A part-time vegan’s guide to plant-based swaps
Updated: Feb 16
When I say I’m a part-time vegan, I mean most-time vegan. I eat plant-based around 98% of the time, but I do eat things like honey and gelatin. I’m also not what I would call a lifestyle vegan. I still have a lot of leather (although most was purchased prior to my plant-based switch), and I’m not 100% confident that all of my products are cruelty-free (although most are). I tried out veganism when I watched the documentary The Gamechangers (it always starts with a doco), but I always wanted to give it a crack for environmental reasons. After about three days fully plant-based, I felt significantly less tired, and just better all around. In hindsight, I think I am probably a little dairy intolerant. And now I have the pleasure of saying “I aM aCtUaLly vEgAn” when offered a slice of prosciutto or a burger menu. Just kidding, I despise that moment.
Anyway, if you are looking to delve into the world of plant-based eating once a week, once a day, or for the rest of eternity, here are my top recommendations and tips. I am a cheese lover through and through, and I mean real cheese, not cashew cheese, so I do pride myself in being able to gauge if vegan swaps are actually good or just good for a vegan swap, but it has been a year since I’ve eaten animal products regularly, and your taste buds do adapt. I think this is a good thing, because it means I can happily live my life believing that Ben and Jerry’s dairy free ice cream is JUST AS GOOD as the original. Just don’t taste the two together, because the disappointment will absolutely destroy you, trust me.
Hungry Jack’s Rebel Whopper
This burger made me decide I could do the vegan thing long term. The worst thing about dietary requirements is the lack of access to choices. But HJ’s has pulled through for us with this plant-based delight. I recommend adding the vegan mayo (or regular mayo depending on your requirements), but skip the vegan cheese (it sucks). You won’t taste the difference between it and a regular Whopper, and if you say you do, you’re lying to yourself so pull your head in. The burger is not technically vegan as it’s cooked with the beef patties, so keep that in mind if it bothers you.
Nuttelex is dairy free margarine/butter spread. If you don’t compare it to a real deal salted butter block, it’s pretty good and you won’t notice a significant difference. I recommend the buttery version. It’s in your average supermarket with the butter.
There are actually lots of frozen snacks that are inherently vegan. Icy poles, sorbet, some gelato. But there has also been a surge in dairy-free ice creams over the past year. Some of them are a bit gross tbh, but I’ve found some goodies. The best are the dairy-free Magnums. They come in classic and almond. I like classic, but you do you. I think the secret is that they are made on coconut oil. This makes them creamy and chocolate-like. The ice creams made on soy or almond milk (Ben and Jerry’s) can be a bit soy-y and almond-y respectively. A seasoned vegan won’t notice, but if you’re new to the alternatives, you almost definitely will. Leave those ones to the professionals. An honourable mention goes to Weiss dairy free dark chocolate ice cream, which is kind of like a frozen chocolate mousse.
The meat subs that look like meat
Even though I am a vEgAn, I do actually have some issues with foods pretending to be other foods. Ie. Zucchini spaghetti? No thank you, no disgusting tubular mush for me. But I do eat a lot of meat substitutes. This is mostly because I feel the best on a relatively high-protein diet (mostly due to my exercise regime). I quickly learned that I can’t get around any kind of bean burger, or, god forbid, something that is trying to be a patty but is in fact made of pumpkin. Insulting honestly. So I go for the plant based meats like the ones in the HJ’s burger. The ones that look like meat. I like the Beyond Burger patties and Naturli mince the best (both readily available from Coles). Top tip, avoid any vegan ‘meats’ in non-see through packaging. They don’t want you to see them because they look disgusting.
