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The ULTIMATE Guide to Vegan Beginner Essentials | The Staple Foods That Helped Me Make the Change

Over the past year or so, I’ve made the transition to a vegan lifestyle. I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years, and found that it was the right time in my life to make the change and start this new chapter in my life. I’ve got a whole lot to say on my reasoning behind it, and where I am coming from in terms of my decision to go vegan, so if anybody is interested in hearing about my vegan story, feel free to let me know and I’ll try my best to fully articulate my thoughts.


Today, however, we’re going to be talking about the brands and products that helped me through the transition and that helped keep me on track. Like I mentioned above, I’ve pretty much been a lifelong vegetarian so my experiences and cravings most likely differ from somebody starting from scratch, but I still thought this post might be helpful as I’ve worked hard to find the most authentic and top notch products. There are plenty of categories in terms of vegan foods, but I thought today I would focus on the categories that people tend to crave most, and that people are dubious about in regards to vegan alternatives. So today the categories I will be covering include: Faux Meats, Vegan Cheese, and Vegan Snack Foods. Obviously, there are a million more topics I could cover, so if anybody wants my opinion on any other form of food let me know and I would be happy to cover it in another post.


With that being said, let’s talk about my favorite vegan alternatives…


Faux Meats: Mock meat can be intimidating for people. I think it’s because it looks so real, smells so real and tastes so real without actually including any animal products. But if something tastes good and helps you steer clear of any non-vegan foods, then I see no problem in eating it. A few of my favorite faux meat brands and products include:


  • Tofurky Deli Slices: Great for sandwiches or wraps, these Tofurky Deli Slices are a perfect fridge staple for a quick and satisfying lunch. My personal favorite are the Hickory Smoked Slices. Topped with some vegan mayo, spinach and vegan cheese, this is one of the best ways to satisfy a craving for a hearty sandwich.


  • Lightlife Smart Dogs: I can honestly say that I can taste no difference between these Lightlife Smart Dogs and a standard hot dog. With 8 grams of protein and only 50 calories per dog, this option is essential for a BBQ night.


  • Gardein 7 Grain Crispy Tenders: GUYS. These are one of the best vegan meat options on the market. Gardein by far has the best fake meat food in terms of consistency and authenticity, and to top it all off they taste freaking amazing. Throw some wedges in the oven and nobody will even know that these aren’t real meat.


  • Gardein Chipotle Bean Burger: I’m somebody who can devour a burger in a matter of minutes. But sometimes veggie burgers can be a bit bland- well not these bad boys. Packed with flavor and protein, these burgers are blended so perfectly to achieve the right consistency that you won’t be pulling full pieces of vegetables out of your teeth. With just the right amount of spice, these are some of my favorite burger options on the market.


  • Gardein Fishless Filets: While I had never really been a big fish stick fan in general, I can confidently say that these are as authentic to the real deal as it gets. I don’t know how gardein does it, but they manage to get not only flavor, but consistency on point every single time.


  • Whole Foods 365 Meatless Burgers: Another delectable burger option out there comes from the Whole Foods store brand, 365. Their “Meatless Burgers” are juicy and jam packed with flavor, and has 13 grams of delicious plant protein. The next time you’re at Whole Foods, I would definitely recommend checking these out.


Vegan Cheese: Cheese for me was by far the hardest thing to give up. Since I was already a vegetarian for so long, the meat issue was no big deal for me, but cutting out cheese was a challenge for sure, especially because, in all honesty, a lot of vegan cheese straight up sucks. But, through lots of trial and error I managed to scrounge up a list of cheeses that I find are the most authentic and truly taste good. Again, in all honesty, most of these aren’t spot on duplicates of their non-vegan counterparts, but they definitely don’t taste bad- it’s just a matter of getting used to the small differences. My top picks for vegan cheeses include:


  • Fieldroast Chao Creamery Vegan Slices: Putting it out there right away, in terms of sliced vegan cheeses, these are number one. They melt, they’re creamy and they don’t have that nasty underlying scent that lots of vegan cheeses have. These are my favorite for throwing on a Tofurky sandwich, or to make a grilled cheese. If you can get your hands on them, these are the ones to go to.


  • Follow Your Heart Cheese Slices: A close runner up are the Follow Your Heart Cheese Slices. I much prefer the Follow Your Heart slices to their shreds, but all in all these are almost as good as the Chao option. I would say that the only difference is that they aren’t quite there in terms of consistency when cold, but the flavor is great and that’s what matters.


