10 Easy Vegan Swaps For Foodies

Considering that I’ve been meat, dairy, and egg free for almost five months, a vegan post was way overdue. And just to clarify: this post is not to try to sway you meat-eaters out there. It’s to open some minds and broaden some perspectives on what a vegan diet consists of. To finally address the hundreds of comments I’ve received in the last few months, like:

“so what do you vegans actually eat?”

“don’t you miss cheese?”

or, my favorite:

“is that even healthy if you’re pregnant?”

The short answer is that I eat a lot of things (just check out my Pinterest boards and try not to salivate), I do not miss cheese, an I am healthier than I’ve ever been! My skin has cleared up significantly, too, which is a major bonus.

I attended the first ever New York Vegan Food & Drink Festival last weekend and I have to say I was even overwhelmed by the amount of vegan options available in New York City and beyond. Moments like these remind me how lucky I am to live only 30 minutes from such a diverse, open-minded, edgy, groundbreaking city.

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How awesome are my vegan shirts? And they’re all available on Etsy!

“Vegan Life” – Healthy Merch

“Eat More Plants” – The Veg Out Project

“If You Need Me, I’ll Be Saving Animals” – Happy Head Tees

If you still have questions about all of this and wonder how I can possibly survive without meat, dairy, and eggs, I decided to compile a few, easy vegan alternatives for you guys. Because do not get me wrong: I am and always will be a foodie. Being vegan does not change this fact, it simply alters the rules a little bit. With a little bit of trial and error to find the brands I like and a pinch of creativity, being vegan is actually pretty easy.  And I’m not saying that just to convince you to make the change. It’s true.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.33.03 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.55.37 PMIf, like me, you happen to crave turkey wraps more often than you’d like to admit, then have no fear: Tofurky is the answer! I couldn’t believe I’d found a vegan cold cut brand that is not only healthy, but also totally pregnancy-friendly! Because, vegan or not (and pregnancy aside), cold cuts are really not good for you… that’s one thing I learned from watching the documentary What the Health. We can all live without nitrites, loads of sodium, and carcinogens!

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.32.58 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.52.28 PMThis “tuna salad” has become my staple for quick lunches. There is nothing better than mock “tuna” on fresh baguette 🙂 It doesn’t get any easier than this: open a can or two of chickpeas, mash them with a fork if they’re soft (a few pulses in the food processor if they’re too hard), chop up some celery and red onion, add some shredded carrots, and mix all ingredients with mayo or ripe avocado, for a healthier alternative.

I’ve gotten creative with this recipe, adding apple slices on top or even olive tapenade on one side of the bread. Yum! It doesn’t get easier, and the beauty of it is that you can store the concoction in the fridge for a few days and it won’t go bad. Enjoy!

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.33.13 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.57.13 PM.pngI do not miss burgers because I can eat a nice, juicy burger any day of the week. Although there are tons of veggie burger brands out there, I have a preference for Amy’s All American Veggie Burger and Beyond Meat Plant-Based Burger Patties. They’re incredible! They look so “meaty” that it’s hard to believe that they are entirely plant-derived. Give them a try! For you local mamas, I’ve found them at DeCicco’s, Whole Foods, and Green Organic Market.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.33.07 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.58.08 PM.pngDid you know that the real source of calcium comes from the earth, from plants, not from cows themselves? Cows, and other mammals, get their calcium by consuming calcium-rich plants.

In the past few months, I’ve tried a variety of plant-based milks to find my favorite one. In our household, at least, flax milk it is! I like almond milk and almond yogurts, but they have a distinct taste that doesn’t remind me of actual dairy. Flax milk could convince you you’re drinking a glass of milk or having a dairy yogurt. The taste and texture are so similar! Even my toddler gave up cow’s milk when I introduced him to flax! He didn’t even taste a difference, and that says a lot (he rejected almond milk instantly, by the way.) Our favorite flax milk brand is Good Karma.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.33.20 PMRawCashews.jpgI could go on and on about cashews. These delicious, versatile nuts go way beyond simple snacking. They can be soaked and transformed into basically anything from cheesecakes (you wouldn’t know the difference) to pasta sauces to actual cheese dip. Yes, you heard me: cheesy, gooey, melty cheese dip. If you’re feeling adventurous, I urge you to try a few of these recipes and get your mind blown:

Melty Stretchy Gooey Mozzarella Cheese

Easy Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake

Carbonara Pasta Sauce

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.33.26 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-08 at 9.01.30 PM.pngThere is nothing my pregnant body craves more than a buttered bagel. Luckily, I don’t have to give that up, either. Earth Balance tastes amazing (we buy soy free), and even I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! has a tasty vegan option, now. Yay!

I’m French, and everyone knows how much French people love their mayo 🙂 Fabanaise, by Sir Kensington, is my favorite – I use their Chipotle Vegan Mayo on basically everything. So yum.

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Before we even went vegan, we used to make frozen banana blender ice cream. Never heard of it? It’s easy. Freeze 3 bananas and simply blend them together when you want a sweet treat 🙂 We sometimes add peanut butter.

My favorite dairy-free ice cream brand is by far NadaMoo!. I discovered this coconut-milk ice cream from Austin, Texas pretty recently, and now my freezer is always stocked with at least two pints 🙂 But, hey. I’m pregnant.

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If, for you, brunch just isn’t the same without scrambled eggs and omelettes, you have to try scrambled tofu. I’ve perfected my version over the last few months by adding turmeric (for the yellow “egg color”) and black salt (kala namak, known for its sulfur, egg-like smell). Simply break up extra firm tofu in a pan until it resembles scrambled eggs, add your spices and all of the veggies, mushrooms, and potatoes you’d like, and… ta-da! Scrambled “eggs” 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.33.50 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-08 at 9.04.29 PM.pngI introduce you to nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch”. Vegans go crazy over it due to its health benefits (source of complete protein and vitamins, in particular B-complex vitamins, and contains folates, thimaine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium, and zinc!). It tastes slightly cheesy/nutty, making it a great topping for most dinners. My husband says it reminds him of cheddar flakes. I add it to most of my recipes.

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When it comes to my vitamins and supplements, I made it a point to eliminate gelatin (a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs – usually what vitamin casings are made of) and carageenan (exposure to this seaweed causes inflammation in our bodies, and chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart  disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer – It’s in almost everything from ice cream and yogurt to baby formula!)

The brand Rainbow Light is vegan and very attentive to ingredients – perfect for my prenatal needs.

Before going vegan, I also took fish oil every day due to its joint, heart, brain, and immune system support. Fish oil was one of those things that I had no idea how to replace once I went vegan. But after some serious research, I found Bloom, a physical therapist’s passion project. Free from carageenan, gelatin, rosemary extract, and other unnecessary fillers, Bloom is the cleanest source of omega 3s I’ve found on the market.

Did you know that just like the calcium fact above, fish oil has DHA and EPA because the fish eat the algae that produces it? It makes more sense to get both DHA and EPA directly from the source!

Whether you’re vegan, don’t want to eat fish, or worry about the poisons and radiation in fish, you are not alone: people all over the world are choosing omega-3s from algal oil.

What are some of your favorite vegan swaps?

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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