It has been nearly 4 years since I first left meat off my plate.
In this time, I’ve found veganism to be one of the most gruelling but rewarding experiences of my life.
It all began with watching a documentary about animal agriculture. Since then, I’ve gone cold turkey on animal products, and have been making an active effort to make my everyday habits more sustainable. What began as my initiative to reduce my carbon footprint led to my discovery of veganism’s multitude of health benefits.
Before going vegan, I used to be a raging insomniac, my skin was constantly breaking out, and I felt lethargic and exhausted all the time. As soon as I switched to a vegan diet, I was finally able to sleep through the night, my skin improved dramatically, and I had more energy than I’d ever had. I also had the added bonus of enjoying foods guilt-free. I love experimenting with the ways I could “veganize” different foods.
I did, however, come across a rut or two with animal-free meals. As you progress in not eating animals for a while, it can honestly become a little difficult to remember the reasoning behind your choice. It can be challenging to deal with commentary about your food choices from those around you. It’s also tough to eat alongside omnivorous friends or family and have less or no vegan options.
For me, the hardest things to find good substitutes for are dairy and other animal byproducts. If you convert to veganism the way I did— by being traumatized by environmental documentaries— chances are, meat isn’t looking all too appetizing and is most likely easier to keep off your plate.
But fret not! I’m here to help you “skip the tutorial” and get to a point where veganism doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything.
Here is my shortlist of vegan alternatives to use as substitutes for those items you thought you couldn’t live without:
- Silk Hazelnut Coffee Creamer
I honestly have no words. This little carton packs a punch. You can find this product at most supermarkets and grocery stores. This creamer has an almond milk base, and the flavours I see most often are vanilla and hazelnut. Both are good, but the hazelnut is insane. I’m talking Christmas in a cup! And what’s nice is that it’s got a bit of sugar added, so I’ve actually been able to cut out adding granulated sugar to my coffee altogether.
- Earth’s Own Unsweetened Vanilla Oat Milk
Finding this milk was like discovering a hidden oasis. This milk brand is absolutely amazing! All the info you would want to know about it is easy to find and printed right on the carton. They have different nut milks with different flavours including chocolate and vanilla. It’s perfect for cereals, smoothies, tea and coffee, or even drinking by the glass. My parents humoured me once and tried it, and my mum’s been having it in her morning tea and my dad in his morning granola every single day since. It’ll make you wonder why you ever drank dairy milk.
- Flaxseed and water
This is not necessarily something I’d recommend you eat by itself, but hear me out. Flaxseed and water, when in the correct measurements, double as an egg substitute for baking. This was a revelation for me, because I was really worried I’d never be able to eat my mom’s banana bread or brownies again. You can simply search up egg to flaxseed-water conversions for recipes you’d like to make. Prep is usually as simple as mixing the two ingredients together and letting them sit for a little bit before you bake.
- Maison Riviera Coconut Milk Vegan Delight yogurt
This is a solid, convincing alternative to yogurt. Maison Riviera vegan yogurts are made with coconut milk, so you still get all the creaminess of a traditional yogurt. Not to mention, they have a lot of cool flavours that make reaching for a vegan yogurt really easy.
- Earth Island cheese slices
The biggest issue I encounter with vegan cheese is meltiness, but this one does quite alright. These are great for sandwiches, grilled cheeses, or even shredded as a salad topper. It gets warm and goopy like regular cheese. My personal favourite is Earth Island’s pepper jack. And fun fact: this cheese is made of potato starch!
- Black salt
This was a game-changer. If you’re looking for ways to spice up your tofu scramble, give this a try. Because it originates from sulphuric deposits, black salt gives your food an egg-y flavour that’ll bring your breakfast to a whole new level. Also called kala namak, black salt was traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for its therapeutic qualities. It has great antioxidants and helps to control heartburn and bloating, which you may be experiencing if you’re a relatively new vegan. And fun fact: it’s not actually black salt at all!
- Dandies vegan marshmallows
As a special mention, these are one of my most recent findings for vegan substitutes. They are vegan and gelatin-free, and come in packages of mini or large-sized ‘mellows! Given that colder weather is upon us, Dandies are perfect for hot cocoas, baking or roasting over a fire!
Always remember that a lot of the fun you can have with eating, regardless of what food regime you choose, is exploring and finding what brands and types of food you love most. While these are some of my favourite choices, never be afraid to explore all the wonderful vegan options that now exist! Take a trip to your local whole foods store or even some of the larger grocery chains to see what your go-to stores have in stock for you!