The Ultimate Guide on How to Stop Eating Cheese
Switching to a Whole Food Plant-Based diet comes with some struggles – one of the hardest of which is how to stop eating cheese.
Cheese tastes gooooood! Isn’t it?
If you’ve been a dairy lover, a life without cheese might seem unfathomable. No, it’s not just your love for cheese’s taste. The biggest reason for cheese addiction is dairy has addictive substances, which make it challenging to give it up.
So, what is the way out? Will you never taste anything so delicious again?
This article is here to take your worries away. We will discuss the ways to overcome cheese addiction, the vegan alternatives to cheese, and some surprising Whole Food Plant-Based cheese recipes that will keep you from missing cheese.
Why are people so addicted to cheese?
Before trying to find out how to stop eating cheese, it makes sense first to understand what causes cheese addiction. There are three main aspects of the addictive nature of cheese – casein, fat, and habits.
Casein has addictive effects on the brain
Bovine milk contains a protein called casein. When we eat dairy products and the digestion process starts, this protein breaks down into a compound called casomorphin – the main culprit of cheese addiction.
Casomorphin is an opioid-like substance that binds to the dopamine receptors in our brain to give feelings of pleasure and rewards. This dopamine hit is similar to what is experienced in drugs like heroin (of course, milder effect in comparison).
Since cheese is a concentrated form of milk, it contains higher concentrations of casein than milk. As our brains get exposed to casomorphins, we crave cheese more often.
High-fat adds to cravings
Besides casomorphin, cheese’s high-fat content can also contribute to the addictive effects. Some studies reveal that heavily processed, high-fat foods trigger the pleasure receptors in our brain.
Moreover, high-fat diets are also linked to binge-eating behavior, which again adds to the cheese cravings, eventually leading to obesity.
Habits are hard to break
Apart from the chemical compositions, we find it difficult to give up on something or adopt something new because we become hardwired to the old ways.
Our repeated actions become patterns in our brains to make way for encountering new day-to-day things. Moreover, the reward and pleasure we experience by doing certain things (like eating cheese) reinforce the behavior.
On top of that, when we attempt to stop something our brain is used to, the neurons fire up, to try and stop you. Thus, making it hard to break a habit.
But, the good news is that it’s not impossible to break a habit. You can train yourself to learn new habits the same way it got accustomed to the old ones. More about that later.
Let’s head to the plant-based alternatives that will help you to stop eating cheese from animal sources.
What are vegan and plant-based cheese alternatives?
As more people are adopting plant-based diets, vegan and plant-based cheese substitutes are also becoming widely available.
These vegan cheeses or plant-based cheeses are dairy-free alternatives made from various plant-based ingredients. These include:
- Nuts and seeds (cashew, almond, pecan nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds)
- Beans (soybean, chickpeas)
- Plant-based milk (coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk)
- Starchy flour (potato flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, cornstarch, all-purpose flour)
- Root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, carrot)
- Fleshy vegetables (pumpkin)
- Aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
Typically, vegan cheese is prepared by combining the above ingredients with other ingredients such as agar-agar, carrageenan, oils, and herbs to increase density and boost flavor. This cheese comes in various popular varieties and styles – parmesan-like, cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, cubes, blocks, cream cheese, dips – all you can think of.
Plant-based cheese successfully replicates the texture and, to a large extent, flavor in your dishes. Of course, a vegan cheese option is healthier compared to traditional cheese made from dairy milk. However, it is not the most nutritious and cost-effective choice.
The vegan cheese you get in the grocery stores tend to be highly processed and costlier. In addition, these can have high amounts of salt and oil – which is not encouraged on a Whole Food Plant-Based diet. So, it is crucial to be mindful of using packaged vegan cheese. The best way to go is to avoid them or to use them occasionally, in moderation.
What to do if you’d want to eat something cheesy more frequently?
Do not worry! There are much healthier options you can explore in your journey to stop eating cheese altogether.
What are Whole Food Plant-Based alternatives to cheese?
