The rapid rise of veganism in New Zealand over the past couple of years has seen the introduction of a wide range of new vegan packaged foods and products, many of which make those considering becoming a vegan a much simpler process. Making the switch to a fully vegan lifestyle doesn’t need to happen overnight; it is good to take a gradual approach to allow your body to adjust but also to give yourself time to find yummy alternatives!
Removing all animal-derived products from your diet does bring about several nutritional challenges, but with awareness and a bit of forward planning these challenges can easily be conquered. The biggest mistake most new vegans make is assuming all vegan food is healthy. A vegan cupcake is still a cupcake, a vegan burger still a burger – it is still possible to consume too much processed food, salt and sugar on a vegan diet.
Foods Vegans Need To Watch Out For
A quick skim of the food labeling should identify if any hidden ingredients in packaged foods, look out for milk or egg derivatives. However for items like wine the ingredients are not always clear, these are some of the big ones to look out for.
- Gelatine. This is made from collagen taken from animal body parts it is used in sweets such as marshmallows and sometimes added nutritional supplements – check the labels!
- Food Colouring E120. Some confectionery, drinks and other products can contain the food colouring E120 which is essentially the ground up shells of the cochineal beetle.
- Whey And Casein. These are milk proteins found in many processed foods such as crackers, biscuits and chips.
- Alcohol. While not directly made from animal products, most wines, some spirits and beers are ‘fined’ or filtered using animal products such as egg white or fish. See our handy list of New Zealand vegan wines here.
- Honey. Honey is a tricky one that can turn up unexpectedly in a lot of vegetarian foods. Common vegan substitutes are agave syrup or maple syrup.
Vitamins And Minerals – 7 Things You Need To Know
When following a vegan diet it is important to be well informed about the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain optimum health, here are our top 7 vitamin and mineral related things you need to know.
- B12. You will need to keep an eye on your B12 intake as it is not able to be sourced from plants, supplementation is common.
- Iron. Although found in foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and tofu, iron supplementation may also be necessary.
- Protein. You will need to find alternative sources of protein that are plant based. Think nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and tofu – for more information on getting enough protein see here.
- Soy. Consume soy and soy products such as tofu in moderate amounts.
- Calcium. Plant sources of calcium are readily available, however it can be difficult to get enough so fortified cereals, breads and plant based milks are good options.
- Iodine. It is difficult to keep track of how much iodine you are getting from foods, supplementation is a possibility.
- Omega-3. It can be difficult to get adequate amounts of omega-3 from a vegan diet, supplements may be necessary.
5 Vegan Substitutes You Can’t Do Without
Having trouble find alternatives for those family favourites like cheese, eggs and milk? Read on for our top picks and handy insider tips.
Often the one thing that most people struggle with when going vegan, finding a suitable cheese substitute can be tricky as they just don’t quite provide the same cheesy experience. However the good news is there are some vegan cheeses emerging in the market that come fairly close.
- Angel Food. A good one to look out for, they provide everything from “cream cheese” melting “mozzarella”, “feta” and “parmesan” alternatives.
- Delishu. Providers of naturally fermented probiotic cultured cashew “cheese”.
- Green Vie. These guys provide some great dairy free alternatives including “gouda”, “mozzarella”, “cheddar” and even a “Haloumi” with the choice of a block or slices.
- Leahey. If cheese sauce is what you need then the Leahey Cheese Sauce Mix is where its at. They even have a gluten free option too.
- Oliana. For great “cheddar” and “tasty” style blocks along with the option for slices as well.
- Savour. Offers up a great organic range of nut cheeses, including some interesting flavour combinations like ‘toasted cumin and pepper’, ‘smokey chipotle’ and ‘seasonal botanicals’.
- Zenzo. These guys do a nice range of “cheddar” style vegan cheeses that are also allergy friendly with no gluten, nuts or soy.
- Or… to create your own cheesy style flavours you can try savoury yeast or even tahini thinned with a bit of olive oil. See here for more ‘at home’ vegan cheese ideas or to source some of the excellent vegan cheeses mentioned above online Cruelty Free Shop
2. Dairy Milk
Traditional cow’s milk is now one of the easiest things to replace when going vegan. There are plenty of plant-based milks available straight off the supermarket shelves. Some are more suited to certain uses than others, so you will need to do a bit of trial and error to find what works best for you.
- Almond Milk. Almond milk has a subtle, nutty taste and is great for use on cereals and in baking. Best of all you can very easily make this one yourself all you need is a blender and a nut milk filter bag (or very fine sieve). If you are looking to buy off-the-shelf my personal favourite is the Pure Harvest Organic Activated Almond Milk it has no added sugar and does not use any added flavours or gums.
