There are many great reasons to switch to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re just getting started with a vegan or plant-based diet, you may be wondering what you can eat in place of meat and dairy products. If so, you have come to the right place. In this post, we will cover all the essential vegan food swaps to help you get started with a plant-based diet.
There are plenty of plant-based milk alternatives on the market, with most supermarkets stocking a wide variety. Plant-based milks are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals to help support a healthy vegan diet. Top brands include Alpro, Oatley, Innocent and KoKo, although other brands are available and most large supermarkets offer their own-brand versions of some plant-based milks. Some of the options available are:
- Almond milk
- Oat milk
- Pea milk
- Coconut milk
- Cashew nut milk
- Hazelnut milk
- Soya milk
As well as being widely available in stores, many of these milks are surprisingly simple to make yourself at home, with recipes widely available online. In addition, you should find a selection of these milks available in most coffee shops so you can still enjoy your favourite hot beverages on the go.
Dairy-free butter and spread alternatives are available in all major UK supermarkets from a range of brands. Supermarkets are also beginning to offer their own branded versions, which can often be cheaper. Dairy-free butters and spreads are made from a range of ingredients, depending on the brand you go for. Typically, vegan butters are made from oils such as coconut oil, olive oil or sunflower oil, as well as soya or nuts. Some of the best options currently available include:
- Vitalite dairy-free spread – made from sunflower oil with added B vitamins
- Tesco own brand alternatives – including soft baking spread, olive spread and sunflower spread
- Flora – Flora offers a range of plant-based spreads, including Flora Buttery, Flora light, Flora original and Flora Pro Activ. Always check the label as some may contain trace amounts of dairy due to manufacturing processes.
- Pure offers a range of dairy-free spreads, including olive, sunflower and soya versions
- Naturli offers vegan alternative spread as well as a block butter and can be found at select retailers in the UK, including Sainsbury’s
- Frylight butter flavour cooking spray is only 1 calorie per spray and is a great alternative to butter for cooking with
Many more dairy-free spreads are available, and there are options to suit all tastes and for various purposes, whether spreading on warm toast, cooking, baking or sandwiches. Nut butters are also a delicious alternative to spread on warm toast, and these are also a great source of protein. Again, always check the label to determine whether products are certified vegan or simply plant-based by ingredients.
Vegan cheese is a bit of an acquired taste. While some vegans love it, others avoid it altogether. Not all vegan cheeses are created equal, and you will need to explore the various options to find the one you like. Popular brands include:
- Applewood smoky vegan cheese alternative – available in block or grated versions
- Violife – coconut oil-based cheese alternatives available in block, grated or sliced versions as well as cream cheese, Greek, mozzarella and mature options
- Mexicana vegan jalapeno and chilli peppers
Most supermarkets also offer their own brand dairy-free cheeses. As with all dairy-free alternative products, make sure you check the label to determine whether a product is certified vegan if this is important to you.
The range of available vegan meat substitutes is rapidly growing. It’s possible nowadays to get vegan meat alternatives for pretty much any dish, with wide varieties available at most UK supermarkets. There are vegan and plant-based alternatives for burgers, mince, sausages, roasting joints, chicken style pieces, sandwich ‘meat’, nuggets, bacon style rashers and more. The range of products available varies by supermarket, but most large supermarkets have an extensive own brand range, including Asda’s Plant-Based and Tesco’s Plant Chef ranges. Other top brands include Quorn (be careful to select the vegan options as many Quorn products are vegetarian and contain dairy) as well as Richmond, Heck, Fry’s, Plant Pioneers, Vivera, Beyond Meat and more.
Other great sources of protein for vegans include tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, beans, quinoa and vegan protein powders.
How to shop for vegan essentials
If you are visiting stores, look for the vegan or free-from sections as supermarkets will keep these products separate from meat and dairy products for obvious reasons. While some stores may make it easy and keep all vegan products close to one another, you may have to seek out different sections for each product type – look for the sign above the aisle or ask a store colleague.
If you are shopping online, type in the product type you are looking for with either vegan or plant-based in front of it (e.g., vegan milk, vegan cheese), and the various options should come up. Sometimes, you will need to try several different search terms to retrieve the full range of results (e.g., try dairy-free butter instead of vegan).
If you are focused on eating a plant-based diet, simply check the ingredients label to determine whether the item is free from animal products. If you are strict about following a vegan diet, you will need to check the labels to ensure each product is certified vegan. This is because some brands cannot guarantee there won’t be trace amounts of animal products present due to manufacturing or supply processes. Most large supermarkets now label their own products as suitable for vegans to make it easier.
Let us know your favourite vegan food swaps in the comments below.