Daiya Cheese – I had been sending sad vibes to the Universe that my favorite pizzeria (ok, any pizzeria) wasn’t making vegan pizza. I was ready to write a request when I learned they had recently discovered a great-tasting faux mozzarella. It was love at first bite. Within a day’s time I found that Whole Foods carried it as well in both mozzarella and cheddar. Best news yet: it was free of soy and casein. Score! I use Daiya on homemade pizzas, in pastas and on my killer grilled cheesus sandwich. While I don’t miss cheese anymore (a “food” I ate with every meal of every day), a little substitute every now and then is heavenly.
Brown Rice Pasta – I was introduced to this tasty treat while doing an elimination diet with Olivia. Among the culprits that trigger food sensitivities, we eliminated all foods with gluten. I had no idea there was a pasta so yummy and easy on the digestive system…and gluten-free! My only caveat with this product is it’s best to eat fresh…leftovers are a little tough (literally) unless you have it as a pasta salad with some sort of dressing for it to soak in.
Yogi Tea – When you’re a holistic health junkie cutting back or removing caffeine entirely from your diet, you’ll likely fair better to replace it with a new liquid love. Herbal tea is a great way to go. Thai Delight and Chai Rooibos are new favorites. Another little perk? Yogi teas come with quotes to contemplate while you sip and unwind. Om so good.
Chia Seeds – These little wonders certainly found ways to entertain (remember those chia pets?) but who knew they could be good for your health? They can hold 10 times their weight in water (hello hydration!) and provide you with fiber, protein, calcium and omega-3. They are a staple of the Tarahumara tribe, who take a chia fresca before their 100-mile runs. They work great before and after workouts. You can also use them in baking and puddings!
Don’t Mock This Mayo! – While I don’t use this often (the vegan label does not equal healthy/eat it on a regular basis), it’s mighty handy (and delicious) with potato and pasta salads and my grilled cheesus.
No Need to Fake It – I was never a huge fan of animal flesh to begin with and never really understood the appeal of fake meats. I get that they can help with the transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet but why would anyone want something that reminded them of cow tush or chicken breast? I love that there are burgers on the market that don’t taste like cow. Sunshine Burgers makes a kick-ass medley of veggies (without loads of mushrooms – a common “replacement” to beef and a fungus I’m just not fond of) and mom turned me on to Trader Joe’s Masala burgers. You won’t need any condiments…comes perfectly flavored and seasoned.
Remember the Lentils – Last but not least, I make sure to have a couple of Amy’s soups in my pantry…for days when I’m lagging with home-cooked meals. Her lentil soup is my favorite for taste and for the nutritional punch I get from the lentils (protein and iron, baby!).
While my diet consists of veggies, fruits, nut butters and milks, brown rice, and lentils/beans and many of the products listed are “sometimes” foods (with exception to the chia and tea) they are worth the shout out for giving the vegan life that much more pizazz.
When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease five-and-a-half years ago, I didn’t spend too much time finding gluten-free versions of many of the foods I’d relied on until then. Rather than hunting down the perfect gluten-free cereal or bagel or bread, I just moved beyond those things, a decision that I believe made me much healthier overall. [That said, I now indulge in gluten-free pizza and pancakes on a semi-regular basis.]
Now that I’m trying to eat a high-vegan (though still pescatarian) diet, I find myself in a similar situation. Fake meat weirds me out, and soy cheese just can’t be nearly as creamy as the real thing. Nevertheless, there have been a few substitutions from vegan pantries that have made my taste buds very happy while keeping my eats (largely) cruelty-free. Here are some of my favorites.
Purely Decadent Soy Ice Cream - As someone with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroiditis (that’s a mouthful), I feel it’s pretty important to limit my soy intake. That said, sometimes a girl needs some ice cream, and Purely Delicious Soy Ice Cream doesn’t give me an upset stomach, so I mark it a win. (It’s also available with coconut milk instead of soy, but I haven’t tried that…yet.)
Hemp Dream Hemp Drink - I always hated milk. Hated. My parents quickly gave up on trying to make me drink milk with meals (what’s with that, anyway???) as it became clear that my stubborn streak would win every time. But when I make my smoothies or want the rare bowl of cereal, hemp milk is my liquid of choice. Rice milk seems a little thin on the nutrients, and while almond milk can be a nice change of pace, I prefer the texture, taste, and health benefits of hemp milk. When I make my own nut milk, however, I go cashew; the hubs loves it, but we haven’t found it available commercially.
Red Star Nutritional Yeast - Sometimes I joke about being a cheegan. (I know, I know—but I’m a work in progress.) I’m pretty sure I could do the vegan thing without too much trouble if I could still nosh on a good goat Camembert or sheep Gouda. I dream of the day I can cut my ties with cheese with the level of success Jen has achieved. Until then, I have found one occasion when I can swap out cheese for a vegan alternative without sacrifice: nutritional yeast on tacos. It’s creamy and has just the right tang. If you’re looking for a place to start, tacos are it.
Black Beans & Mushrooms - Speaking of tacos, try this meat replacement: sauté some diced onion, then add a can of (rinsed and drained) black beans, a diced red pepper, and a whole ton of diced mushrooms. Sprinkle in taco seasoning to taste and let it cook down. Bomb. You could also puree this combo for a creamy nacho dip.
Hummus - I don’t eat sandwiches (pesky gluten), but if I did…I’d use hummus in place of mayo. And I used to love mayo. I just love hummus more. When I’m trying to prove to family how delicious gluten-free/vegan life can be, I often whip up some hummus and smear it on some romaine leaves for an easy and tasty wrap. Or plop some in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and paprika, and serve with carrots and celery. At our family reunion, the hummus lettuce wraps disappeared, and there were potato chips left over. I’m just sayin’.
What are your favorite vegan food products and staples?