Can you imagine life without cheese on pizza? I couldn’t either… the last five years have been a breeze as far as being vegetarian goes. But vegan? Gosh, that’s a whole other story. It’s not just a way of eating – it’s a whole lifestyle and mindset shift. My goal is to be 100% vegan by the end of this year, so I thought I’d share pieces of my journey here since it’s a big part of my life – and a message I really want to share.
I want to help get rid of that bloody annoying stigma attached to vegans…
That they’re some of the unhappiest people on the planet, because trust me, I’ve met plenty and they’re far from it. In fact, they’re some of the HAPPIEST people I know. You know the kind of people who radiate JOY. I don’t think it’s fair to attach lables to people who choose this lifestyle… some people are just fed up with the way animals are treated and I guess that comes across sometimes.
But, when I think of vegans, I think of love and compassion and kindness.
Health, too… that’s definitely a big factor. But, it’s that love mindset I think, that’s at the heart of going vegan for many people, myself included. It’s making a choice to not support industries that exploit, abuse and kill sentient beings.
Because, really, animals have just as much right to live and to be here as we do.
And, when you see someone like Beyoncé with over 100 million Instagram followers inspiring others to give the vegan lifestyle a try, WOW! That just makes me so damn happy.
So, if you’ve seen the word vegan thrown around lately, and you’re thinking about giving it a try, but you’re kind of on the fence because, well… cheese, expenses, etc., I’m glad you’re reading this. Because, just like everything else I write, I’m sharing my journey (the highs and the struggles) and what I know or learn with the intention of helping you feel good about life and yourself.
I’m going to share the GOOD stuff – the food ideas, the amazing lifestyle transformations and the healthy stuff. Let’s not focus on all the negativity, the internet is there if you want to go research (I’ll also pop some links below – there’s a really good speech by Gary Yourofsky which is a fantastic watch I’d recommend to anyone considering giving up meat / dairy).
Right! Enough with the intro, let’s dive in… I’m sharing a few simple vegan alternatives that are really easy to incorporate into your day or switch to. This will be the first of many posts like this, so let me know if there’s something you’d like me to write about in the future wrt vegan lifestyle and food.
P.S. Vegan cheese is really good on pizza!
7 SMALL VEGAN SWITCHES THAT ARE EASIER THAN YOU THINK
First thing’s first… the stuff that goes in coffee! Years ago, dairy alternatives were really gross, well, at least here in South Africa. But, NOW you get all kinds of amazing non-dairy “milk”. Almond milk is my number one choice, but it can get a bit pricey, so I usually stick with soy milk (GMO-free). These are available in your local grocery shop. Of course, there are plenty of other options, like rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk… I think there’s even a hemp seed milk. We’re pretty much spoiled for choice.
Even better? More coffee shops every day are FINALLY getting with the program and offering dairy-free milks on their menus, too. Now if only they’d give us some cake that’s egg and dairy-free, that would be wonderful – but, baby steps… At least it’s a step in the right direction and some progress.
2. Cheese & yoghurt
I’m a HUGE pizza lover, so this was a tough one for me when I started my vegan journey last year. For the first 6 months or so, I made my own pizza at home – without cheese. (It’s not bad at all when you have great toppings… really!) But, when the craving really hits, thankfully, there are vegan foods out there, like dairy-free cheese.
If you’re in South Africa, Checkers sells Natures & Moi for just over R40 a block (cheddar, mozzarella or white). It’s honestly the best vegan cheese I’ve tasted so far. Of course, if you head to the weekend markets, you might find some other varieties, too. Point is, you don’t have to have your pizza without cheese, YAY!!!
As for yoghurt, there are definitely soy options out there – I like the fruity ones from Woolworths.
Another reason many people don’t want to go vegan? The fear of never being able to eat chocolate again… Jeez, imagine that! Thank goodness we don’t have to, because again, there are dairy-free chocolate options.
Yup! Lots of them actually. I think there’s a dark chocolate brand of Lindt that’s dairy free, but my absolute favourites are:
- De Villiers chocolates (that Nib & Salt one… OMG, it’s so good!)
- Honest chocolates
Woolworths has a great selection, but you can also check out health food shops and online places like, Faithful to Nature to get your choccie fix!
So, little head’s up… if you do decide to give up meat, one of the first things your well-meaning friends and family WILL ask you, is “BUT, how do you get your protein?!”
Try not to roll your eyes. I do… Because, I once wondered the same thing. I guess it’s different for this millennial generation, but back then, we were all brought up thinking that meat was the only kind of protein there was. It was the norm.
Today, we’ve got plenty of meat-free protein options, like…
- Most vegetables
And can I just say? If you’ve never had chickpea curry or spicy lentil soup, you’re seriously missing out. Really. Pinterest will be your new best friend if you decide to start eating more plant based foods.
The obvious one, but probably the biggest alternative for most people. Thankfully, there’s way more than bland soya mince on offer these days… and MUCH tastier. You can literally get any kind of “meat” as a vegan food. Think chicken, polony, hot dogs, burgers, schnitzels, sausages, mince, prawns, beef, etc. Lots, right?
Again, we’re really spoiled for choice. And this is just South Africa. If you’re in the US or Europe, you’ve got way more options like turkey and all kinds of things. My favourite go-tos for meat substitutes are Fry’s and Quorn.
I think the important thing to keep in mind with vegan meat alternatives is they’re processed. Not that I’m a dietitian or anything, I just like to limit the processed foods I eat, so it’s not an everyday food. (Btw, The Green Dietitian on Instagram is my favourite vegan dietitian to follow. She does amazing Sunday meal preps!)
(If you’re going to a braai or BBQ, vegan burgers or hot dogs are great to take with!)
6. Baked goods
Okay, so this one is a little tricky…. It’s also the main reason why I’m not fully vegan yet. I really try and eat before heading to a coffee shop with a friend, but sometimes I cave in and get a scone or the muffin of the day. I haven’t actually found a place in the winelands that serves a whole range of dairy-free cakes, etc. I know Cape Town CBD has aaaaall the vegan food… but we’re still waiting here for some kind soul to open a vegan restaurant or cafe in or around Somerset West.
One day… hopefully soon.
In terms of everyday bread and rolls, it’s awesome to see vegan bread options in some of the bigger supermarkets – they usually display this on the front of the package. I’ve seen bread and rolls that are 100% vegan. And, if you enjoy baking, there are PLENTY of really awesome vegan vloggers on YouTube to inspire you to bake some yummy vegan goodies.
My favourites are Cheap Lazy Vegan and The Happy Pear. Go check them out!
SUPPORT FOR YOUR VEGAN JOURNEY
Listen, giving up anything is hard and it’s a process, I know… I thought I could make the 100% switch in a heartbeat, but it’s a little trickier here in South Africa where it’s still very much seen as an afterthought or some kind of fad diet. Urrrrg… It’s a lifestyle, NOT a diet.
Point is, it can be tough, which is why I really recommend finding some kind of support system in the beginning.
I’m part of two vegan Facebook groups and they’re really helpful and inspiring, because you connect with other like-minded people. Twitter is also a great place to find motivational vegans to follow, vegan chefs, influencers, the works.
Below is a little extra info in case you’re interested and if you want to take these conversations further, I’ve got a “coffee chat” email I send out every now and then where I’ll share some more behind the scenes and inspiration for healthier, happier living.
Further inspiration to give going vegan a try…