Switching to a plant-based lifestyle often means cravings for dairy-produced cheese. Here we outline some tips on how to deal with cheese cravings on a vegan diet.
On a vegan diet, vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains and nuts quickly become a staple of your food intake. All of these food sources are packed with nutritional benefits. However, newly-minted vegans often speak of cravings for dairy-produced cheese and struggle at times to overcome them. Thankfully, these urges will quickly subside as your body adjusts to the change in diet.
Going Vegan: Pros & Cons
Apart from the ethical benefits of going vegan, the biggest draw is undoubtedly its health advantages. However, it is worth noting that going vegan can have some disadvantages. It pays to do your research and be sure you are getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals in your plant-based diet.
Studies show that a sustained vegan diet may improve blood sugar levels. Since diabetes is a significant health issue in most Western countries, thanks to our higher consumption of processed foods and refined sugars, reducing your likelihood of developing this serious condition is a good thing. Lower cholesterol, improved gut health and a reduced risk of heart disease have also been linked to a vegan diet.
Keep in mind that vegan diets can lack vital nutrients such as zinc, iron, protein, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. You need to be aware of the best plant-based nutrient sources to meet your body’s needs. If you feel you may be lacking specific vitamins or minerals, vegan-based supplements can also help. When in doubt, seek help from a qualified nutritionist or dietitian.
Why Do You Crave Cheese on a Vegan Diet?
When people say in jest that they are “addicted to cheese,” they aren’t actually far from the truth. Dairy-produced cheese contains casein, a protein with an opiate-like molecule known as casomorphin. This particular component of casein acts on the brain’s dopamine levels, releasing a feeling of well-being in the brain, much like opiates do. Given this surprising and powerful effect, you can understand why so many people struggle to part ways with dairy cheese.
If you find yourself wondering how to deal with cheese cravings on a vegan diet, the good news is that you can overcome these cravings with little to no fuss — all while remaining true to your plant-based lifestyle.
Foods That Satisfy Cheese Cravings Quickly
Nutritional yeast is a great way to ease cheese cravings and hits the spot almost immediately. Nutritional yeast is easy to find and is also incredibly versatile; you can add a few sprinkles to virtually any hot or cold vegan dish.
Olives are another excellent plant-based food source to help you fend off cheese cravings. Rich, salty, umami olives can give you a quick hit of savory satisfaction much like cheese. Keep fresh, organically sourced olives on hand at work and at home to curb your cravings.
Tahini, a creamy paste made from toasted and ground sesame, is an ideal cheese alternative for sandwiches and burgers. Much like olives, tahini is plant-based. It also provides much the same versatility as nutritional yeast since it can be integrated into a wide range of plant-based meals.
Many people who have moved away from dairy-based cheese and experienced cheese cravings claim that avocado, hummus, nut butter, vegan pesto and tinned coconut milk are excellent substitutes that fulfill the desire for cheese.
Other Tips for Weaning off Cheese
No matter how motivated and determined you are to ditch dairy cheese for good, going cold turkey, so to speak, isn’t always the most effective option. It is frequently best to start small and work on dietary changes step by step.
For example, start by choosing a few days a week as your cheese-free days. As time goes on and your cheese cravings subside, you can slowly begin adding more cheese-free days to your weekly routine. Weeks will pass, and soon you’ll barely even notice you no longer consume dairy cheese.
Without over-complicating things, it is worth looking at those regular meals and snacks you already enjoy and deciding where you could remove the cheese and start from there.
Vegan Cheese Alternatives
Vegan cheese alternatives have gone through great advancements in recent years as more and more people see the benefits of going vegan. In fact, some people may never need to wonder how to deal with cheese cravings on a vegan diet.
With a slew of vegan cheese options available, virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, long gone are the days of tasteless, rubbery faux cheese. From ricotta, brie and parmesan to a range of hard cheeses, blue cheese, mozzarella and queso, there is an excellent vegan substitute out there for all of your traditional cheese favorites.
Vegan Cheeses to Buy & Try
Most U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores carry a growing selection of brands offering vegan cheese alternatives. For shreds, slices, blocks, and cream cheese, keep an eye out for produce from Daiya Foods, Violife, Dr. Cow, So Delicious, Follow Your Heart and Good PLANeT.
If you need to get your hands on some aged artisanal-style vegan cheese, parmesan, mozzarella and spreadable vegan cheese alternatives, brands like Kite-Hill, Miyoko’s Creamery, Nuts for Cheese, Treeline, Field Roast and Vromage have you covered.
Given the sheer volume of these vegan cheeses, you will have no problem including them in virtually any recipe where you typically use their dairy equivalents.
Homemade Vegan Cheese
Homemade vegan cheese substitutes can be easily made using cashews, macadamias or almonds. Countless recipes are available to replicate everything from vegan feta and brie to parmesan, hard cheese and camembert. You can also throw together some easy vegan cheese sauce or cashew cream cheese to help conquer your cravings. Packed with healthy fats and free of animal-based products such as rennet and dairy milk, the only challenge will be narrowing down your favorite homemade vegan cheese recipe.
Easy Vegan Cashew Cheese
One of the simplest recipes you should try is cashew cheese. The final result comes with a punchy flavor and firm texture that will offer all the versatility of regular cheese.
Vegan brie is another worthy addition to your vegan cheese recipe list. Made from cashews, it melts just the same way regular brie does, making it the perfect topping for grilled cheese sandwiches, panini and even pizza.
Vegan Baked Feta Cheese
You can make dairy-free feta using macadamia nuts. Whether in a fresh salad, paired with crackers or added to your favorite sandwich or pasta, you’ll barely notice a difference.
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