Wondering how you can tweak your daily life to become more plant-based? Yes? Me too! Aside from saving the suffering of the animals and minimising the effect meat and dairy production has on our planet, it’s a major bonus for our day-to-day general health and wellbeing. The secret is working out some simple plant based swaps.

For some people, ditching dairy and going meat-free is a breeze, but for others, it’s not so easy to give these things up. That’s OK, I get it, so I asked long-time vegan and former-owner of Phillip Island vegan café Island Wholefoods, Laura McNamara, for some simple but super effective tweaks to lighten our meat and dairy load, without even realising we are doing it.

Plant Based Swaps To Try

Swap Cows Milk for Plant Milk
There are plenty of amazing plant-milks on offer that make ditching dairy a no-brainer.

“Whether you try soy, almond, oat, coconut, rice, pea or hemp milk you’ll be on the right track,” says Laura. “Our favourite is cashew milk – especially in smoothies. Just add a handful of cashews to your smoothie and replace milk with water.”

My milk of choice is BonSoy milk, but occasionally I swap it out for coconut milk. As someone that loves milk in their tea, I can safely vouch that both options are creamy and delicious!

Swap Beef Burgers for Veggie Burgers
“It’s probably no surprise, but beef burgers don’t have a great deal of nutritional content and are often full of fat, especially if you buy the ones that are pre-made,” says Laura. “Why not try out some veggie burgers, which are often filled with lentils, chickpeas, tofu and beans?”

“You can easily pick up veggie burgers from the supermarket or you can make your own. Sweet potato and chickpea burgers are our favourite with homemade cashew cheese.”

If you can’t bear the thought of giving up your meat patties, try the new plant based mince available in major supermarket chains these days. My fave is Funky Fields Plant Based Mince from Woolworths. I shape it into burger-sized patties and add onion and herbs, plus egg replacement to hold it together. I then shallow fry and add a slice of Bio Vegan Cheddar Cheese (also from Woolworths). It’s the perfect vegan burger!

Side note: I also use this mince to whip up my ‘famous’ Vegetarian Lasagne, a shepherd’s pie or a chilli con carne – the options are endless.  

Swap Butter for Coconut Oil
There are plenty of coconut oil based vegan butters available in major grocery chains these days, so there’s no need to go down the butter path if you don’t want to.

Whether it’s a sandwich, a fry up or to drizzle on your jacket potato, they taste better than the real thing in my book and they are so much better for your health!

“If you’re mad on baking, try opting for pure coconut oil instead,” suggests Laura. “It adds a subtle coconut flavour and it is full of fatty acids that boost brain function. As an added bonus, coconut oil has been seen to help boost your metabolism and reduce your hunger.”

Swap Ice Cream for Frozen Bananas
Also known as ‘Nice Cream’ this is one tip I’ll be embracing as the mercury soars this summer! “You can blend up frozen bananas to create a similar consistency to ice cream, without the dairy, refined sugar, preservatives and other nasties,” reveals Laura. “You can add anything you like to the bananas, like berries, mango, toasted coconut and nuts. Our favourite combo is placing a few frozen bananas in a blender with a tablespoon of cacao nibs, two dates and a handful of almonds.”

Swap Meat for Beans or Mushrooms
This is a no-brainer way to add protein to your lunchtime salad as well as get a good ‘meat-free-meaty’ texture. It satiates, adds aforementioned protein, as well as a good dose of fibre and nutrients.

“Salads are a lunchtime staple in our house,” says Laura.  “Rather than grabbing a can of tuna or slicing up some chicken, we use beans to add that protein boost. Four-bean mix is a really nice option, because it gives you some variety. Otherwise chickpeas or lentils work really well too. If you do have time fry up a whole bunch of mushrooms with a little sea salt and place in the fridge to add to salads or grains.” 