- Rice Milk. Rice milk tends to have a very thin and watery consistency, and some types can have extra additives so read the label. Rice milk is useful in any instance where you would use cow’s milk as it has a bland flavour although it can be a bit watery for baking substitutions. For a quick pantry staple try out Nutra Organics Rice Milk Powder and make your own milk on the spot.
- Soy Milk. Perfect for on your cereal, soy milk has a more creamy texture and is considered the closest to real dairy in terms of its protein profile. Soy Milk has a very distinctive flavour that can be off-putting for some and restrict it use in some applications. It is recommended that levels of soy intake are kept in moderation.
- Coconut Milk. Not the same thing as what you get in a can, coconut milk is available in by the carton or in powdered form. Coconut milks are often higher in fat content and have that distinctive coconut taste. Use coconut milk for baking, on cereals and even in thinks like milkshakes and for coffee and tea (it will taste a bit different thought!).
- Oat Milk. Oat milk is the perfect option for cereal as the taste fits right in. In fact oat milk works in place of any cow’s milk application quite well. Watch out for additives in some brands and sugar content, oat milk is not considered gluten free. Oat milk can also be made from scratch at home.
This one is a biggy for some – how can you survive without your daily fix! – don’t panic there are actually plenty of really good examples of chocolate that do not contain any dairy products. In fact chocolate connoisseurs will tell you “real chocolate” does not contain milk or dairy at all.
A quick check of the labels will help you choose, don’t be scared off by “Cocoa Butter” this is made from cacao and it not a dairy product. Keep an eye on some of the more complex flavour combinations as additional ingredients found particularly in some artisan ranges will mean they are likely to contain dairy products.
- Sweet William. Australian company makings dairy free, gluten free, nut free vegan chocolate products including chocolate bars and blocks, baking chocolate and chocolate spreads. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are available.
- Trade Aid. Their range of Fair Trade Organic chocolate has some good dark chocolate options including Dark Chocolate Almonds, Classic Dark, Salt Toffee Crisp, Dark Raspberry, Pure Dark and Mint Crisp.
- Bennetto. All of Bennetto’s chocolate products are vegan, organic and gluten free. Choose from flavours including Orange with Chilli, Mint and Cocoa Nibs, Toasted Hazelnut, Raspberry Dark Chocolate and Coffee Dark Chocolate. Bennetto also make really good drinking chocolate.
- Loving Earth. These guys make some beautiful chocolate that is ethically sourced, plant based, organic, sugar free, gluten free and soy free, and the wrappers are entirely compostable! My personal favourite is the Salted Caramel, but they are all so good!
- Whittakers. If you like more main stream brands, seek out only Whittakers darker chocolates including Dark Ghana, Dark Peppermint and Dark Cacao, stay away from the more milky chocolates as they will contain milk powder.
4. Other Dairy Products
Butter, yoghurt, cream and ice cream are three of the main food items most people will seek to explore vegan alternatives for at some point in their transitional journey. The good news is there are now so many great options you will have a lot of fun trying them all! Here are our top picks.
- Best Butter Substitute. Nuttelex have a great range of oil based spreads.
- Best Yoghurt. Almond yoghurt is my favourite by the Good Boost Co. or try the amazing Cathedral Cove coconut yoghurt range.
- Best Cream Substitute. The Good Boost Co. also makes an awesome Cashew Cream product that whips up great. Coconut whipping cream is also available from the team at Natures Charm.
- Best Ice Cream. The Little Island coconut ice cream range is a clear winner here, their organic coconut ice cream is available in a wide range of delicious flavours.
Eggs can be slightly more complicated when searching for replacements but it largely depends on what you are trying to make. As a rule of thumb the more egg in the food you are trying to make the more difficult it is to successfully replace – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done!
In baking… When baking cakes, cookies or other baked goods you can buy something like Orgran Egg Replacer which is a packaged product designed specifically for the purpose or you can just use ground flax seed, chia seed, ground LSA or any mixture of these kind of products.
When mixed with water the ground seeds expand and become gluggy mimicking the consistency of an egg. Use roughly 1 tablespoon with about 3 tablespoons of water. Mashed bananas or pureed apple are also great subs when used in cakes and muffins.
Scrambled eggs – scrambled tofu makes a good replacement for scrambled eggs. Tofu can also be used in place of eggs in quiches.
Going vegan has never been easier, need some inspiration for vegan meals and snacks? Take a look at our great range of vegan recipes here.
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