If you’re thinking about becoming vegetarian or vegan, you’re probably thinking about your favourite animal-based foods and wondering if you can really “give them up.” It can be challenging to move away from some foods you love, even when you feel that doing so is “the right thing.” You’ve probably been eating animal products all your life and may not have had a lot of exposure to vegetarian or vegan foods, outside of actual fruits and vegetables. You may even have a few misconceptions about a plant-based diet — I used to. For many years I thought that I would like to be vegetarian, but I had a false impression of what that would entail, what I’d be eating and what it might taste like. And I’m so glad I was wrong!
Eventually, I became what I’m sure is the world’s first non-bean-eating vegetarian. I hate beans. A lot. So I did a lot of research to find out where else I could get my protein from without living on tofu — which I like, but maybe not every day. I found out that we don’t need as much protein as our government-sponsored meat marketing boards would have us believe. It’s pretty easy to get enough of everything you need, including protein and calcium, by eating a plant-based diet, even one that doesn’t include beans. The one thing that’s a little harder to come by is is vitamin B12, so a supplement there is a good idea.
If you’re trying to become vegetarian or vegan and are wondering how much you’ll have to change how you eat, go to a bookstore and spend some time going through vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. You’re likely to find much more than you imagined to tempt your palate!
Having said that, some things may be harder to let go of than others, especially if you’re going vegan. Here’s my completely subjective list of foods I love that have made it easier for me to go veg:
- Almond Breeze almond milk: comes slightly sweetened or unsweetened (both plain), or in chocolate or vanilla. Vanilla’s my least favourite but I like them all. I have the plain version with my cereal and I’ve put it in tea. I love it. I mention the specific brand because I’ve tried other brands and not liked them at all. You may have to play around. (You can also find, from various brands, rice milk, hemp milk, oat milk and more…I personally prefer to stick with almond, soy or cashew, but different strokes.)
- Silk organic almond, soy, and cashew milks. The only soy milk I actually like.
- So Nice “creamer” for coffee: the only thing I have found and liked. I poured a lot of non-dairy soy creamers down the drain before I found this one. Mind you, I am not a fan of soy milk. I don’t like the taste and I don’t like what they call the mouth feel. Still, So Nice is different. I love it. (At Christmas they make Noel Nog, which is wonderful! Taste and consistency of light egg nog.)
- Gardein: This is a US-based company that makes a lot of meat substitutes, all of which are pretty terrific. Their veggie burgers (you’ll find them in the frozen section) are the bomb!
- Tofurky: yes, the name probably makes you laugh. Tofurky is actually a brand name of a range of tofu (soy)-based meat products, and they make good stuff! I’m a fan of their Italian sausage and kolbasa, both darned fine grilled on the BBQ. Most of these foods don’t taste exactly like their non-vegan counterparts, but that doesn’t make them less good, just a bit different. You do have to be at least a little prepared to appreciate them for what they are.
- Field Roast! This is a line of products that includes sausages (all are fantastic, but I particularly like the sage and apple) as well as the actual roast. It’s made from grains, not soy, so is great for the soy-sensitive (though not so much for the gluten-free). Field Roast has become my go-to for holiday dinners. I have never had an omnivore tell me they didn’t care for it.
- Marinated organic tofu. I love this stuff, especially the sweet and sour. Or marinate your own for half an hour before cooking! Use soy sauce, hoisin sauce, teriyaki, BBQ sauce…it’s all good.
- There are lots of vegan butter substitutes out there, many of which don’t even claim to be vegan — you just have to read the labels. Earth Balance comes in a variety of forms, including sticks for easy measuring when baking.
- I have a sweet tooth and I like things that are creamy. My favourite thing to satisfy that kind of a craving is soy pudding, specifically Belsoy from Belgium — but only in chocolate. I found their other flavours pretty weird, especially their cappuccino, which tastes strangely of coconut.
- Cheese. So many people say “Oh, I can’t give up cheese.” I was one of them — dairy was my favourite food group. I’ll admit that breaking off my love affair with cheese was not easy, but it was worth it. First of all, a video from Mercy For Animals (see their link at right) made me resolve to give veganism my all. There are great plant-based cheeses out there now. Daiya, Chao (made by Field Roast) and Earth Island are my favourites. The variety is tremendous: mozzarella, Provolone, cheddar, pepper jack and more.
- Yogurt. Most non-dairy yogurts I’ve tried have been, well, awful. But there one that I really like is Amande. I particularly recommend the plain and the vanilla, though there are many other flavours. The texture is slightly different, not quite as smooth as dairy yogurt, but I haven’t found that to matter. In fact, it can look a little alarming when you first open the tub, very lumpy and watery. Don’t worry. Just blend it with a whisk.
- Sour cream. Every baked (or barbequed) potato needs some. Now you can have your (vegan) sour cream and eat it too! There are several plant-based versions available by my go-to is Tofutti. Their non-dairy cream cheese is also fantastic (even non-vegans often don’t realize it isn’t dairy) and it makes a great vegan cheesecake.
- Ice cream! There are so many non-dairy ice creams on the market now. I can’t really say I’ve had a bad one, so buy different ones and see what rings your bells. They do vary in creaminess and some don’t have the consistency that omnivores associate with ice cream. One that’s virtually indistinguishable from its dairy counterpart, however is — again — Tofutti. Flavours include chocolate, vanilla, almond bark, and better pecan (not a typo!).
Check back periodically; as I find more yummy things, I’ll add them to the list.