Let’s talk cheese.
When it comes to transitioning to a vegan diet or simply going dairy free, the main difficulty people find is giving up cheese.
All dairy products contain a protein called Casein and cheese contains the most addictive and concentrated form of Casein, Casomorphins. Casomorphins have an opioid effect (opioids: known as one the world’s oldest drugs)! This addictive formula is what was designed to keep the calf suckling its mother’s milk. Now can you see why cheese is so difficult to give up!?
As well as being highly addictive, cheese contains no fibre. This means that when consuming it you simply don’t get full. If you were to eat fibre rich foods such as rice or beans however, you’d get full. When you can understand this it makes in mentally easier to make the transition to dairy free alternatives, limiting your intake or cutting out cheese all together!
Ultimately you want to make the transition as smoothly as possible and you don’t want to feel like you are restricting yourself. If you want to reduce/ cut out cheese from your life then you need great alternatives and you need flavourful, texture-rich foods that stop you reaching for the cheese!
Habits are made over a life time so don’t expect to be cheese free in a day, although this is possible! However, realistically it is a change of habit. Habits on average take three weeks to break. Three weeks to break a habit which could last a lifetime, really isn’t that long.
So how can you break the habit?
1) Cheese alternatives.
These are a great way of transitioning and sticking to a lifetime without real cheese. There are some great varieties out there now and most supermarkets have an entire array of alternatives.
For cheese on toast, baked potatoes, sandwiches, pizza and more! Try Violife (here in the U.K.). I’ve heard from many people that this is the best on the market and they come in many varieties.
There is a brand in the US called Daiya which is also a great branded alternative, however this is more difficult to find in the U.K.
Vegan cheeses are a fantastic alternative when going dairy free and there is absolutely no casein added. Give them a go and really try to get used to them because they are a much healthier alternative.
2) For a “cheesy flavour”: Nutritional Yeast aka Nooch.
One of my personal favourites.
Nutritional yeast is de-activated yeast, not to be confused with baking yeast, which gives your meals a cheesy flavour. You can sprinkle it on pasta, toast, baked potatoes and into soups or sauces. It’s a parmesan style addition to a meal and packed with Vitamin B12 (an essential addition to a Vegan diet).
3) For a creamy, cheesy sauce: Tahini
Used with nutritional yeast or simply on its own, tahini is a fantastic way to create a creamy, cheese like sauce. Used in most of my pasta sauces, tahini is a staple in my kitchen. Simply stir in your desired amount into your pasta sauce (I normal use about 1tbsp) or you can make a dressing with it too.
Tahini is great combined with soy sauce, lemon and garlic. Add some water for a thinner consistency and it can used on salad or on potatoes (thicker consistency is better here). Another way I like to use tahini is on toast! It’s a staple that you will need in your home. Think of it as a cheese spread replacement.
4) Get creative in the kitchen.
In other words, try making foods other than cheese based foods. There is such an array of foods in the world that meals don’t always have to revolve around cheese. Thai foods, Indian foods, Chinese, Mediterranean and more. The world’s cuisine has so much more to offer than cheese, you just have to experiment more.
An increase of flavours and textures will have you so satisfied that you won’t need to be reaching for the Cheddar and the grater!
Cheese is an addictive food. To break your cheese habit it can take up to three weeks and it can be done. I know that due to the addictiveness some people may really struggle to give up cheese completely but at least give it a go. If you are trying your hardest to be vegan and cheese is the only component of it that you can’t do then don’t beat yourself up about it! You want something that is manageable long term and if the only food you can’t let go of is cheese then so be it. However, do not give up. Research is clear that a plant-based vegan diet is the healthiest way to live and can eliminate disease and illness.
Take your time in making the transition; the more you reduce your intake the easier it will be to give it up in the long run. As you experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how fantastic you feel, gradually the desire for “real cheese” will go away. Every small step makes a huge difference so stick with it and do your very best!