There is no doubt that we are seeing a shift towards more people adopting a plant-based diet. The evidence is clear, eating a diet that is rich in plant-based foods is both beneficial for our health and environmental sustainability.
Having said this there are several factors to consider before transitioning to a plant-based diet. The most important of these is maintaining the nutritional adequacy of one’s diets, as excluding animal-based foods from the diet increases a person’s risk of nutritional deficiency. Second to this is finding plant-based alternatives that match up in flavour and taste!
Sahil Shah, Cofounder, PlantVita shares some dairy-free food swaps to consider for those wishing to transition to a plant-based diet.
Cow’s Milk - let’s do the swap - embrace plant-based milk that delivers on taste without removing a calf from its mother.
My mornings, like most people, begin with either tea or coffee- no surprises there! Below is my take on the alternatives available:
Soy milk is a great all-rounder both in terms of taste and nutrition (comparable to cow’s milk, minus the fat & cholesterol!). Made from ground soybeans and water. Its neutral taste works very well as an ingredient for both tea and coffee, or smoothies- if that’s your go-to.
Sahil Recommends PlantVita Fresh Soy Milk, Chetran’s Soy Milk as they’re both fresh and free of preservatives!
Almond milk is another great, neutral alternative for both tea & coffee. Sometimes this tends to split when you shock heat it, so always tamper (link to an explanation of tampering) the heat.
Sahil Recommends: SoGood Almond Milk because it’s the most pocket friendly and widely available! (Check out their Almond+Coconut, that’s a favourite)
Oat Milk is a rich and creamy alternative that’s ideal for coffee! It even froths well like cow’s milk. I’ve had this with tea before but it’s an acquired taste (chai fanatics won’t be satisfied, unfortunately!)
Sahil Recommends: OatWow by Urban Platter is my go-to because its widely available and their online delivery is extremely quick. Oatly is honestly my favourite, but it’s a shame we don’t get it in Mumbai!
Cheese - swap it, but still keep it cheesy
Who doesn’t love their cheese? This was one of the trickiest alternatives to get right because let’s be honest, most of the plant-based cheeses out there just don’t hit the spot.
One thing I’ve realised is that plant-based cheeses need to be defined by their use case and not mimic traditional cheese names (cheddar, parmesan, etc) because they rarely taste alike. That’s why my cheese-hack is to have different cheeses for spreading, melting and simply sprinkling. It’s a shame, but I’m still on the hunt for a plant-based cheese that just tastes great enough to nibble on as is.
- Gouda by Sheese has been my long time go-to for grating/slicing onto sandwiches, pizzas or anything that will require it to melt for creaminess.
- Pizza Cheese by Katharos has been an interesting new find for me. This is a soft cheese that can be poured onto sandwiches, quesadillas, pizzas etc since the cheese will melt anyway. Great taste and texture, highly recommend giving it a shot!
- Truffle Cream Cheese Spread by SoftSpot is my gourmet, indulgent cheese pick. I guarantee even non-vegan/non-lactose intolerant folks will crave this after their first bite. Spreading this on a toast is the perfect comfort snack.
Curd/Yoghurt - your probiotic boost without the meddling lactose!
Finding the most appropriate curd/yoghurt alternative is rather tricky because nothing quite mimics the semi-solid texture and slight tartness of homemade dahi. However, I’ve done my fair bit of scavenging to find a few close substitutes to dahi that honestly don’t make me miss the dairy!
- Soy Curd by Chetrans has been a new discovery that’s my top recommendation to those who are looking for the closest match to dahi that can even be enjoyed plain. Highly recommended trying their Chhaas as well (if you can find it!) - I guarantee you won’t stop at just one glass.
- Coconut Yoghurt by Epigamia is one of my top picks as well since I really like the subtle taste of coconut and the rich, creamy texture - typically use this when using yoghurt as an ingredient replacement for dahi in foods like coconut chutney, tandoor marinades, etc.
- Peanut Curd by GoodMylk is an interesting alternative for those who don’t mind strong undertones of peanut in their curd. I only enjoy this occasionally with specific combos like curd+rice or in a curry, but a great product nonetheless.
Hope these suggestions help you find your alternative match so that shifting towards a more plant-based diet becomes a sustainable habit! It’s completely normal to find the tastes and textures of new plant-based alternatives unrelatable, but I found it much easier to develop the taste and soon after begin enjoying it once I reminded myself of the Why. Why did you decide to make this swap for the better?
For me- I valued my health, body and productivity the most (what’s great is that even though it might sound selfish, moving towards a plant-based diet has so many positive externalities on our environment and society).