Diet & Nutrition

9 easy vegan food swaps you need to know if you're trying a plant-based diet

Thinking of going vegan but don’t want to ditch your favourite meals? These simple and yummy food swaps may help.

Veganism and plant-based diets are on the rise, with plenty of research showing a meat-free lifestyle can not only be beneficial for just your health, but for the planet too.
Vegans choose not to eat all forms of meat – including seafood, livestock and poultry – eggs, dairy products, honey and gelatine.
For many people this also includes more than just what they put in their bodies, also foregoing any materials that are derived from animals such as fur, leather, silk, wool as well as cosmetics and skincare that contains animal products or that's tested on animals.
Just this week former Bachelor star Art Green, who also happens to head Paleo food company Riot Foods, revealed in an Instagram post that he would be trying out a plant-based diet for a month, "just as an experiment".
Other celebs following a vegan lifestyle include Beyonce and Miley Cyrus.

One of the big hurdles for people wanting to try going vegan is thinking about all the things they can't eat and the worry that it will make eating out more difficult.
Thankfully, due to the rise in people adopting vegan lifestyles, not only are vegetarian and vegan-dedicated restaurants and eateries popping up all across New Zealand, but even popular food chains like Hells Pizza, Dominos, Burger Fuel and Mexico have menu additions that will satisfy hungry vegans.
So before you wonder how you could possibly live without cheese, or lament how you'll no longer be able to kick-start your day with some scrumptious scrambled eggs, here's some handy vegan food swaps that'll make the switch all the more easier.

1. Milk

When it comes to milk, the options seem never-ending.
From almond to soy, coconut to rice, cashew to oat, you'll find there's an abundance of dairy-free milks readily available.
Out of all of the milk substitutes, soy has the most protein and is also the most comparable to cow's milk for baking and cooking.
Meanwhile, almonds are a natural superfood and are low in saturated fat, making it a healthier alternative to trim milk.
There are a variety of milks out there ranging from almond to soy. (Image: Getty)
Many of these milks work as a perfect substitute for milk in baking, cooking and sauces, however be aware that some of them, such as soy and coconut, will add an additional flavour to your cooking, so keep this in mind when choosing to add it.

2. Mayonnaise or butter

What would be a sandwich, wrap or toast without a spreadable topping? Luckily there's plenty of vegan options you can swap your mayo or butter with.
You can easily swap out butter with avocado or dollop a spoonful of hummus or nut butter to your toast.
And you'll be happy to know that they're all full of healthy fats and protein.

3. Yoghurt

Nothing beats a few scoopfuls of yoghurt with your morning muesli and luckily you don't have to wave goodbye to the creamy addition.
There are plenty of coconut and almond yoghurts available, which can be bought both plain or flavoured.
Coconut yoghurts tend to be more rich and creamy, but if you're not a fan of the taste of coconut, opt for a lighter almond yoghurt.
Want to still have scrambled eggs in the morning? There's a substitute for that! (Image: Getty)

4. Eggs

Eggs are a very common ingredient in baking, but most times its addition is purely as a binding agent.
A handful or chia seeds or ground flaxseed combined with water also does the trick! It may sound like a strange swap, but after sitting for about 10 minutes, it'll thicken up to a jelly-like, egg consistency. This also works a treat in vegan burger patties, and with both chia seeds and flaxseed containing high amounts of omega 3, it's a nutritious substitute too.
If you're someone who likes to kick-start their day with some scrambled eggs, you'll want to give scrambled tofu a try!
Opt for a firm tofu rather than silken tofu, and either crumble it in your hands or use a wooden spoon to break it up in the pan. Just like you'd season or marinade meat, you'll want to do the same with tofu. For Asian flavours add a splash or soy sauce or Thai curry paste with a sprinkle of spring onions or for a Mexican style add corn, capsicum, spices like cumin and chili and a handful of fresh coriander.

5. Mince

The classic spag bol, nachos, meatballs and burger patties all have one common ingredient: mince, and while this ingredient might not be on the list of vegan-friendly foods, there are plenty of substitutes that'll have you enjoying some family-favourite meals.
Lentils or finely chopped walnuts are a great mince substitute in spaghetti bolognaise, while beans work a treat for nachos or mashed up for burger patties or meatballs (black, cannellini and kidney all work well).

6. Cheese

Ah, cheese. Perhaps the one food that most people feel they just can't part with. It stars in many a dish and is an easy way to impart extra flavour.
Thankfully, this hasn't gone unnoticed. Mac and cheese is still absolutely achievable – the cheesy sauce can be created with cashew nuts, almond milk, steamed pumpkin and a magical cheesy ingredient: nutritional yeast, which, despite the name, doesn't have a yeast-like flavour.
And much like other dairy-free alternatives that have been popping up left, right and centre, more and more varieties of vegan cheese are becoming available – if you head to the cheese aisle at your supermarket you'll likely find blocks of dairy-free mozzarella and cheddar.
It might look like pulled pork and taste like pulled pork, but believe it or not it's actually the tropical fruit, jackfruit. (Image: Getty)

7. Pulled pork

Whether you like it in a burger, soft tacos, or burrito, you might be pleased to know that this Southern-style meat is easily achievable thanks to a vegan-friendly fruit. That's right; you'll be able to recreate vegan pulled pork until your heart's content by substituting it with jackfruit.
Generally available in New Zealand in a tin, the tropical fruit has a look and texture that closely resembles pulled pork, and its mild flavour means it won't take away from the seasoning and sauce that would usually accompany the meat variety.

8. Milk chocolate

Being vegan does by no means mean you have to say no to treats.
If you feel yourself having a craving for chocolate, opt for the darker variety. Dark chocolate will almost always be dairy-free (check the ingredients to be 100 per cent sure). The higher the cocoa percentage the more bitter it'll be though.

9. Cream

Coconut cream makes for the perfect alternative in savoury dishes like curry, but if you need a whipped cream for dessert, pop a can in the fridge overnight, drain off the liquid that would have separated, and pop the coconut solids in a bowl ready to whip.
Want to whizz up some chocolate mousse? Avocados once again come to the rescue. And if you thought you'd have to wave goodbye to ice cream, pop some peeled bananas into the freezer before blending them with some fruit, or simply buy a tub from the ever-growing list of dairy-free ice creams now available.