As research keeps suggesting that diets primarily made up of plants could be the secret to a long and healthy life, more and more people are becoming interested in what steps they need to take to incorporate plant-based foods into their weekly meal planning. As someone who recently started making this change, the easiest place to start is with simple, daily swaps.
Think of your favorite meal or snack. Does it include meat or dairy? If so, chances are there is a delicious and nutritious plant-based alternative. To help you learn about some of those alternatives, here are seven swaps I make to keep my favorite foods in my diet while also making sure they're plant-based.
1. Nutritional yeast for cheese
Nutritional yeast is very important for plant-based eaters for a couple reasons. One, It's chockfull of the very important vitamin B12, which is typically only found in animal products. Two, it adds a delicious cheesy flavor to everything you melt it into or sprinkle it on. So, the next time you think about sprinkling some cheese on something (like popcorn), pick up some nutritional yeast instead.
2. Cashew cream for creamy sauces
Learning how to turn cashews into a creamy sauce has been one of the most amazing things I've discovered since turning to a plant-based diet. This one-pot vegan alfredo is the perfect example of how a jar of nuts can turn into a garlic-y, super creamy and decadent pasta sauce minus all the diary of traditional alfredo.
3. Veggie burger for traditional beef
The veggie burger has also been an amazing discovery, especially with summer grilling being in full swing. There are tons of plant-based options for burgers including beans, veggies, quinoa or even lentils. If you're too intimidated to make them for yourself or are looking for healthy, but convenient food that's vegan, most grocery stores usually have a pretty great organic veggie burger option. (Ed's note: This vegan burger is a great options that almost tastes like meat!)
4. Beans for meat in your favorite soups
I always ate shredded chicken in my soups prior to focusing on a plant-based diet. Now my go-to soup protein is great northern beans. They have a mild flavor and absorb that of the veggie broth (another easy sub to go plant-based—veggie broth versus chicken) really well. Other great protein-packed white beans include cannellini and navy.
5. Flax eggs for traditional eggs in baked goods
I was slightly intimidated by flax seeds and flax meal because before eating plant-based, I had never used it before. I made the rookie mistake of buying the seeds, which you can definitely do, but just know you'll have to grind them down to a meal to use them as an egg substitute and to reap any of the nutritional benefits.
Flax works in place of an egg because when mixed with water it becomes gooey and acts as a great binding agent, which is what eggs are typically used for in most baking recipes.
6. Alternative milk for cow milk
The idea of not drinking cow's milk anymore was one of the biggest things that kept me from making a switch to plant-based eating sooner than I did. I had always been a big milk drinker and just didn't get the same amount of satisfaction from dairy alternatives. Finding a "milk" that quenched my thirst while eating chocolate or peanut butter was a long journey (unsweetened vanilla almond is what I finally landed on and I'm obsessed), but making the swap when baking was actually really easy. Did you know you can make vegan buttermilk by simply mixing unsweetened plain almond milk with lemon juice? And I can confirm it makes the best homemade biscuits.
7. Plant-based butter for dairy butter
This is by far the easiest and most mindless swap you can make. You probably won't even notice the difference. You can use plant-based butter the exact same way you use dairy-based butter, so there's no need to worry about any other adjustments. I do recommend making sure you're switching to a quality vegan butter though because, like anything, some are better than others.