One of the toughest challenges for people when trying to eat a whole food, plant-based diet is giving up cheese. That is because it is so addictive! Here, the Vegan RD, Ginny Messina, offers four tips for ditching it, and she is also giving away a copy of her latest book, Never Too Late to Go Vegan, coauthored with authoress superstars, Carol Adams and Patti Breitman. To enter to win a FREE copy, see below…
4 Tips for Giving Up Cheese
It’s never too late to go vegan! When Carol Adams, Patti Breitman and I were writing our book for vegans over 50, we heard from scores of people who had gone vegan later in life. They were loving the benefits of their diet, but many admitted that there were challenges in giving up lifelong habits.
One of those challenges for many people is giving up cheese. For many of us, cheese is associated with childhood comfort food—mac ‘n cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches. And in adulthood, platters of cheese and crackers sit at center stage at many parties.
But while giving up the familiar texture, flavor and cozy memories of cheese might seem daunting, there are some simple tips that can ease your way toward a flavorful and happy cheese-free diet.
Discover Umami. Dubbed “the 5th taste” (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter and sour), umami is a savory aspect of certain foods that was discovered in Japan more than one hundred years ago. Aged cheeses are often high in umami. Fortunately, so are many plant foods. These include nutritional yeast, dried mushrooms, olives, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, ume plum vinegar, miso, sea vegetables, and balsamic vinegar. Roasting and caramelizing also bring out the umami in vegetables. When you add these ingredients to recipes, you’ll likely find that you miss the cheese much less.
Think outside the cheesy box. What can you have instead of cheese? Try pasta or pizza tossed with caramelized vegetables instead of cheese. If you’re making a veggie wrap, skip the melted cheese and use hummus, tapenade or vegan pesto instead. Guacamole on bean burritos or tostados is a healthy alternative to cheese that keeps the flavor authentic and satisfying.
Remember why cheese is off the menu. Nobody wants to dwell on the plight of cows and their calves on dairy farms. But sometimes, when you remind yourself of where cheese comes from, it becomes pretty easy to skip it. And since most of us end up replacing the cheese with healthy plant ingredients, packed with fiber and phytochemicals, we benefit our own health while making a more compassionate choice.
Try vegan cheeses. The commercial vegan cheese market is taking off and these products keep getting better and better. But you can also make your own. A growing number of cookbooks and websites offer wonderful vegan cheeses made from creamy ingredients like soaked cashews and silken tofu blended with umami-rich ingredients. Plug “vegan cheese recipe” into google and you’ll come up with easy ideas for cheese spreads and dips.
This cheese dip from Never Too Late to Go Vegan can be made in just minutes. Serve it at your next party, book club meeting, or pot luck. Nobody will miss the cheese!
Rae Sikora’s Crock Cheese
1 cup raw cashews (use 2 cups if you want a spreadable cheese rather than a dip)
1 4-ounce jar red pimientos
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Process the cashews in a food processor or blender until powdery. Add the rest of the ingredients and process together until very smooth. Chill. Serve with whole grain crackers or raw vegetables.
Ginny is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in public health. She is the co-author of three books on vegan nutrition, Vegan for Life, Vegan for Her, and Never Too Late to Go Vegan and has also co-authored a textbook for health professionals The Dietitians’ Guide to Vegetarian Diets. She writes about a variety of issues related to health and vegan activism on her blog TheVeganRD and speaks about vegan nutrition at scientific events for health professionals as well as events for the public.
Ginny was a dietetics instructor at Central Michigan University and a dietitian for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. When she isn’t working on projects related to nutrition, she volunteers for her local animal shelter and works with programs to promote spay and neuter. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington with her husband and an ever-changing population of rescued cats.