Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Animal Products
Though you don’t really need any of these healthy vegan substitutes, they can help make your transition to a 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 in the bottom sections 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. Don’t be one of them!
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 to help others. There are much better options available.
It is always best to stick with whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and gluten-free grains, mainly. They are the foundations of a healthy diet. Small amounts of nuts and seeds are also important in moderation. Many of the healthy vegan substitutes below are nut or seed based and high in fat, so use them sparingly.
Umami – The Flavor You May Be Missing in a Vegan Diet
Umami is naturally present in animal products and many people miss it when switching to a plant-based diet. When you start looking at vegan cookbooks, you will probably notice how often recipes include nutritional yeast and soy sauce. The reason they use these is for the “umami” flavor. Unfortunately, neither is recommended in the Medical Medium protocol.
The good news is that there are healthier options that can add the rich, umami flavor. Here are some healthy ingredients to add umami to your vegan meals:
- dried sea vegetables (seaweeds)
- mushrooms (especially dried shitake)
- tomatoes (especially dried)
- green tea
- Chinese cabbage
- vegetables (especially when roasted or sauteed): asparagus, peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, winter squash, celery, onions, garlic
- olives (especially dried)
- vegetable broth (Pacific brand low sodium and Trader Joe are MM compliant)
- sauerkraut and other fermented foods (fermented foods are not recommended by the Medical Medium, but he said they are okay to eat in moderation if you like them)
- coconut aminos (I especially like the garlic flavored)
- chickpea miso
- savory spices: toasted cumin, paprika (especially smoked), rosemary, thyme
- Toasted nuts and seeds
- Indian Black Salt (aka Kala Namak)
- Roasting, caramelizing, browning and grilling all boost umami
Olives and chickpea miso are very high in salt, so use 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 really healthy. If you are dealing with any sort of health issue, avoid all tofu (soy) and nutritional yeast (MSG).
Indian Black Salt, also known as Kala Namak adds an amazingly egg-like flavor to any dish. A tiny sprinkle on avocado can make it taste like egg salad.
Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Cheese
Many vegan cheese substitutes have all sorts of artificial ingredients, canola oil, nutritional yeast, 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. Good for an occasional pizza or veggie burger. 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.
It is really easy to make your own nut and seed based cheeses. Here are a couple of good cookbooks to get you started (or do a search for recipes online):
This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home – Julie Piatt offers some great cheese and cream substitute recipes. Just skip the agave (try maple syrup), nutritional yeast, and other less than healthy ingredients. There are a lot of great choices to try in this book. It is really quite easy to make your own plant-based cheeses. Once you start, you may get addicted!
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). Try replacing yeast with dried mushroom powder and/or chick pea miso, and other ingredients from the umami list above.
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. Here’s another oat milk recipe you may want to try – https://avirtualvegan.com/oat-milk/
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/
Make your own yogurt with any nut or seed milk. Just mix in a starter (from commercial vegan yogurt, or probiotic capsules) and leave in a warm place overnight… or longer if you like it more sour. You can also buy kefir grains to make your own kefir the same way, or get it started with a commercial kefir drink like coconut kefir or Kevita.
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. Needs refrigeration (or freezing if you won’t use it within a week or two), or mold will grow.
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 and use in moderation.
Nutiva Buttery Coconut Oil – Their website says the butter flavor is from “certified organic non-GMO plants including sunflower, coconut and mint.” It does contain red palm oil, but the Nutiva website claims, “…Rainforests and orangutan habitats are not destroyed in the growing of Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil.” Nutiva seems like a trustworthy company with a lot of good, organic products, so I’ll take their word for it. Again, lots of saturated fat, so use sparingly. Good flavor and (unlike Miyoko’s) can be used like ghee for sauteing and does not need refrigeration.
In general, when looking for desserts and dessert recipes, think Paleo. They avoid dairy, refined sugars, canola, 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 Substitutes for Gelatin
Agar is made from seaweed. It is one of the go-to gelling agents in vegan and vegetarian cooking. You can make desserts like Jello, or add it to jams, or vegan cheeses as a thickener. http://www.grassrootsvegan.com/blog/making-vegan-gelatin
Healthy Vegan Substitutes for Meat and Seafood
Frankly, I never missed the taste or texture of meat at all, and I haven’t eaten it since 1969, 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 without citric acid. Native Forest brand is a good one. Portobello mushrooms make a great burger substitute.
Get your protein mainly from green vegetables, beans or lentils, 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 brand are pretty good, though they do have a little soy sauce in them.
If you want 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 using this recipe.)
I did try a meat substitute called Beyond Meat recently at a cooking demo. Yes, it has the taste and texture of hamburger, but the ingredients are not very healthy. If you absolutely can’t live without that meaty experience, you might want to try it, at least as a transition food. Personally, there are so many other delicious foods I’d rather eat.
This book by The Gentle Chef looks fascinating, though I don’t have it yet – https://thegentlechef.com/gentle-chef-cookbooks/the-gentle-sea/
More healthy vegan substitutes here – https://delightfuladventures.com/vegan-substitutes-common-kitchen-staples/ Most of these are Medical Medium compliant recipes, but watch out for gluten (seitan), soy, nutritional yeast, and other “not advised” ingredients.
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