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8 easy vegan swaps for a healthier diet: Tofu, jackfruit, lentils & more

Thinking about going vegan? Or simply eating less meat? Here's some healthy swaps to get you started.

Read on for eight vegan swaps that help keep you healthy and satisfied. (Photo via Getty Images)
Read on for eight vegan swaps that help keep you healthy and satisfied. (Photo via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Thinking about going vegan? Or simply eating less meat? When trying to follow a healthy diet, people often wonder whether cutting out animal-based products is a good idea.

While most foods in moderation aren't likely to ruin your health, taking steps to replace some animal-based foods with healthier options can reduce your risk of developing serious health issues. For instance, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, and the fats found in meats such as beef and pork raise your risk of developing coronary artery disease.

Moreover, a plant-based lifestyle has many health benefits, including:

Veganism has come a long way over the years, and now there are great options for replacing animal-based products with plant-based foods.

Read on for eight vegan swaps that help keep you healthy and satisfied.

Glass with Soy Milk and Seeds on wooden background
Soy milk is low in calories and high in protein. (Photo via Getty Images) (HandmadePictures via Getty Images)

Milk for soy milk

While milk is an excellent source of calcium and protein, it's also high in saturated fat, which raises your cholesterol level and clogs your arteries. This increases your risk of developing heart disease.

As a result, Health Canada has encouraged people to reduce their daily dairy intake.

Dairy alternatives such as soy milk are a healthier choice. This is because it combines low calories and high protein, with only 80 calories and seven grams of protein per serving.

Organic Raw Soy Tofu on a Background
Tofu is a healthy vegan swap for eggs. (Photo via Getty Images) (bhofack2 via Getty Images)

Eggs for tofu

Though eggs are not entirely unhealthy, research has shown that adults who eat one and a half eggs per day have a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who don't. This is because eggs — specifically the yolks — are rich in cholesterol.

However, tofu has emerged as a healthy vegan swap for eggs. Not only are they packed with nutrients, but with 17 grams of protein and only 144 calories per serving, they're a perfect way to replace scrambled eggs.

cut up jackfruit on a white cloth
Jackfruit is a popular substitute for pulled pork. (Photo via Getty Images) (Khiam Yee Lee / EyeEm via Getty Images)

Pulled pork for jackfruit

It's hard to believe that anything could replace pulled pork, but many health-conscious restaurants are swapping out pork for jackfruit.

Pork products are considered red meat and have lots of saturated fat, contributing to high cholesterol levels and elevating your risk of heart disease. In fact, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently stopped marketing pork as a healthy food.

On the other hand, jackfruit is dense and fibrous, which gives it a similar texture to pulled pork when prepared properly. Jackfruit is also highly nutritious, a great protein source and free of saturated fat and cholesterol.

So, if you're looking for a plant-based solution to your pulled pork cravings, find a jackfruit pulled pork recipe you like and enjoy.

beans, lentils and legumes in a line
Lentils and beans are high in protein. (Photo via Getty Images) (Olena Rudo / EyeEm via Getty Images)

Meat for lentils and beans

If you're worried about getting enough protein without meat in your diet, beans and lentils could be your answer.

Lentils are a heart-healthy food because they're high in fibre. Additionally, in one serving, they contain less than a gram of fat while delivering nine grams of plant-based protein. Beans are also good for your heart.

You can use both beans and lentils as tasty alternatives in casserole dishes, chilis, tacos and more.

Roasted garlic hummus topped with olive oil and garlic cloves
Hummus is a healthy swap for mayonnaise. (Photo via Getty Images) (VeselovaElena via Getty Images)

Mayo for hummus

Speaking of healthy beans, chickpeas — also known as garbanzo beans — offer a healthy vegan swap for a favourite spreadable condiment: mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise uses eggs so it can't be considered vegan, though vegan alternatives do exist. However, a better option is hummus, which is made from ground chickpeas.

You can find hummus in most stores. You can also spice up your hummus any way you like to give it extra flavour.

Brown rice from above isolated on white background
Brown rice is filled with fibre. (Photo via Getty Images) (mtphoto19 via Getty Images)

Pasta for brown rice

Many dried pastas are vegan-friendly, as they're made mostly of flour and water. However, most fresh pastas are made with eggs. Going a step further and replacing your pasta dishes with brown rice offers added health benefits.

Brown rice is very nutritious and aids in weight loss. This is because it provides you with more fibre, which helps keep you full for a longer period of time.

To keep your brown rice dish vegan and tasty, you can top it with a delicious vegetable and lentil curry.

pouring olive oil into a glass dish surrounded by rosemary and green olives
Olive oil is an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats. (Photo via Getty Images) (HakanEliacik / 500px via Getty Images)

Butter for nut butter or olive oil

More than half the fat in butter is saturated fat, making it an unhealthy choice as a spread or for use in cooking.

Instead, consider using olive oil. In addition to being entirely plant-based, olive oil is an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, is rich in antioxidants and offers many other health benefits that butter doesn't.

If you're used to buttered toast with your morning breakfast, you can consider trying nut butter. Nut butters like peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, making them a great vegan swap for the saturated fat in butter.

Rustic homemade dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a healthier treat option. (Photo via Getty Images) (Emilija Manevska via Getty Images)

Milk chocolate for dark chocolate

Just because you're making healthier diet choices doesn't mean you can't enjoy a sweet treat from time to time. The cacao in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. However, the milk and added sugar in milk chocolate aren't doing you any favours.

When it comes to enjoying chocolate on a plant-based diet, dark chocolate is the way to go. Chocolate is considered "dark" when it contains 50 per cent or more cacao. Chocolate is linked to myriad health benefits, so indulging in the occasional sweet snack without the added milk is a great way to keep your vegan diet on track.

Improve your diet with vegan replacements

In the past, sticking to a vegan diet presented some tough challenges. But with the rising popularity of plant-based diets, delicious vegan swaps are constantly popping up, making it easier for you to make a lasting change to your health.

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