I’ll happily admit that when I first went vegan I did it all totally wrong in terms of nutrition! I simply swapped my meat burger for a mock meat patty, cheddar cheese for processed vegan cheese, and my favourite digestive biscuits for accidentally vegan versions.
For me, direct vegan swaps for my familiar comfort foods made my transition a lot easier. However, I think I relied on them for a little too long, and didn’t fully embrace the plant based lifestyle and the abundance of healthy, whole plant foods until pretty recently.
I now love veganism because I love finding new ingredients I’d never thought of before, I love experimenting with herbs, spices and flavourings to see how one ingredient can be used in so many different ways, and I love looking down at my plate and seeing a colourful array of food I know will nourish and satiate me! Eating plant based pushed me out of my comfort zone and I can honestly say I have never had so much fun with food before. I’ve also never felt better, thanks to the fact my diet is now so much healthier, more diverse and nutritious.
According to a survey of adults in Great Britain by Mintel, a total of 49% of those interested in cutting down on their meat consumption said they would do so for health reasons. More people than ever are turning to a plant based diet to help them look and feel better. If health is a major factor for you, or if you simply want to take advantage of the abundance of nature’s health foods, try out these vegan food swaps for an easy nutrition boost!
Most of your favourite dishes can probably be easily veganised with little to no effort. Your “guilty pleasures” don’t have to be so guilty anymore. Plant based foods tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol so you can tuck in with the knowledge that you’re making, not only a compassionate choice for the animals, but a healthier choice for your body, mind and soul!
- Cow’s milk, try a plant based milk
This is an easy one because there are so many options available you’re bound to find one plant based milk you like! Be it soya, almond, oat, coconut, rice, cashew, hemp, hazelnut… Sweetened or unsweetened… Moooove over dairy, we’re not drinking milk from cows’ udders anymore!
Every plant-based milk alternative is better for the environment than standard dairy milk. According to a University of Oxford study, producing a glass of dairy milk results in almost three times the greenhouse gas emissions of any non-dairy milk.
- Butter, try extra virgin olive oil
We probably all know by now that butter is most certainly not a health food! It’s super high in saturated fat and known to increase LDL cholesterol, leading to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems.
Simply substitute ¾ of the amount of butter stated in a recipe with oil and your heart will thank you for it! Whether you’re frying, sautéing or baking, extra virgin olive oil is definitely the healthiest alternative to butter.
- Mayo, try mashed avocado
While there are tons of vegan mayo brands, mayonnaise is pretty heavy on the calories and low on the nutrition given that it’s mostly made of oil. Avocado, on the other hand, is half the calories, packed with vitamins and minerals, and actually helps to reduce cholesterol and fight against heart disease. Not to mention how delicious, refreshing and creamy it is!
Simply cut the avo, mash it with a fork and spread it on whatever you like. Upping your intake of this yummy superfood will have countless benefits! Avo contains loads of antioxidant vitamins, high soluble fibre content and is credited with reducing cholesterol.
- Cheese, try nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is every former cheese-lover’s saving grace. Just sprinkle the flakes into any recipe you would have previously used cheese in, including pasta, soup or vegan sauces for a nutty, savoury flavour.
Once again, nooch is a much healthier alternative to cheese. It’s a rich source of B vitamins to help lower stress, aid the metabolism, prevent cancer and enhance healthy skin. Unlike cheese, it contains no saturated fat, instead functioning to maintain optimum cholesterol levels and improve blood production. It’s a no brainer!
- Scrambled eggs, try scrambled tofu
Scrambled eggs are known for being a super easy dish to whip up and, believe it or not, scrambled tofu is just as quick and convenient.
If you really crave that eggy taste and are missing it from your vegan diet, make sure your tofu scramble seasoning includes magic ingredient kala namak, also known as black salt (despite being pink in colour). Beware though – it’s super eggy so just a little amount goes a long way!
- Minced beef, try lentils
Okay, some of you might be a tad sceptical about this one, but lentils add an excellent meat-like texture to any vegan dish. For recipes like shepherd’s/cottage pie, spaghetti bolognese, chilli or lasagne, swap out the red meat for heart-healthy black or green lentils. Use the same spices, herbs and flavourings as you would for meat and you won’t even notice the difference.
Substituting beef for lentils isn’t just good for your health, but for your pocket too! Lentils are one of the cheapest ingredients you can get and they’re the best thing to stock up on because they keep for so long.
- Milk chocolate, try dark chocolate
You can still get your choccie fix on a vegan diet! Dark chocolate is the richer, more sophisticated sister of milk chocolate. It’s also the healthier version, containing triple the amount of antioxidants! Because it is so strong and deep in flavour, most people satisfy their chocolate craving much quicker and by eating much less of it. I love melting dark chocolate and dipping strawberries in it; the combination of bitter chocolate and sweet berries is to die for!
Top tip: choose a chocolate bar with the highest amount of cocoa solids possible for maximum heart and health benefits.
- Ice cream, try frozen blended bananas
Vegan ice cream can be made using just one ingredient – frozen bananas, which are then blended! Skip out on all the artificial sweeteners and refined sugars in favour of the natural sweetness of the banana!
It’s super easy to experiment with making your own ice cream once you’ve perfected the basics. You could try adding a tablespoon of peanut butter, a dusting of cacao powder or a spoonful of agave to switch up the flavours.
For more easy food swaps and recipe ideas, take a look at our Plant Based Pledge!
B.O Bergh, ‘The Avocado and Human Nutrition. II. Avocados and Your Heart’, Proc. Of Second World Avocado Congress 1992, pp. 37-47.