The Beginner’s Guide to Replacing Animal Products

July 1, 2019by vanvegsociety

It’s not you. It’s a lifetime of conditioning. Most cultures throughout history have eaten animals. Some may take this to insinuate that it’s the only way, but here at the Vancouver Vegetarian Society, we’re not afraid to think for ourselves. Changing times called for changed behaviours. After all, if there is a way to simultaneously help animals, save the environment, and heal ourselves, what are we waiting for?

For those new to vegetarianism, the world of plant-based food may seem daunting. Your responsibility manifests as rewriting all the rules and habits that you’ve grown accustomed to. It’s no small feat, so give yourself a pat on the back for taking the leap. Not everyone is brave enough to do so.

There are a few cultural food staples that some people defend as the only reason they could never go vegetarian. For the stubborn or uninspired, we offer a few suggestions!


Are you even in North America if you don’t enjoy a burger on the BBQ in the summer? There is no denying that a succulent patty on a toasted bun with fresh veggies and condiments is one of life’s simple pleasures. However, just because we want to enjoy our meal, does not mean that any animal lives must be sacrificed!

Throughout Vancouver, the “Beyond Burger” is taking the fast food world by storm. And for good reason! This 100% plant-based patty delivers all the satisfaction of a meat burger without killing any cows. It is the perfect option for those swayed by the ethical or environmental ramifications of meat consumption, but reluctant to give up the taste of a favourite meal. Lucky for us, the burger is featured in menus from A&W to Tim Hortons to Meet (and everything in between), and available at many grocery stores.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling inspired in the kitchen, veggie burgers are a fun and functional way to get all the nutrition your body needs to thrive. Rather than confining vegetables as toppings, incorporating legumes, root vegetables, nuts and seeds into the burger itself is a great way to add essential antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to your favourite comfort food.


Despite the abundant array of plant mylks available in stores and cafes these days, many people are still reluctant to eschew cow’s milk. This makes sense. Milk is firmly embedded in the culinary culture of most cultures, and given our mammalian sensibilities, it invokes a sense of comfort and well-being that only a mother could provide. However, at the end of the day, cow’s milk is intended for calves, not adult humans. The cruelty of the dairy industry should be enough to push us away from continued consumption of this stolen beverage.

Soy milk is one of the most ubiquitous dairy substitutes. It is accessible in most grocery stores and cafes for a convenient switch. Fortunately, more and more locations are catching on to providing more non-dairy mylks. Whether it be almond, coconut, or oat, rest assured that you will get accustomed to the different taste and take comfort in knowing that your enjoyment is cruelty-free!


The much sought-after game day appetizer, the Wednesday night hors d’oeuvres of choice, wings are undeniably an omnivore favourite. At first thought, wings might be considered impossible to make out of plants, but this is a conclusion for those who lack imagination.

Vegetarians can finally rejoice with the plethora of plant-based restaurants that cater to every whim, healthy or indulgent. In Vancouver, cauliflower wings have become the star feature of starter menus. To indulge in this kinder, lower cholesterol treat, visit restaurants like Meet, the food truck Rolling Cashew, or What’s Up? Hot Dog!. You could even try prepping the recipe at home yourself with an easy recipe like this one:


The last stronghold of many omnivores, cheese is an understandably difficult product to replicate. Millennia of experimentation and craftsmanship have contributed to transforming a humble bovine secretion into one of the most ubiquitous guilty pleasures around. When people think they must give up this integral part of their diets, they are typically defensive and reluctant. Let it then be our responsibility, fellow vegetarians, to prove that we can be inspired by the best of cheesemaking artisanship without abusing any cows!

At first glance, a cashew, coconut, or soybean may not seem like the right choice for making plant-based cheese, but in the hands of an expert, the transformation is astounding. The beauty of dairy-free cheese is that it can be a nutritious, low-cholesterol addition to the diet, rather than an indulgent diversion. To enjoy the best of both worlds, try Blue Heron’s famous cheeses. We promise you won’t miss the dairy.


Given the diversity of Vancouver and our position as a port city, fish has been a staple in most Vancouverites’ diets for centuries (including the culinary traditions of the first peoples). While fish may have been a nutritious and practical food in the past, this is not the case today. The fishing industry is notoriously unsustainable and cruel. Fishing trawlers scrape the ocean floor to maximize catch numbers, destroying fragile coral reefs and polluting the waters. Fishing nets frequently ensnare animals like dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds, casually disregarded as “bycatch”.

While seafood may seem like a harmless and tasty choice on the surface, there are many ethical and environmental reasons to abstain. If you frequent sushi restaurants, try ordering the cucumber, tofu, avocado, or yam rolls. Even most poke restaurants should have vegetarian options that sub fish for tofu. If you prefer to cook, try marinating tomato or carrot in soy sauce and seaweed for that perfect umami flavour.