Beginner’s Guide to Going Vegan: Fun Food Swaps & Recipes

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“If you choose to eat meat …. you love PETS not ANIMALS.” – Miley Cyrus

Since films like Okja and health documentaries like What the Health, more and more people have been adopting to a vegan lifestyle. The celebrities pledging to ditch the meat since watching these is mounting. Just a few weeks ago singer Ne-Yo posted a video online of him in a supermarket after watching What the Health and asking for advice and recommendations on what to eat as he was no longer ‘messing with that meat’. Claiming ignorance before watching the much talked about health documentary, he’s now fully embracing a vegan lifestyle. And many are following in his footsteps. But it’s a massive move to make, and one that can be somewhat overwhelming. You’re suddenly breaking food habits that you’ve had for the majority of your life, and you’re having to find new ways to cook. So, here is a quick guide to going vegan and the switches that you can make to get started.

Some tips on getting started

  1. Go through your kitchen with a black sack (or give it away). Yep, it’s time to purge. When it comes to adopting to a vegan lifestyle you need to remove all of the animal-based products that you’re accustomed to eating. It takes around 21 days to break food habits, and those first few weeks are the most trying, so its best to remove temptation. Throw away everything you no longer wish to eat, and remind yourself why you’re doing so.
  2. Be kind to yourself. I think this is the most important step to remember. Some people have been vegan for many years, with some having being raised that way, so for them it’s like second nature. You’re going to make mistakes. You may accidentally eat something with eggs or milk in it; don’t worry. It’s happened to the best of us. Just consider it a lesson learned and move on.
  3. Time to stock up those cupboards. You need to start building a base for meals. A vegan lifestyle is actually very cheap; you don’t have to buy expensive superfood powders or fancy faux meat substitutes. It’s easy and affordable to make delicious dishes from plant based ingredients. So stock up. Lentils, chickpeas and black beans will become your new BFF.
  4. Pay no attention to what those around you think. It can be frustrating having to explain yourself and your choices. Going vegan is great for both the health and the planet, and the reasons why you are making this choices are yours alone. You’ll be met with judgement, and you’ll likely have people recycle these lines: ‘But you need meat for protein.’ ‘How will you get your calcium?’ Learn some facts that you can use to educate folks such as where you’ll be getting your protein from, or why you’ve made the decision to go vegan. Or simply reply that it’s a personal decision and leave it at that if you don’t want things to turn into a debate.
  5. Try not to judge those around you. It can be easy to feel like you need to shine the light on all of those around you. You can educate people without preaching to them, and if people see how great you look and feel since ditching meat and dairy, they may just follow in your footsteps.
  6. Preparation is key. Whether you’re running errands or going to work, make food to take along with you. Nothing is worse than being hungry and having no idea what you can safely eat. So, especially in the early days, food prep at home for the week ahead and make snacks to keep you going when out and about. Bliss balls are a really great snack, as are vegan bars.

Okay, so now for those food swaps! 

One thing to remember before going vegan is that it’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change, yes, but restrictive and boring? Nope. Anything you enjoyed before going vegan and believed you could never give up has a vegan friendly option out there. It’s all about sourcing recipes, and getting to know and understand some new staple foods. Now is the best time to go vegan because the vegan food industry is truly making miracles happen. You can still have your chicken salad, your BLT sandwich, your Sunday roast dinner . . . just switch out the meat options for vegan options. And trust me when I say there’s a vegan sub out there for everything. Vegan duck? Linda McCartney has you sorted. Turkey slices? Tofurky got you covered.

Milk → Nut Milk

Making the switch away from milk is pretty simple. There are SO many dairy-free alternatives, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a milk to suit your preferences. Soy milk is readily available and a great option but there are other options. For example, almond milk is great with muesli, whereas coconut milk is great for coffee as it adds a creamy sweetness. Pay attention to how you feel when trying new nut milks. Some folks have problems digesting some of the additives in commercial made milks. A favorite line at Healing Lifestyles is Califia Farms. The entire line is carrageenan-free, and milks include everything from almond to coconut, horchata to creamer.

Fancy making your own milk at home? It’s easy to do, and much more cost effective. Why not start off with almond milk. Get the recipe here.

MAYONNAISE → HUMMUS

While there are many vegan options on the market when it comes to mayonnaise, there are also other alternatives that add creaminess to dishes. (If you want to make your own vegan mayo, try this one using aquafaba the brine leftover from chickpeas!) My favorite mayo-swap is hummus; you can dip veggies into it, smear it onto a sandwich, throw it onto a salad . . . anything goes! And you can play around and adopt the flavors; try roasted red pepper for a slight infusion, or jalapeno hummus if you’re a fan of a kick.

For now start with this basic hummus. Get the recipe here.

Butter → nut butters 

There are dairy-free butters readily available, with some of the more mainstream butter brands now jumping on the bandwagon and producing vegan alternatives. But it’s just as delicious to use some type of spread, such as a nut butter. Use it on bread or toast and then top with slices of banana for a quick breakfast. You can even dip apple chunks into some nut butter as a delicious and filling snack.

There are many different varieties of nut butter to make; the most popular is peanut and it’s such a great place to start. Get the recipe here.

CHEESE → CASHEW CHEESE

Cheese is one thing many struggle to give up. They go as far as being vegetarian, but protest that they can’t live without their cheese fix. The great news is that vegan cheese options have come a long way over the years. Brands like Daiya and Tofutti are popular brands that taste great, but it’s also pretty easy to make your own type of hard cheese or spread.

A great recipe to start with is this cashew cheese. It’s super rich and creamy and can be used as a spread. Get the recipe here.

EGGS → TOFU

Giving up eggs has never been so tasty! This tofu scramble even tastes eggy thanks to the addition of black salt, which has an egg-like sulphuric taste to it. You won’t miss eggs when it comes to baking; you can substitute a flax egg, or a chia egg in many recipes. But when it comes to scrambled eggs, some people still want their fix of eggy goodness.

Start off with this easy tofu scramble recipe and use it as a base for a variety of recipes. Get the recipe here.

CHICKEN → CAULIFLOWER

I get some people still want to eat meat-like foods, and that’s fine. There are some great brands out there such as VBites and Gardein who make mock chicken products so you can still enjoy your chicken based dishes in an easy and convenient way.

But one of my favorite replacements for chicken is cauliflower, especially cauliflower wings. Once baked they get a meaty texture to them, and once slathered in sauce they’re unreal! Get the recipe here.

MINCE MEAT → WALNUT MINCE

Minced meat was something I struggled to give up simply because I love tacos! I’d tried a vegan mock mince before, and while it was okay, it took a while to get used to. It wasn’t so much the taste I missed but the firm texture. And then I discovered that you can make your own from ground walnuts or lentils, and it was a game changer!

Make this walnut taco recipe; it’s raw and seriously easy to make. You can then either use it in lettuce wraps or use in place of where you’d traditionally use mince, like tacos! Get the recipe here.

BURGER → VEGAN BURGER

I am a HUGE burger fan. Burgers are actually something that is super easy to switch out of your diet. Brands such as Linda McCartney do pulled pork burgers that are succulent and tasty; you’ll have a hard time believing they are meat-free.

Alternatively, you can make your own. Quinoa is a great grain and really binds the burger into a nice and firm patty shape. Get the recipe here.

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Lora O'Brien

Lora O'Brien

Lora is a virulent wellness enthusiast. She freelances from the UK where you can find her writing about all things healthy foodie and natural beauty. Fun fact? She reads and watches more DVDs than the average human.
Lora O'Brien

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