How to eat animal free

July 6, 2022

Switching to an animal-free diet doesn’t need to be hard. Emma Håkansson’s simple guide will empower and inspire you – whether you’re a cooking enthusiast or not.

Simple swaps

We humans don’t always love change, even when it’s for the better. It can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Let’s start with a simple question. What do you eat for breakfast? If you have cereal or muesli, swap out the dairy for plant milk.

If you’re more of a toast person, swap out the butter and still enjoy your peanut butter, your baked beans (most are vegan), or your jam. Make a smoothie packed with fruits, maybe some leafy greens, plant milk and maple syrup for sweetness.

Once you’ve tackled a plant-based breakfast, try lunch and dinner. Once you’re doing it a few times a week, do it more regularly. Or just cut it out in one go, if you’re that kind of person.

Choose your own adventure

Many meals can easily be made vegan. Google your favourite meal and ‘vegan’ and see what happens. Enchiladas? Yes. Shepherd’s pie? Yes. Laksa? Yes. Some cuisines are already largely free from animals. Find out if your favourite is one of them.

Eating vegan food can be exciting – you can discover new  ingredients, new flavours, new meals. Or you can keep it very simple. If you love bolognese, don’t reinvent the wheel. Buy a plant-based mince, or make bolognese with lentils and finely chopped vegetables.

Once you learn a few little cooking tricks, you won’t miss the things you used to eat. Bonus points: invite a friend over to share the meal and do your part for the planet together.

Stocked for success

There are a few foods that are great to keep in your kitchen and pantry that can build the basis of climate-friendly, plant-based meals. There are of course vegan meats and cheeses, but for the sake of simplicity and price accessibility (though these foods are becoming more widely available and even matching the price of their animal counterparts), let’s stick to straight plant stuff. 

  • Lentils (great for curries and bolognese)
  • Black beans (delicious in burritos and tacos)
  • Cannellini and kidney beans (perfect for minestrone)
  • Both silken and firm tofu (for stir-fries, scrambles and every need – tofu can become anything with the right methods and flavours)
  • Chickpeas (blend with nori sheets to make ‘tuna’ or use in curries)
  • Pasta (without egg, like most dried pasta), brown and white rice, rice, udon and soba noodles
  • Potatoes. Lots. (For everything from jacket potatoes to Japanese curry to potato and leek soup)
  • Flour (to combine with oil and plant milk for a delicious cheesy bechamel sauce to go with lasagne or nachos)
  • Chia seeds (great for putting into smoothies and last a long time)
  • Brazil nuts (good source of selenium, only need a couple a day for that brain power)
  • Sesame seeds (a yummy garnish)
  • Nutritional yeast (bad name for good, B12-rich stuff to add to things for a cheesy vibe)
  • Passata
  • Your choice of plant milk, be it soy (my personal pick), oat, or something else. The long-life milk section of the supermarket has the cheapest versions.
  • Lots of vegetables. Broccoli, pumpkin, brussels sprouts – whatever you like.
  • Dark, leafy things like lettuces, spinach and kale (good for iron, as is vitamin C, like orange juice, which helps with absorption). Wilt them and enjoy in meals, make chips out of them, blend them into a smoothie.
  • Vegan butter. (Nuttelex is my go-to. The coconut-based one doesn’t taste of it while being palm oil-free.)

Big disclaimer that I am not a chef, and don’t actually enjoy cooking. I do like eating though! I’m also alive and healthy, and with these foods you can make a lot of different things. Have a walk through wherever you get your groceries and see what else you stumble upon. 


This article is an edited extract from How Veganism Can Save Us by Emma Håkansson. Published by Hardie Grant Books. Available in stores nationally from 6 July 2022.

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