Fry’s have a pretty substantial plant-based range of frozen foods that I’ve seen in Coles as well as a few specialty stores (where they are more expensive but have a wider range). I LOVE the sausage rolls, and the nuggets are great. They have two kinds of nuggets. The first are easier to find and are a soy and linseed variety. They are okay. The ones that are fake chicken are harder to find but significantly more delicious. I eat them both with the Coles Special Sweet Nugget Sauce. Fry’s also has a pie range (delicious), chicken schnitzels (average), and a seafood range (I like them, but probably not for everyone). They have stacks of other products, but I haven’t tried them. I also love supporting their family-owned business. Head to their website if you want to see their full range.
Chris’ Homestyle Plant Based dips
Oh my GOD I just CANNOT get enough of these dips. My favourite is spring onion and I just want to shrink myself and dive into the container and live amongst the creamy goodness until the end of my resultantly short and nutrient-deficient life. This shit is so good. They have some other flavours that I haven’t tried because the spring onion is so good, but I’m sure they are also delish. They have corn relish, guacamole, spicy capsicum and sweet potato and cashew.
Ask for the vegan option
Lots of restaurants and cafés will have vegan options off the menu, so ask if they have anything vegan before ordering. The ready-made vegan option will usually be much better than making a stack of swaps to their regular menu items, as it’s been created with veganism in mind. A good chef can make food taste good without butter/cheese/meat, etc., but likely will be less happy to make changes to a meal that was created to contain them.
Only eating meat when you’re out
Before taking the plunge, I was part-vegetarian for a while. The boundaries I created for myself were to not purchase meat to cook at home, but I would order it out. Eventually I started gravitating towards veggie options at cafes and restaurants as well. You could create these guidelines for anything you want, ie. cheese, eggs, etc. I don’t recommend you treat these as ‘rules’, and if you have a history of any kind of disordered eating patterns, this tip is probably not for you (I’m not a health professional).
The big egg dilemma
Okay. I think lots of vegans will be annoyed by this, but you can’t make a vegan egg. I know you can swap in applesauce and other things for an egg when baking, but a fried, poached, or boiled egg? No, no, no. I love eggs. I used to eat two eggs on a sandwich every day (sometimes twice a day), but it is something I have sadly let go of. I see people all over IG with their ‘vegan eggs’ made out of mustard. MUSTARD. That is no egg. So either let go of the eggs entirely, or just keep eating them as is. You can’t duplicate an egg.
You probably have plenty of snacks (maybe even meals) that are already vegan or vegetarian. Smashed avo? Vegan. Iced coffee? Vegetarian. Vegemite on toast? Vegan or vegetarian depending on butter (an opportunity to use your handy Nuttelex). Cheese toastie? Vegetarian. When I switched to a plant-based diet, I already had a bunch of go-to snacks that were already vegan or just needed one small tweak. In addition, there are lots of ‘accidentally vegan’ products out there, like Oreos and some buttered popcorns. Google ‘accidentally vegan’ for full lists - there are heaps.
Ditch the all-or-nothing approach
This is a tip for life, not just for plant-based eating. Lots of people quickly burn out from eating vegan because they go all in, only to be underprepared, or give up after taking one bite of a butter filled-cookie. You don’t have to commit to anything, no matter what the YouTube vegans say (just ignore them honestly). No matter your reason for cutting out or cutting down on animal products, every bit makes a difference. One less steak is almost 10 000L of water saved. Having cheese once a week instead of once a day might improve your skin or digestive system, to use Trump’s phrasing, BY A LOT. You don’t have to give up on veganism because the café put butter on your bread. You can either: 1. Eat it and move on with your life, or 2. Ask for them to remake it, eat that, then move on with your life. Easy peasy!
This is a mistake that a lot of people make when going vegan or vegetarian. Lots of vegan and veggie products and meals have less calories just because of their makeup. Undereating on a vegan diet won’t make you skinny and hot, it will make you iron deficient and ill. Most people who go back to eating meat post-vegan or vegetarian life were probably not eating enough calories and/or enough protein. You might have to eat larger portions or more regularly to keep up with what your body needs while eating plant-based. Again, I'm not a health professional, so speak to one or do extensive research to learn more about this.