Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Animal Products
Though you don’t need any of these substitute foods, they can help make your transition to a healthy Whole Foods Plant Based diet a lot easier and more fun. When you are craving the familiar textures and flavors of animal products, check out this page before you fall back into old habits.
Healthy vegan substitutes for dairy, eggs, and meat products were once hard to find, but now there are so many good options available. New products and recipes are coming out all the time. Just check ingredients to make sure they don’t include any of the ingredients listed on the bottom of the What Vegans Eat page.
One reason so many Vegans are unhealthy is because they rely on unnatural junk foods made to taste like animal products. (Or they don’t take B-12 and Omega 3 supplements.) They adopted a vegan diet out of compassion for animals, but never learned about healthy nutrition.
Some vegans are willing to sacrifice their own health to protect animals, and that is a noble ideal. However, it doesn’t really make sense to undermine your health for your beliefs. There are better options available.
It is always best to stick with whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and gluten-free grains, mainly. Small amounts of nuts and seeds are also important in moderation. Many of the substitutes below are nut or seed based, so use them sparingly.
Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Eggs
Egg substitute recipes – http://freefromharm.org/food-products/delicious-vegan-eggs-recipes/
Ener-G Egg Replacer works well for baking.
Aquafaba (cooking water from garbanzo beans, or other legumes) is great for meringues or other egg white dishes – even works to replace the eggs in pumpkin pie.
The Vegan Eggz Cookbook and https://thegentlechef.com/ website. Unfortunately, many of these recipes are based on tofu and nutritional yeast so they wouldn’t be good for frequent use, but they can be fun for an occasional treat. If you are dealing with any sort of health issue, avoid tofu (soy) and nutritional yeast (MSG).
Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Cheese
Many vegan cheese substitutes have all sorts of artificial ingredients, canola oil, and/or gums, so always read labels. Here are a few good choices to start with:
Kite Hill Artisanal Delicacies are almond based and delicious, plus they have excellent ingredients! – Original, Ricotta, and Truffle Dill & Chive are highly recommended. They also have cream cheese style products, but those have a lot of added gums, so not as good.
Treeline Treenut Cheeses are also great tasting and made with excellent ingredients. They are cashew based.
Miyoko’s Fresh VeganMozz and Smoked VeganMozz are tasty and melty, though not particularly nutritious. Yummy for an occasional pizza or veggie burger dish. However, most of their other products (while delicious) contain nutritional yeast, which is not recommended by Anthony William.
Miyoko also has a cookbook called Artisan Vegan Cheese. Most of the recipes contain nutritional yeast, but there are a few that do not. Coconut oil is also a dominant ingredient, which can raise your cholesterol. You might be better off looking for recipes online.
The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook – Jo Stepaniak has created a whole line of excellent vegan cookbooks (again, most of the “cheese” recipes in this book depend on nutritional yeast for flavor, so use sparingly or not at all).
Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Milk & Dairy Products
Make your own almond, hemp seed, or cashew milk. You can strain it through a nut milk bag (most natural food stores sell them), but be sure to use the solids for something else (like a granola ingredient), so you get the whole-food nutrients. Soaking nuts or seeds first will make a smoother milk.
Gluten-free oat milk – my daughter makes this a lot and it is quite tasty. It is also much less expensive to make than nut-based milks and has the added bonus of being safe for those with nut allergies. Organic gluten-free steel cut oats are available from Bob’s Red Mill.
New Barn Almond Milk – some of their flavors have healthy ingredients and are great if you don’t want to make your own.
You can make “milk” from lots of different seeds, nuts, or grains. Yum Universe tells you how, PLUS what to do with the leftover pulp:
Yogurt & Kefir Subsitutes
- Forager Plain Cashew Yogurt and Plain Drinkable Yogurt have great ingredients and taste like the real thing, but unfortunately, the flavored ones have “natural” flavors added – choose Plain!
- Harmless Harvest Coconut Probiotics are delicious, with healthy ingredients. (But I don’t recommend their coconut water, because it is pink, which means it is oxidized) – http://www.harmlessharvest.com/coconut-probiotics/
- Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter – It is actually delicious! It contains a lot of coconut oil, so limit consumption if you have issues with high cholesterol.
- Raw flax oil with a sprinkle of Celtic Sea Salt provides a nice buttery flavor for things like baked potatoes. Make sure your flax oil is very fresh.
- Nutiva Buttery Coconut Oil – I haven’t tried this one, but their website says the butter flavor is from “certified organic non-GMO plants including sunflower, coconut and mint.” Let me know what you think if you try it.
In general, when looking for desserts and dessert recipes, think Paleo. They avoid dairy, refined sugars, and grains (no gluten), so they are generally pretty healthy. Just make sure they don’t include eggs!
Ice Cream Substitutes
There are lots of vegan ice creams on the market. Unfortunately, many of them have unhealthy ingredients like agave, refined sugar, tofu, soy, gums, and “natural” flavors. Read labels and choose the ones with healthy ingredients.
Here is one “Paleo ice cream” brand I love – http://vixenkitchen.co – They use cashews and maple syrup, and it tastes pretty good.
For flavor, I love Coconut Bliss, but since they use agave as their sweetener, I now avoid it. (Agave is similar to high-fructose corn syrup in the way it affects blood sugar.)
Meanwhile, my favorite frozen dessert is a frozen yogurt I make in my food processor. Just process together:
1 cup frozen Wild Main Blueberries
1/2 cup Forager Plain Cashew Yogurt or Plain Drinkable Yogurt (or less)
Drizzle in a little organic maple syrup, date sugar, or raw honey if you like it sweeter. It is delicious!
Most commercial cookies have gluten, refined flour, refined sugar, and/or eggs. You can find some good gluten-free vegan recipes online, but sometimes you just want to buy a box of cookies that are made from healthy, whole food ingredients. Simple Mills makes pretty good cookies with excellent ingredients. I like the double chocolate best.
They also make a healthy cookie mix and other baking mixes.
Healthy Vegan Meat Substitutes
Frankly, I never missed the taste or texture of meat at all, so I haven’t explored this category much. Most recipes and commercial products you will find are made from unhealthy tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), tempeh, or textured vegetable protein (fractured soy), so I wouldn’t recommend them.
Look for recipes and products using jackfruit, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, lentils, and beans. Jackfruit has a particularly meaty texture and it absorbs whatever flavors you cook it with. Look for it in BPA-free cans. Portobello mushrooms make a great burger substitute.
Get your protein mainly from beans or lentils with gluten-free grains, or quinoa, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. Cook beans and grains well and make them into loaves or burgers.
Try this grillable burger recipe for starters. You can even use nut milk pulp for the bread crumbs, or look for gluten free bread crumbs – Mary’s are pretty good, though they do have a little soy sauce in them.
If you are looking for a “liverwurst” flavor, this recipe looks interesting – http://www.nathalielawhead.com/candybox/lacto-fermentation-raw-vegan-leberwurst. I haven’t tried it, so send me feedback if you do. (Dr. Greger recommends avoiding the kimchi ingredient, because it may be connected with higher prostate and breast cancer rates, so use your own judgement about trying this recipe.)
This book by The Gentle Chef looks fascinating, though I don’t have it yet – https://thegentlechef.com/gentle-chef-cookbooks/the-gentle-sea/