With the new year just beginning, everyone has made their resolutions, decided what they will and won’t do this year and being five days in… may or may not have broken some of those resolutions already, and some might not have even figured them out. Regardless of where you fall on the resolution ladder, many people usually incorporate some kind of diet or lifestyle change into theirs. Is it on yours? I have two which are related to the topic. One being not being so afraid to try out new plant-based recipes and two, make more time for yoga and stretching. With those in mind, I thought it would be fitting to make the first “Meatless Monday” post of the new decade about all the different plant-based options that are out there that I love, that might help anyone who has considered making the switch in the new year. This can be for someone who is looking to make the switch to kicking meat out for at least one day a week, someone thinking of going full vegetarian, someone going full vegan, or someone who is just looking for some new options. Whatever the reason might be, these brands can help! I’ve been a vegetarian for many years now, and the switch to vegan is always on my mind but has yet to be accomplished. BUT I do make a point to only have dairy (mainly cheese) in my diet a few days a week, one or two meals, and then it’s full vegan the rest of the time. Not that I’m in any position to do so, but if I were to offer any kind of advice to those thinking of going down the plant-based route, it would be to take it slow, remember baby steps are the best steps and do not be so hard on yourself if you slip up. My switch to vegetarianism was easy because I wasn’t a big fan of meat, to begin with; I was lucky. This is not the case for many people. My switch to veganism is much, much harder. Everyone is different, and I am STILL making mistakes every once in a while. I had a starburst the other day, not realizing there’s gelatin in them. It KILLED ME. I felt guilty as hell; it actually made me so sad that I screwed up. So, I let myself wallow in it for a little while, dusted myself off, and said, now, you know, and that was that.
In this post, I only recommend the brands that I’ve personally tried. If a brand you’ve heard of isn’t on here, it’s probably because I haven’t tried it yet. There are very few products that I’ve tried and didn’t like, which again, is very lucky for me.
So, let’s get into it.
Morning Star Farms.
- This brand was the very first brand that I tried, probably because it was the cheapest, and it was the easiest to make meals with because I was not very good at cooking at the time. From their bacon to their chik’ patties, to their crumbles, and SO much more, they have a little bit of everything. Most of their products are vegan, but some are also just vegetarian, but it tells you right on the package, so you know what you’re getting into. I’ve enjoyed chik’ parmesan, buffalo wings, bacon at breakfast, and delicious tacos with this brand, and it truly made the switch so much easier.
- This is another stunning product that isn’t all that expensive. They have outstanding meatless meatballs, delicious crispy chik’ strips, and amazing teriyaki chik’ strips, to name a few. I’ve paired their teriyaki chik’ strips with bok choy in a risk that turned out worthy, spaghetti and meatballs is a meal you can never go wrong with, and chik’ strips go with anything honestly. They also have the Gardein skillet meals that make the perfect quick dinner.
- I have not tried a TON of their products. I have had their pizzas, and their breakfast burritos and those burritos are one of my favorite vegan foods ever. They are stuffed with turmeric tofu, potatoes, and veggies, and they’re absolutely delicious. I usually pair them with the morning star farms bacon strips for a quick delicious breakfast
- This brand is probably one you’ve heard of marketed much more these days. They even have their breakfast patties in Dunkin donuts for a really good vegetarian breakfast sandwich that I usually get with just cheese and skip the egg. They have hamburgers, patties, and sausage links. The sausage links for the only ones I’ve tried (besides the patties at Dunkin), and it’s one of the best products of vegan sausage I’ve ever had. I threw them on a roll, had a little grinder, and it was the perfect lunch, and it was very quick to make in a frying pan.
- Hodo is a vegan brand that I discovered in my local grocery store. Their marinated tofu drew me in, and the rest is history. It is one of my favorite brands right now. I only had access to their tofu in my stores, and that alone was enough to rave about, but then I won an Instagram giveaway last year and got to try even more of their products. From their Yuba noodles to their tofu veggie burger, I fell even more in love with this companies products, and I recommend them to anyone who will listen.
Earth Balance/Country Crock/ I can’t believe it’s not butter.
- These three brands gave me some delicious vegan butter. I started out with Earth Balance, which was a little more expensive, but at the time it was all I could find. I then found I can’t believe it’s not butter, it’s vegan product which was way more manageable, but it seems it’s no longer sold in most of the places I shop. But luckily I have now found Country Crock has its own line of vegan butter, two different kinds, both are delicious, and you truly cannot tell the difference. Earth Balance also has popcorn such as vegan aged white cheddar popcorn, which is so good I had to force myself to put the bag away.
- Daiya is the most common vegan cheese brand around me, so naturally, it’ the first one I tried. They have delicious pizzas; whether it’s the cheese one, the vegan pepperoni one (my favorite), or the “meat” lovers one, they’re delicious. They also have a mac and cheese now that is such a wonderful guilty pleasure food! Now something that didn’t make sense to me is that while I love the pizzas when I tried the shredded cheese ( which is on those said pizzas), I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the texture, and my stomach didn’t like it either, I cannot explain it, but it is what it is. I still highly recommend the brand for it’s pizzas as they’re a wonderful treat, and I ask you to try their cheese for yourself.
Follow your heart.
- One of the hardest things has been finding a vegan cheese that I like. I just told you the Daiya cheese didn’t do it for me unless it was on a pizza, and there were a few others I tried and still didn’t like. FINALLY, the follow your heart cheese was on sale, (because for me, it’s a little more expensive), and I tried it and it was DELICIOUS. It is 100% my go-to vegan cheese, and it took my grilled cheese love to a whole new level.
