So you’ve gone dairy-free and you’re feeling great! Your skin’s gotten clearer, your brain fog is gone. Heck, you’ve even lost that pesky belly fat. Dairy is off the table and you’re fine with that! That non-dairy lifestyle is having you looking and feeling amazing.
But sometimes, you wouldn’t mind a dairy-free alternative to replace some of your old favorites — most notably, cheese. And since you started a plant-based diet to kickstart your healthy life, you’re left wondering, is vegan cheese even healthy? What do they make vegan cheese out of anyway? Is plant based cheese healthier than dairy cheese? What brands of vegan cheese should I buy? We break it down for you.
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Want to eat plant-based but struggling to give cheese the boot? We hear you! Many of us at MamaSezz enjoyed a good cheese plate back in our Standard American Diet days. And we know first hand that it’s hard to give up (but the rewards are big!).
Why is giving up cheese so difficult? It turns out, there’s science at work here. Cheese is addictive.
Not to mention, dairy is not the health food we grew up believing it to be! Cheese and other dairy products are inflammatory and is linked to chronic inflammation which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, digestive issues (like IBS and Crohn's disease), asthma, and more.
The good news. You can give up cheese for good with these tips.
Even better news. There are some really delicious dairy-free cheese alternatives that fit better with your new healthy and plant-based lifestyle.
Vegan cheese is a non-dairy alternative to cheese, usually made from plant-based proteins and fats. Most vegan cheeses you’ll find on the market or on vegan recipe blogs are typically made from some combination of:
- Tree nuts and seeds (cashew in particular is a big time ingredient in vegan cheese)
- Starchy flours, like tapioca flour, potato, or arrowroot
- Root vegetables (like carrots and potatoes)
With the dairy-free market exploding in the last decade, chances are there are many varieties to choose from at your local grocery store, from soft style cheeses to slices to grated variations.
All this sounds great, but is vegan cheese healthy? Well, it depends.
Sometimes when we cut out animal products, we replace them with unhealthy plant-based products -- and dairy-free cheese can fall into this vegan junk food trap. (Wondering if you eat too much vegan junk? Take this quiz!)
Does this mean all dairy-free cheese is “junk?” Certainly not! When it comes to preparing a healthy dairy-free cheese plate, it’s all about the ingredients.
Read the nutrition labels and scan the ingredients when you pick up store-bought vegan cheeses. Look for:
- Whole foods and minimal ingredients
- No oil
- No fillers or gums
- Low or no sodium
Treeline and Miyokos are two vegan brands that make tasty and soft vegan cheeses. You can expect minimal and real ingredients. Plus, they’ve both got live cultures to keep your gut health in check, too. Heads up: since these vegan cheeses are made with cashews they can be high in fat though so if you have heart disease, eat sparingly!
Our favorite brand? MamaSezz of course! Check out this dairy-free, whole food "Mama's Mac Sauce" that goes on pretty much anything. It's creamy, tastes like Alfredo, and just check out how amazing it looks....
If you’re really trying to stick with a whole food plant-based/vegan way of life, making your own vegan cheese is often healthier than store-bought -- which can have gums, oils, and fillers in spades.
And good news: making dairy-free cheese is really easy! Here are a few of our favorite easy vegan cheese recipes to get you started:
- Simple Cashew Cream Cheese from MamaSezz
- Vegan Queso from MamaSezz
- Plant-Based Parmesan Cheese from Shane Simple
- Chickpea Flour Cheddar Cheese from Power Hungry
- Nut Free Vegan Cheese Sauce from Rainbow Plant Life
We hear you — even the simple recipes still take time and energy that you simply don’t always have. That’s why our dairy-free Mama’s Mac Sauce is one of our best selling products. And it's WFPB (whole food plant based) meaning it's made without oils, sugars and other refined products. Just whole plants.
Made from cashew cream and a little plant-based chef wizardry, Mama’s Mac Sauce is THE answer to cheese cravings. It literally makes EVERYTHING taste better. It is the perfect vegan substitute for Alfredo or cheese sauce on pasta, burgers, baked potatoes, even toast. Oh, and can we just warn you that if you mix it with MamaSezz Marinara Sauce, you may never be able to eat pasta without it again.
Mouth watering yet? Order your Mama’s Mac Sauce here.
- Giving up dairy is good for your health! But giving up cheese can be hard (because it’s addicting!)
- Dairy-free cheese alternatives are in nearly every grocery store -- but they’re not all equal, nutritionally speaking.
- If you’re buying store-bought vegan cheese read the labels! And look for minimal ingredients -- no oils, no fillers, no gums.
- You can make your own vegan cheese at home with simple ingredients.
- No time to make your own vegan cheese? Get Mama’s Mac Sauce delivered to your door. Simple ingredients, big flavor, no cooking required.
By Ali Brown
Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.