Swap Eggs for Chia Seeds
When it comes to plant based swaps, this is a genius trick that helps takes eggs off your plate without you even tasting or noticing the difference. The bonus here is extra fibre, plus a boost of Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

“When baking a cake, muffins or other sweat treats, use a ‘chia egg’ instead,” suggest Laura. “It’s simply a tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 2.5 tablespoons of water. Mix together in a cup and let it sit for a couple of minutes. You’ll see the seeds puff up and become almost jelly like.” 

Swap Cream for Coconut Cream
I personally don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this anyway, as the taste is far superior and it’s a lot less detrimental to your health and wellbeing.
“Regular cream has lactose, which is a type of sugar,” says Laura. “It accounts for a 4g of sugar per 100g. When you need to add a little extra decadence to a cake or some berries, try whipping up a can of coconut cream instead of grabbing the dairy option. If you want it to taste a little sweeter, add a teaspoon vanilla.” 

Swap Mayonnaise for Avocado
Avocado is seriously one of the most versatile plant offerings around – and it’s a veritable superfood.

“We never feel like this is a compromise because we love avos so much,” says Laura. “They are a great addition to a sandwich and add lots of flavour and moisture. Plus, they are packed with so much goodness like potassium, fatty acids, and fibre and can even lower cholesterol. You’ll never look back.”

If you’re still not convinced, check out Follow Your Heart Vegenaise, which you can pick up at most supermarkets these days. It’s egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and preservative-free and tastes creamy and delicious.

Swap Egg Noodles for Zoodles
What’s that? A zoodle?

“It’s basically zucchini noodles that emulate the texture and shape of regular egg noodles,” explains Laura. “All you need is a spiraliser and a zucchini and you’re good to go! Rather than just the empty carbs you get from noodles, you’ll be filling up on a green veggie that’s nutrient dense and really tasty.“

“You can also make them from raw carrot or beetroot to jazz up your next stir-fry or salad,” adds Laura.”

Not handy in the kitchen? You can buy egg-free pasta in the health food aisle of most supermarkets – look for certified organic options that are made 100 percent Durum Wheat Semolina, or wheat-free contenders if you are gluten-intolerant or celiac.

Swap Creamy Dressings for Tahini
Not familiar with tahini?

“It’s sort of like peanut butter consistency but it’s made with toasted and ground sesame seeds, so it has a delicious nutty taste,” says Laura. “We make a great creamy dressing by whipping together tahini, lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt and coconut sugar and water.”

Another great way to add creaminess to a dressing is to whip in some avocado. 

Swap Milk Chocolate for Dairy Free
This one is always a struggle for me, because I find dark chocolate far too bitter. Laura to the rescue!

“There are loads of vegan chocolate options available now, with Loving Earth and Pana Chocolate being two of the most popular in Australia. You can easily find these in your local health food shop.”

“These chocolates can be a bit expensive, so you might wish to try making your own chocolate. Simply mix together raw cacao, coconut oil and maple. Add in nuts, seeds, freeze dried fruit or coconut and you’ll create a delicious and wholesome treat.”

Editor’s Note: Looking for some plant based swaps inspiration? Check out these great cookbooks:

This article was originally published on 25 October 2018 and has been updated.

About the Author

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After 30 years of working in Australian media, Shonagh is one of Australia’s busiest and most in-demand beauty, health, travel and lifestyle writers.

As a health and lifestyle journalist and consultant, Shonagh has worked closely with international wellness experts and icons, including Dr. Sandra Cabot, Therese Kerr and Miranda Kerr.

In other aspects of her work, she has travelled the world reviewing wellness retreats and luxe holiday destinations, and she has interviewed and written feature articles on some of the world’s best love celebrities, including Sting, Elle McPherson, Pamela Anderson, Simon Baker, Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani, Tina Arena, Heather Graham and many more.

She currently lives in the NSW Southern Highlands with her four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and one Maltese Cross), where she grows her own veggies and advocates ending Factory Farming and animal cruelty.

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