  • Parmela Creamery Aged Nut Cheese Mozzarella Shreds: Holy mother of crap. If you’re looking for shredded cheese, these are numero uno, top dog, king of the world. I picked these up with no expectations and was thrilled to find that these are by far the best cheese shreds I’ve ever had. I’ve never tried slices from this brand, but if they’re just as good as the shreds I would be one happy chica.


  • Kite Hill Cream Cheese: As a New Yorker, bagels and cream cheese are a staple in my diet, and were probably the hardest thing to “give up” when I went dairy free. Luckily, I had heard that Kite Hill had a cream cheese option pretty spot on, so I decided to give it a go. While it doesn’t taste exactly like cream cheese, and it has a slightly more crumbly consistency, it tastes good. I go back and forth between this and the “Better than Cream Cheese” from Tofutti, but I think in the end, this option wins. That being said, it’s important to note that the Kite Hill option gets moldy really quick, and I can’t usually go through the container before it goes bad.


Snacks: I don’t know about you, but I’m a big snacker and get real hangry real quick. So, when I went vegan, finding alternatives for my favorite snacks was a huge essential and far easier than I thought it would be! Lots of snack foods are accidentally vegan to begin with (i.e. Oreos, Teddy Grahams, Potato Chips etc.) but I wanted to make the extra effort to find new snacks to test and try to keep me on track. So here’s a few products I’ve been loving over the past year:


  • VeganRobs Cauliflower Puffs: I found these tasty treats completely by accident, and couldn’t be happier about it. As I was strolling the aisles of my local convenience story, I saw bags of VeganRobs Puff snacks, so I picked up a few. These are basically just a healthy and vegan option of cheese puffs. My favorite options are the Cauliflower White Cheddar Puffs, and the Cauliflower Probiotic Puffs. These are honestly just great for snacking as a side with lunch, or for a night of movies and netflix.


  • Endangered Species Chocolate: As a self-professed choco-holic, finding the perfect chocolate bar was an essential for me. The Endangered Species Chocolate Bars give 10% of sales to fund the conservation and preservation of animal habitats and animal welfare. With a ton of tasty flavors (my favorite options being the orange, cranberry and almond, and sea salt and almond) these chocolate bars make me feel a little less guilty about satisfying my late night cravings.


  • NuGo Slim Protein Bars: I’ve been getting really into working out and staying fit over the past few months, and I realized that I needed to pay better attention to my protein intake. After doing some research, I found that these NuGo Slim protein bars (vegan options are peanut butter, chocolate mint, and chocolate coconut) had the best protein to calorie count as they have 16 grams of protein per bar with only 180-190 calories- which is pretty stellar for a protein bar. Like any protein bar, I will admit that these are a bit on the dry side but the flavor is delicious. One of my favorite ways to eat these is by cutting them up into little nugget bites and sprinkling them on banana ice cream or mixing it in with my oatmeal. Yum Yum Yum.


  • Beanitos Chips: While my go-to chips are Salt and Vinegar, knowing that I was going to be giving up Doritos definitely tugged at the heart strings a big. While the Purple bag of Dorito’s ARE VEGAN, I was missing my traditional nacho chips- that is, until I found these Beanitos Nacho Flavor Chips. Honestly, there’s so little difference between these and standard Dorito’s, I’m not even going to get into it much more than by saying, if you want Dorito’s, get these instead.


  • Fruit and Nut Chewy Bar: I don’t know about you, but granola bars are some of my all time favorite snacks. Unfortunately, a lot of granola bars have some kind of milk or eggs in it, so I had to read the labels on all of my favorites and found that these Nature Valley Fruit and Nut Chewy Bars were not only totally safe for me to eat, they were the best granola bars I’ve ever tried. Sweet and crunchy with a mix of nuts and cranberries, I keep 4 of these bars in my backpack at all times if I’m ever struck with a bout of hunger. And if I’m not in the mood for a bar on it’s own, I love crumbling these on top of a smoothie bowl or bowl of oatmeal to add a little more crunch and flavor.


  • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars: When I’m craving something a little sweeter and cakier than a granola bar, I gravitate towards the Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars. These pretty much taste exactly like the Nutrigrain (non vegan) granola bars and are perfect for on the go. I actually bought a giant box of the Blueberry, Raspberry and Apple Cinnamon flavors from Costco since I go through them like water. Since they’re so sweet and chewy, these are also a great option for a slightly healthier dessert.


I hope this list of some of my favorite vegan food options helped out some of you who have been struggling to find goodies that will keep you on track! While I try to stick to eating whole foods on a day to day basis, sometimes getting some aid from packaged “carnivore approved” snacks is a great way to make the transition.

Like I mentioned above, if there are any other vegan topics you want my opinion on, I would be happy to keep working on more pieces like this.


Have a wonderful day,

Love, Lieve


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