When people think about a vegan diet, they often think about what’s not included, things like chicken, fish, meat, dairy and other animal products. What people often forget is that so many other tasty foods can be added or increased.
A few years ago, I transitioned from a vegetarian diet to a vegan one. I wanted to feel healthier and eat cleaner. As I made meals, I realized there were a lot of foods I couldn’t include as a vegan. But happily, I found many ways to add new items to recipes to make them taste delicious and still be vegan.
Know the Ingredients
The most important aspect of fixing vegan meals is to read food ingredient labels and understand what those ingredients mean. Jell-O, for example, certainly isn’t meat, but it is made of gelatin, which comes from animal collagen. Heart-healthy orange juice with added omega-3s—can be made from fish. Honey, milk fats and milk protein (casein) are also ingredients that are derived from animals.
Sometimes it’s not just the labels but also how food is prepared. French fries, for example, can be cooked in lard, which comes from animal fat.
It was a bit frustrating at first because I would have to sit in the store and Google these ingredients while reading the back of boxes. I initially needed to learn a lot about the diet. But now, I know exactly what to look for and what to stay away from.
Stick with Whole Plant Foods
Veganism can be easier when you stick to whole plant foods. These are unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, oils and whole grains. Try to stay away from processed foods, fake sugary foods and salty snacks. This will make life easier and healthier because you now know what you are cooking with.
Some of the great vegan food substitutes I love to cook with are:
- Tofu: This bean curd is high in protein and tends to take on the flavor of other foods in the recipe. Tofu is a great substitute for eggs and meats.
- Earth Balance butter: These butter sticks and spreads are made from vegetable oil, not dairy.
- Almond milk: This is a vegan, lactose-free alternative to cow milk and is made from almonds.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: Standard Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies, but the vegan variation may substitute soy sauce for fish.
- Nutritional yeast: Different from baker’s yeast, nutritional yeast is a food additive with flakes that provide a nutty, cheesy flavor. It tastes great on popcorn, on baked potatoes and in vegan soups.
I always keep vegan butter, alternative milk and tofu in the house. These are my staples and I use them almost every day. Vegan versions of yogurt, chocolate, cheese and other foods are increasingly available as the vegan market grows.
Be adventurous and try some substitutes that will make your food deliciously vegan today.
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