We all know that we should be eating a rainbow of fruit and veg to be our healthiest, happiest selves. And, as we become more and more aware of the environment and of our own health, plant-based and vegan diets are becoming one of the biggest food trends in recent years. It’s easy to see why, too! After all, foods such as fruit, veg, nuts, pulses, lentils and whole grains are full of goodness and fibre. They are also easy on the purse strings, anti-inflammatory, can prevent certain diseases and can even help the environment (animal farming takes up a lot of land, fuel and food). Yet, however much we love our fruit and veg, making the switch to a plant-based or vegan diet can seem a little overwhelming for some. After all, where do we start, and how do we go about giving up our favourite foods? Can you really give up butter or bacon for good…?
If you are thinking about eating more vegan meals, but don’t know how to do it, then don’t worry. Simply start by switching out a few animal-based products for plant alternatives. Here are some of our favourite, yet simple, plant-based swaps to try at each meal:
1) Go Nuts
When it comes to breakfast, most of us reach for the cow’s milk to pour over our (homemade) granola (hello Sweetpea Flapjack Mix!) and into our coffee without even pausing for thought. Yet, all too often, cow’s milk is full of hormones which can send our own hormones and bodies a little haywire. As well as this, many of us can suffer with gas, bloating or cramps if we are intolerant to lactose.
Thankfully, there are now plenty of dairy-free milks available and they are very tasty and add variety to our diet! Next time you’re in the supermarket, why not try tossing unsweetened almond milk into your trolley? You could also try hazelnut milk (which tastes delicious in coffee), cashew milk (which is great if you want some creaminess) or even rice milk, coconut milk and oat milk. Similarly, you can try coconut, almond or cashew yoghurt, too. Happily, many of the main brands are also fortified with calcium and vitamin B12, so you won’t be missing out.
If you’re feeling extra brave, why not try making your own dairy-free milk? You can make your own nut milk by soaking your favourite nuts in water for 4-6 hours before draining and blending with 4 cups of fresh, filtered water, as well as a few dates and a touch of vanilla.
2) Swapping Eggs…
If you love baking, then you don’t have to miss out on perfect cakes and brownies. There are all sorts of alternatives to eggs when it comes to baking: you could try using a mashed banana, a chia or flax ‘egg’ (1 tbsp of ground chia or flax mixed with 3 tbsp of water and left to thicken), some apple sauce or even oil. When it comes to the perfect meringues, you can even switch out the egg whites for aquafaba, AKA the brine that’s found in a tin of chickpeas. Yes, really!
Meanwhile, if you love nothing more than scrambled eggs first thing in the morning, then you could try scrambling tofu instead. Once cooked with spices and plenty of flavour, you won’t even notice the difference!
3) Say Cheese!
Many people who fear vegan and plant-based diets fret that they couldn’t possibly give up their beloved cheese. Yet, there are plenty of plant-based swaps out there for fellow cheese lovers! Most supermarkets now sell vegan cream cheese, cheddar and even mozzarella. Meanwhile, you can switch out Parmesan in recipes for a sprinkling of Nutritional Yeast (also high in vitamin B12), or even make your own cheese from cashews, almonds or even tofu. We also love subbing mozzarella on our Sweetpea pizzas for dollops of hummus - delicious!
4) Lose the Mayo
Mayonnaise isn’t the healthiest of choices anyway, but many of us will happily succumb to a creamy, mayo-laden sandwich. If that sounds like you, then why not try using a plant-based alternative instead? You can use mashed avocado in most recipes which call for mayo (FYI, you can also use avocado as a direct sub for butter when you’re baking!), or even hummus. If you’re a fan of tuna mayo, you could also try one of the many recipes online for chickpea “tuna”.
5) Meat-Free Alternatives
We’ve come a long way from chewy, artificial meat alternatives. Here are some of our favourites:
- Lentils or even finely-chopped mushrooms taste delicious in recipes which call for minced beef - think lasagnes, bologneses and even tacos. Plus, they are much cheaper.
Tinned jackfruit is now available at most large supermarkets, and can work brilliantly as an alternative for pulled pork. We love flavouring jackfruit with a slow-cooked BBQ sauce and eating on top of homemade tacos.
- Tofu can be tricky to get right but, once you do, you won’t look back. It is particularly delicious when shallow-fried with sesame oil and salt and cracked black pepper, and also tastes delicious with satay sauces and threaded onto skewers.
- Beans - especially black beans or chickpeas - can make the most delicious plant-based burgers. Simply mash down, stir in herbs, spices, breadcrumbs and seasoning and bake or fry! Our personal favourite is black bean burgers. Tempeh also works perfectly as a burger sub.
6) Lose the Cream
Whether you’re cooking, baking or planning on decorating your favourite cake, try losing the cream and swapping it for a delicious plant-based alternative: coconut cream. Coconut cream works brilliantly in homemade curries, chocolate ganaches and even on its own - simply place a tin of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, then scoop out the solid part and beat with vanilla and a touch of sweetener for your own, homemade cream.
7) Try Nice Cream
If you’re an ice cream fan (us too!), then next time you have a craving, why not try making some from scratch? Banana nice cream is simple and kid-approved - simply slice several ripe bananas, freeze and then blend with fresh fruit, vanilla or even cacao until creamy. You could also try making ice cream from tinned coconut milk, or by using a combination of coconut milk and soaked cashews.
Do you have any plant-based favourites you’d love us to try? Let us know your favourites by commenting below, or messaging us @sweetpeapantry on Insta or Twitter.