile (i.e. protein and fat content), soy milk is your best bet. Most other plant-based milks are actually quite low-calorie, and are fortified with the major nutrients you’d find in dairy milk such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12. Bonus: plant-based milks keep WAY longer in the fridge than dairy milk.
2. Mock Meats
If you’re still feeling skeptical about embracing tofu or tempeh, mock meat products are a great way to decrease your meat consumption while still enjoying the flavors and textures you’re familiar with. Most of these products are pretty widespread in grocery stores at this point (even my hometown of <10,000 people carries them!). Some brands are more pricey than others, but seeing as meat is typically a more expensive grocery item, it may be comparably priced. Some of the products I’ve tried and LOVE are:
- Yves Meatless Meatballs (great baked, then tossed in BBQ sauce or Sweet and Sour sauce)
- Yves Ground Round (mock ground beef)
- Yves Tofu Dogs (more realistic texture and roast better on a bonfire than the Veggie Dogs IMO)
- Yves Veggie Turkey and Veggie Ham Deli Slices (taste EXACTLY like the real thing)
- Any Gardein chicken products and their Fishless Filets
- Field Roast sausages (Tofurky carries similar products, which I haven’t tried)
- Sol Cuisine veggie burgers (which are not only vegan, but also gluten-free, Kosher, Halal, organic and non-GMO)
3. Vegan Margarine
Did you know that margarine isn’t plant-based? Despite being made of vegetable oils, many margarine products actually contain lactose and/or whey, both derived from dairy milk. Although the amount used is quite minimal, you can purchase vegan margarine just as easily. There are some specialty brands, but Becel now carries their own vegan margarine (for the exact same price as regular Becel!). You’ll never notice the difference in taste or texture, so this is a swap you won’t even notice! Even better? Nix the butter and margarine, and use nutrient-dense spreads like avocado and hummus!
4. Cream (in cooking/baking)
Whether you are making an Alfredo sauce, homemade mac ‘n cheese, or a creamy veggie dip, cashew cream is an easy homemade swap. What is cashew cream? Basically, it is raw cashews blended with plant-based milk or water until smooth and creamy. Trust me, it’s so easy even my boyfriend makes cashew cream when he cooks. The benefits of cashew cream (besides the fact that it is plant-based) are:
- It won’t expire like regular cream, since you can blend a new batch from raw cashews whenever you need,
- Mimics cream perfectly in cooking (i.e. will thicken, provides richness, etc.), and
- Gives any recipe a boost of plant-based protein, healthy fats, potassium, and fibre!
The possibilities are endless with cashew cream – a quick Google search will show you the flexibility of this recipe. I’ll be featuring some recipe posts soon on the blog, and a few cashew cream variations are something on the way, so stay tuned for that!
5. Egg Replacement in Baking
If you’re an avid baker or simply enjoy pancakes on Sunday morning, this is an incredibly easy swap to make. Ground flaxseed and chia seeds are both great at absorbing water and gelatinizing, so provide structure and moisture in baking, much like eggs. The general rule of thumb is 1 tbsp of flax or chia in 3 tbsp of water is equivalent to 1 egg. Even though I am occasionally eating eggs again, I use this substitute constantly in baking because it maintains the texture of baked goods, and pumps your baking full of healthy omega-3 fats, plant-based protein, and fibre!
BONUS: Plant-based Protein Powders/Energy Bars
Whey, one of the main proteins found in dairy, is the most commonly used protein powder supplement on the market. However, the demand for plant-based protein is growing steadily, and there is a wide variety of sources and blends to choose from. Hemp, pea, soy, and brown rice protein are all popular options, and brands like Garden of Life that use blends of multiple plant proteins to create an optimal amino acid nutritional profile. Some of the protein products I’ve tried and enjoyed are:
- MyProtein vegan protein powders (unflavored because I use them in oatmeal)
- Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal or Protein
- Vega protein powders (most popular and easy to find, but average flavor-wise)
- Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie (which are fully vegan and DELICIOUS)
- Clif Bars and Clif Protein Bars
- Sunwarrior protein powders
Note: I suggest that you avoid dependency on protein supplement products to reach your nutritional needs or goals, as most of the population can reach their dietary needs via whole foods. Many protein/energy bars are very high in added sugar and processed ingredients, so please be mindful that these are supplementary to be eaten occasionally, and not major dietary components. If you are an athlete, elderly, pregnant, or have another condition that increases your protein needs, talk to your physician or Registered Dietitian to determine if regular protein powder/bar intake may be necessary. You can read more on protein needs here and here.
I hope this posts provides some inspiration to make a few swaps in your kitchen. Of course, it is more than possible to maintain a healthy diet while still consuming animal products. However, making a few small swaps can have a wide range of benefits, from better digestion (thanks to extra fibre!) to decreased cholesterol intake. There are also so many mock dairy products on the market now (vegan cheeses, cream cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.) that finding swaps for your home is totally doable. I didn’t include these products in this post since many are quite pricey and/or aren’t as widely accessible, but they are obviously great options to #treatyoself.
Let me know your thoughts! Which swaps have you already made, or seem feasible for your lifestyle? Let me know! I love to chat, so never hesitate to reach out to me in the comments below, here, or on Instagram and Twitter.
Talk soon friends!