Kristi Whitley

Healthy Living

Plant Based Whole Food Diet


What the Pros Know

Anytime you start something new it helps if there is a way to associate

it with what you already do. When I started my vegan journey to health

I needed substitutes for the bad things I was eating to help wean me off them. 

These things are not what is best but they helped me gradually get off

something that was much less healthy for me. Here’s my list in no particular


1) Veggie Cheese: It is found in the organic refrigerated section of the store,

usually in the produce section near the tofu. It is available in sprinkles, slices,

and shreds. Use it to substitute for real cheese.  The best I have found is 

Diaya brand. I doesn't contain soy or carrageenan, the two poisons commonly

found other brands. Also, you can Google for recipes to make your own

veggie cheeses. My Creamy Zucchini Pasta recipe has a great cheesy, creamy 

sauce recipe. 

2) Earth Balance “buttery spread”. I use the soy-free variety. Find it either in the organic refrigerated section or with the other butter spreads. During the holidays you can find it in sticks for baking.

3) Not Chicken and Not Beef vegetable bouillon cubes. They have much more flavor than vegetable broth. I have only found these in the health food stores. Prepackaged broth is too inflexible for me. I can’t always use a whole box before it spoils and it takes up too much room in my pantry. These cubes are great for making broth or just throwing into a pot of soup or beans for flavor. Use them anywhere you would normally use chicken or beef broth.

4) Smoked Spanish Paprika, Bacon Salt, Smoked salt, or Smoke flavoring. Several of my recipes call for one of these. I also use the smoked paprika on roasted veggies. The smokey flavor adds a hardiness to recipes and make them taste grilled or meaty. Use them in soups, stews, or on roasted or grilled veggies. 

5) Tofu cream cheese and sour cream. They are either in the organic refrigerator section or with the other dairy items. They are great for party dips or adding to baked potatoes or mashed potatoes. They contain soy so I use them only for special occasions or when I am entertaining. My favorite cheeze brand, Diaya, makes soy-free cream cheese. Still waiting for their sour cream to come out. 

6) Brown rice bread, tortillas, English muffins, and pasta. Brown rice bread is, (may I speak frankly?) terrible.  Add some Earth Balance “butter” and garlic and toast it for garlic bread and it’s a good substitute. Also, use it to make some garlic croutons for your salad. Yum. Don’t bother using it straight from the package for a sandwich. Yuck. It can be found in the freezer section of the store along with the other gluten-free breads and tortillas. Use the brown rice tortillas for quesadillas and wraps. To get them pliable enough to wrap, put them on a wet paper towel in the microwave for 20 seconds. They will be slightly tough but won’t split when you fold them. The best brown rice pasta is by Tinkyada Pasta Joy or Trader Joe’s. Since I started this journey in 2009, many more items have come to the market. Look for Sami's Bakery Millet and Flax bread, pitas, bagels, and pizza crust at your local health foods store.  They can be ordered online too. 

7) La Croix sparkling water. It comes in twelve-packs and can be found in the water aisle of the grocery store. The flavors are very subtle so don’t be shy to try them all. Also, add a splash of pomegranate or grape juice with a twist of lime for a healthy mocktail. Yum. These are great for special occasions or entertaining. CAUTION: carbonated drinks lower the body's pH causing acidity. Acidity increases yeast growth, cancer growth etc. Use these in extreme moderation. Nothing substitutes for clean, pure water to heal and cleanse the body.

8) Carob. Carob is a roasted vegetable that reminds you of chocolate. It comes in a canister in powder form. Add it to almond milk to make a smoothie or buy nuts covered in it for a satisfying snack. It has no caffeine or dairy added but can have sweeteners added to it if you buy candy made from it. It is high and calcium and a great substitute for chocolate especially in the evening. 

9) Stevia. Stevia is a plant that is 30 times sweeter than sugar. It is no-calorie and does not raise blood sugar. Buy the plant extract in powder form in the health food store. Look for one that has ONLY STEVIA in the ingredients. It will be very expensive and come in a small package. Trader Joes has a little jar for $10 and it has 622 servings in it. The pure extract is so sweet that it only takes a pinch to do the job. Use it in tea and coffee and sprinkle on fruit or anything else onto which you would sprinkle sugar. 

10) Caffix or Roma coffee-like beverage. I gave up coffee because of my cardio-vascular risk factors. Not to mention my penchant for sugar and dairy. I finally found a coffee-like beverage that I can have as a treat on a cold winter’s night. It has no caffeine and is natural. The only bad thing is that it is made from roasted barley, which is glutinous. Use it as a treat and add almond milk and stevia instead of cream and sugar.  

11) Vegenaise. Mayonnaise made without eggs. Find it in the produce section or the refrigerated organic section. I use it for salad dressings, sandwiches, potato salad, coleslaw or anywhere I need mayonnaise. I can’t live without it and don’t want to know what’s bad about it.


 These are my favorite diet hacks. They make a real difference in plant-only meals. Let me know what you think of them.