Ready to go vegan? Or just want to try it out? Thanks to the booming health scene, accessibility of ingredients and products, and some truly creative people, it’s easier than ever to be vegan. To veganise your diet, start with these simple food swaps. Don’t think of them as replacements, but rather, delicious options… You’ll soon realise what we mean!
No dairy? No problem! Almond milk is a yummy vegan alternative with a host of health benefits. Think less calories, less saturated fat, and none of the chemicals and hormones found in most traditional milks. It’s high in fibre and protein, and loaded with calcium for healthy bones and vitamin E for glowing skin. Along with its nutritional value, almond milk has a thick, smooth texture that goes down a digestive treat!
If you’re looking for something creamy and delicious to spread on your rice cakes, sandwiches, salads, and cut-up veggie sticks, you’ve found it. Made with mashed chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt, hummus is packed with the kind of macronutrients (like protein, good fat and fibre) that’ll keep you fuller for longer. It also contains folate, which is brilliant at converting carbs into energy and keeping your ticker in tip-top condition. Filling, nutrient-dense and tasty? Hummus, you’re a bit of a show off.
Instead of missing the yellow stuff you grew up with, go nuts for nut butters! They have the same smooth, easily spreadable texture as butter and margarine, except nut butters are far more satiating thanks to their protein, fibre and healthy fat content. These good fats can work to boost heart health and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Best of all, there are a few nut butter varieties on the market, so you won’t get bored. At GMB, our favourites are almond, cashew and peanut butter – just be careful not to go overboard.
Sometimes, you just need chocolate. Next time the sweet craving strikes, reach for BSKT's natural Vegan Chocolate Bar to indulge sans the guilt. Here’s what it contains: West African cocoa, antioxidants, organic coconut sugar and vitamins. And here’s what it doesn’t: refined sugar, gluten or dairy. Yes, really! Perfect for vegans, this paleo chocolate bar is so smooth and bursting with flavour, you won’t notice the difference. Plus, it’s Australian-made. #proud
For many would-be vegans, the thought of giving up cheese is too much to bear. But thanks to some clever experimenters out there, it doesn’t have to be. Enter: cashew cheese. The product of blended cashews, water and nutritional yeast, cashew ‘cheese’ is a creamy concoction that can be used in sandwiches, pastas and desserts. This alternative is great for a few reasons: it’s lactose-free and easier to digest, and it’s high in calcium, magnesium and fibre. In addition, cashews are lower in fat than any other nut.
Let’s talk nutritional benefits first. Made from soybeans, soy yoghurt contains essential amino acids, healthy fats, calcium and antioxidants. It’s also cholesterol-free (so it’s good for your heart health), and great at blocking those enzymes that inhibit the digestion of carbs. As if that wasn’t enough, soy yoghurt is low-GI, making it ideal for diabetics or anyone looking to manage their blood sugar levels. Try using it wherever you would sour cream.
Need a protein hit? Or a hearty brekkie that’ll keep you going until lunchtime? Put some tofu on your shopping list. An excellent source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc, tofu is a versatile ingredient that can be tossed into stir-fries, noodles, curries, kebabs, patties and salads. It can even be scrambled! And while you’re eating your pseudo-scrambled-eggs in awe, feel free to be smug about the fact that tofu contains all eight essential amino acids.
Just like minced meat, lentils are flavoursome and filling. A lean plant protein, they’re also high in dietary fibre, iron and folate. To use them as an alternative to mince, experiment with different herbs, spices and condiments. For instance, tamari, miso and Worcestershire sauce will give them an Asian-style twist, while mustard, cumin and paprika will enhance their savoury flavour.
How awesome are avocados? With their creamy consistency, vitamin content, and ability to make toast taste phenomenal, it’s no wonder we have a love affair with the green fruit. While many of us typically think of avocado as a savoury ingredient, it’s actually amazing to use in any thick, rich dessert – like brownies. Simply swap out the cream for avocado (or sweet potato, if you’re feeling inspired), and voila! Just remember to keep your portion sizes small, as avos are quite high in (good) fat.
You may be vegan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a juicy burger! For an equally tasty alternative, swap the beef/chicken/turkey patty for a portobello mushroom. As well as being a good source of protein, mushrooms contain vitamin C, iron, potassium and antioxidants. They’re also high in dietary fibre, making them easier to digest than red meat for many people. Don’t like mushrooms? Whip up a veggie patty with sweet potatoes, lentils and chickpeas.
Once known as the “mother of all grains” during the time of the Inca Empire, quinoa is having a major moment – and for good reason. The gluten-free grain has a slightly nutty flavour, and is one of few plant foods that are considered a complete protein. Plus, it’s high in fibre, iron and B-vitamins. Combine cooked quinoa with veggies, beans and a light tomato sauce for a dish that’ll make you forget all about chicken.
Sweet-toothed GMB’ers, never fear. Extracted from agave nectar, agave syrup is a natural alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Its sweetness comes from inulin, a fructose that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables (in other words, the ‘good’ kind of sugar). It’s low-GI, so it won’t spike your blood sugar and put you on a rollercoaster for the rest of the day. However, still only use teeny amounts, just like you would honey.
Bonus tip: Keep frozen grapes in the freezer for the occasional sweet treat on the go.
Do you have any other easy vegan food swaps to share with the GMB community?