- Silk makes an outstanding dairy-free yogurt that is the perfect addition to any lunch that I bring to work. I recently started adding a pinch of this delicious granola to it for a bit more fiber in my diet, and it pairs perfectly. The consistency is so much better than regular yogurt, in my opinion, and it’s a must-have. They also have a delicious almond milk I like too.
- I was never much for milk even before I made the switch to plant-based, but I knew I needed an alternative. Whether it is for my smoothies, for a recipe, for baking, or to drink with some Oreos (which are VEGAN, btw) almond breeze was the first brand of almond milk I ever tried and instantly loved it. I do not like coconut milk; I actually hate anything with coconut, so I’m thrilled that I love almond milk so much. There are plenty of off brand nowadays of almond milk, but if you can’t find one, almond breeze is a good option.
- This brand gave me a sandwich “meat.” Alternative turkey and ham to be exact, and it is so good. I’ve tried others, but the texture and the taste were no can do for me, so it was thrilling to have that first sandwich with this brand and love it so much.
- I have a protein shake every weekday morning on the way to work. Almond milk, vegan protein powder, ½ a teaspoon of peanut butter, occasionally a pinch of chia seeds, and that’s it. My usual go-to protein powder has been Vega for some time now. I’ve had vega protein and greens, vega sport, and vega clean protein, all of which average 15-25 grams of protein. I always stick with vanilla, and it’s always delicious. What determines which one I buy is usually price and what kind of money I have at the time.
BONUS- Tone it up.
- This vegan protein powder, I found at target. I found it when I was short on money, it was on sale, and it was the best option at the time. I stuck with vanilla, and it was an excellent alternative. This one has 15 grams of protein, and it seems like they have a lot of other flavors and products that I have yet to try, but they are certainly on my list.
- If I’m not buying the already marinated and cubed up Hodo tofu, I’m buying Nasoya. Not only is it much cheaper, it’s easy to work with. I love a good tofu scramble, I eat it constantly and the extra firm Nasoya is my go-to. I usually just chop it up, throw it in a frying pan with some olive oil, and spices and let it crisp up a little, add in some mushrooms, spinach and kale, and I’ve got a delicious meal. I also have been adding turmeric to it which definitely steps it up. One package of this tofu will also very easily give me all five lunches for a work week, and sometimes even an extra meal which for someone on a budget is exactly what I need.
- I have not eaten much of this brands products, but one that I have eaten is their crumble, and it is the best one I’ve had so far. It is perfect for vegan tacos, throw together with some Spanish rice or pasta, and I’ve got a good meal with an excellent taste. I did try their hotdogs once, and which I thought they tasted good, my body disagreed but try for yourself.
- Field Roast has these Italian sausages that are SO GOOD. Simple to cook up in a frying pan in a matter of minutes and throw on a roll, or my personal favorite add to some sauce and pasta, and it elevates a meal with an outstanding taste. They have many other flavors of the sausage as well as other products that I hope to try sooner rather than later.
Ben and Jerrys/ Bryers/ So delicious.
- Oh, Ice cream. I’m not a huge ice cream lover, but I do enjoy it from time to time, so finding a dairy-free one when I was craving it was hard at first. They can also be expensive. So delicious has man but a lot have coconut milk in them, which we’ve already established I cannot stand, but I did find a vanilla almond milk one that was very good and decently priced. Ben and Jerry’s has many more options, a caramel coffee fudge specifically is my go-to, but it can be expensive for someone like me on a budget, but when I catch a sale, you better believe I get it. My all-time favorite one so far is Bryers, who came out with two flavors a peanut butter and an Oreo. I fell head over heels in love with the Oreo one. It is also expensive, but it’s also a bigger container than Ben and Jerry’s.
Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo.
- Lots of usual vegan brands have their own vegan mayo, but the one I found that I like is, Hellmann’s. It comes in a hellman’s size container, and while the price has been upped from when I first got it, it’s not a terrible price, I guess. I’ve even gotten most of my family to use this one, and some prefer it.
- If you need a pick me up throughout the day, or a snack. Larabars are delicious. They have a ton of flavors from peanut butter, to chocolate chip cookie dough, to apple pie and they’re all, so good. They’re not crazy priced, ingredients you can understand, and they’re popping up I many more places these days.
- I discovered this wonderful brand a few months ago. A little bit higher priced than my usual snack spending but worth it. They’re basically vegan Cheetos made from chickpeas. I tried the nacho cheese ones, and I was blown away. They’re obviously harder than regular Cheetos because of the chickpeas but delicious nonetheless.
There was a time where all of these options didn’t exist. I truly believe it is easier than ever to make the switch to a plant-based lifestyle, and I hope this list is a start to help those who want to switch, do so. Something that helped me a lot was learning to cook! Taking the chance of putting things together, such as the Gardein teriyaki chik’ strips with bok choy, was a risk worth taking, and it made an absolutely delicious meal. It is so important to make sure you know what you’re doing when you make this switch so that you remain healthy. You don’t want to mess up getting the right nutrients. You still need to make sure that you get the right vitamins, especially B12. So do a little research, see what you need, test out some products, and remember not to think that just because you might have messed up, it’s over, and you can’t do it because that’s just not the case.
Hopefully, this list helps, and while I’m not the one to throw any lifestyle down anyone’ throat, but in my opinion, whether it’s once a week, few times a week, making the conscious choice to live a more plant-based lifestyle is the better way.