The assumption is always the same: fake meat and cheese, grass, which all tastes like cardboard. Basically, bland and boring food. Besides, who in their right mind would give up steak for tofurky!?!?
In all honestly, some vegans do eat this way, which is why it’s important to make a distinction between vegan and the sub category: whole food plant based. The two lifestyles may seem similar on paper because they both avoid eating animal products, but are quite different when you look at the specifics.
WFPB: Eat foods that are as close to their natural packaging and minimally processed. Focus on getting the majority of your calories from fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Vegan: Simply avoid animal foods. There aren’t any specific rules about where your calories come from as long as it’s not from animals, which creates the hazards of overindulging in oils and highly processed substitutes.
Contrary to the myth that “there is nothing to eat” when you cut out animal foods, the reality is far more pleasant. In fact, once you switch to WFPB it’s as if someone rewires your brain and all of a sudden you become the most adventurous eater. Turning your kitchen into a foodie’s playground. Bring it on Chopped! You’ll be convinced that Tom Colicchio should send you a personal invitation to appear on Top Chef for your creative use of zucchini.
Let’s start with some weird ingredients that most people don’t use of until switching to WFPB.
Fun extra ingredients
Nutritional Yeast (nooch)
This is a little herbie’s gold mine! It’s a complete protein and packed with vitamins, especially the B-complex. Some are also fortified with B-12. I have to admit I was a little hesitant to start using this at first. The first batch I dared buying- only about 1/4 cup from the bulk section, sat in my pantry for months. How do you use this stuff?!?! Fast forward and now it’s a basic staple. Throw it into any old recipe that calls for a cheesy flavor. Need a seasoning for popcorn, baked potatoes or roasted veggies- nooch. Want to make a cheesy chili, sauce or broccoli soup- nooch. Stock up on this one.
Liquid whaaaat? Having to say good bye to BBQ may be hard, but that smokey flavor can still be a part of your life with a couple of these drops. It’s made by collecting the condensation that’s formed from bbq smoke…hence the name, liquid smoke.
It’s very similar to soy sauce, and can be interchanged in any recipe. The main difference is that tamari is made without wheat- making it gluten free. It also comes in various sodium levels, which makes it easier to consume less salt than traditional soy sauce.
Wait a minute, broth isn’t just for vegans! You’re right, it’s on this list as a substitute ingredient for oil. Once you start analyzing the nutritional value of one food, you scrutinize everything. Many people who go plant based also give oils the boot. Broth steps in for sautéing and roasting.
Powders (arrowroot, lucuma, maca, agar agar, spirulina, chlorella)
I’m specifically referring to a plant/algae that has been ground up into powder form, not the commercially blended powders for protein shakes or juices. This is not an advertisement for Isagenix or Juice Plus.
Each of the above listed powders has its own set of culinary purpose. Whether you want to thicken a sauce, or give a nutritional boost to a dish these plant powders have you covered.
Let your asian food fetish take over. Miso paste isn’t just for traditional miso soup. It can be used in many non traditional ways ~ it’s my secret weapon to making any whole wheat pasta taste good. Just add a tablespoon to water and you’re good to go. You can also use it in dips and sauces.
Tahini is just ground up sesame seeds. If you’re worried you aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet add some tahini. Sesame seeds are a powerhouse source for calcium. Use it in a salad dressing. Get my two ingredient dressing here, or make your own hummus, recipe here.
Tempeh and Seiten
Instead of fake meat, tempeh and seiten can bridge the gap in flavor and texture if you are missing meat. These can be especially useful products during the transition phase into WFPB. Some people incorporate both of these products as staple ingredients in their plant based journey, while others stop eating them after their cravings for meat are gone.
And now the basics with a twist ….
Arguably the most important food category, can offer a lot of new ways to eat veggies with just a little bit of creativity and an open mind. Starchy vegetables can be pureed into thick sauces to provide a similar texture as traditional cheese based recipes. Cucumbers, zucchini, etc, can be easily shaped into noodles with fun kitchen gadgets. Heartier vegetables can be used to make sandwich patties. The list for alternative uses of vegetables is endless.
If you’re trying to cut down on table sugar, but still want the sweetness-dried fruits are the perfect substitute. Keep dates, raisons, or coconut sugar on hand to blend into you recipes. Frozen fruits transform into delicious desserts. Whether you use frozen bananas, berries or coconuts, you’ll forget all about the dairy based ice creams. You can enjoy all the sweetness without the guilt.
Beans and Legumes
These hearty foods are terrific substitutes for the dense texture of meat. Enjoy a new world of burgers, lentil loafs, soups and spreads with the ingredients from this food category.
There are hundreds of different varieties of beans and legumes that are staples in many cultures around the world. Explore an endless list of dishes from places like India, Mexico, Middle East, and Africa. Using the Chipotle method of cooking will give a new experience in the kitchen each time you cook, preventing you from getting bored.
Think of these as magical pebbles that can be transformed into a bazillion uses. Nuts can make all sorts of traditional dairy items: milk, butter, sour cream, yogurt, cheese and even ice cream! Blend them up with some dried fruit and you have yourself pie crusts, power bars, and snack bites.
Hello flax eggs and chia pudding! No joke, after switching to WFPB you’ll start going through a bag of flax seeds in a matter of weeks. And just like nuts, seeds are perfect for making crusts, power bars, and substituting dairy milk / butter.
You knew this was going to pop up here. Many plant eaters incorporate tofu as a substitute for meat as a protein source. Despite the recent negative press about over eating soy products, tofu is an excellent source of fermented soybeans. Plus, like many other food ingredient, tofu shouldn’t be consumed on a daily basis. A few servings a week is enough to create delicious sauces, dips and included as an extra topping.
There is life outside of all-purpose flour. Get adventurous with garbanzo, almond, whole wheat pastry, spelt, rice, amaranth, kamut, buckwheat or coconut flours. You get the idea, any whole grain can be ground up into flour- many are also terrific choices if you are trying to avoid gluten.
All together, there are hundreds of plant sourced ingredient options. Most likely you will actually start eating a wider range of foods compared to omnivore days. Escaping the omnivore box unleashes the creativity juices to create beautiful new dishes. If you’re bored with the same old roasted chicken take a stroll to the wild side of plants.