You saw the number of vegan cheese alternatives you can pick from grocery stores. Let’s now look at the Whole Food Plant-Based alternatives to cheese. Essentially, the approach to cooking that will help you enjoy cheesy flavor and texture with unprocessed food.
Many whole, plant-based ingredients bring a delicious nutty flavor and creamy texture so that you won’t miss eating dairy cheese. More importantly, your dishes will be nutrient-dense.
Some of the best, easy to find whole food options you can go for are:
1. Soy products: Whether it is tofu or soybean paste, soy can be an excellent cheese replacement. You can use tofu as a topping or filling for dishes like vegan pizza, quiche and fajitas. Soybean paste can work well for bringing that creaminess in pasta, risotto, etc.
2. Nutritional yeast: You can swear by nutritional yeast in your quest to stop eating cheese. It is a perfect addition to your grocery list as a cheese substitute. Sprinkling some nutritional yeast can turn around any dish with its creamy texture and cheesy flavor.
3. Coconut milk: If you’re preparing any sauce and need some creaminess, adding coconut can do just the trick. Not only will it help thicken the sauce, but it also adds a subtle cheesy flavor to it. You can also go for some shredded coconut for topping salads, pasta, and other such dishes.
4. Sweet potato: It is another fantastic WFPB alternative to cheese. Adding baked and mashed sweet potato works perfectly for any dish you want to have a creamy texture. Its nutty flavor also works to bring out the cheesy flavor. You can use sweet potato in sauces, dips, spreads, pies, and so on.
5. Pumpkin, carrot and zucchini: These veggies are yet another excellent cheese substitute for spreads, sauces, and soups. Adding pureed pumpkin, carrot, or zucchini to the dishes helps add a thick, creamy texture. Their flavor is subtle and works well with both sweet and savory dishes.
6. Chickpeas: Using cooked and pureed chickpeas in sauces, curries, spreads or dips works perfectly in place of dairy cheese. Chickpeas add thickness, creaminess, and subtle cheesy flavor to the dishes.
7. Nuts and seeds: Different nuts and seeds also make a nutrient-rich cheese alternative in plant-based dishes. You can sprinkle powdered coarsely ground nuts and seeds into salads, pasta, sauces. Also, to make sauces creamier, you can add cashew paste, almond paste, pumpkin seed paste, and so on. Make sure you use these moderately as these can be fattening.
Feeling overwhelmed? With so many alternatives at hand, it’s natural to feel lost. Let’s look at some delicious recipes to get you started on cheese-free cheesy dishes.
5 Easy Whole Food Plant-Based cheese recipes
After all the intense information about how to eat plant-based on the road, let’s get into the most fun part – the vegan road trip snacks you can pack for the journey.
Here are five super-simple, quick, and easy WFPB snacks for you to try.
1. No-oil bean cheese sauce
- White beans (soaked for 3-4 hours in warm water)
- Nutritional yeast
- Herbs mix
- Add chopped potato, carrot, and onion to boiling water and cook until tender.
- Blend soaked beans, boiled veggies, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, and mixed herbs until smooth in a blender.
- Add broth from the boiled water to adjust consistency.
Voila! Your creamy, delicious, oil-free cheese sauce is ready. You can add it to blanched veggies, pasta, mac and cheese, or any other dish you see fit.
2. Plant-based parmesan
- Powdered almond
- Nutritional yeast
- Pepper powder
- Dried herbs mix
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and you’re all set.
You can store this mixture in a jar and sprinkle the plant-based parmesan on your favorite dishes for that cheesy flavor whenever you want.
3. Smokey cheese dip
- Sweet potato
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika powder
- Pepper powder
- Apple cider vinegar
- Bake sweet potato until soft, let it cool down, and mash it in a bowl.
- Add garlic powder, smoked paprika, pepper, vinegar, and salt to taste.
- Combine all the ingredients until a smooth paste. Add some water if you want to adjust consistency.
This smokey cheese dip is excellent to eat with raw veggies, bread, or crackers.
4. Herbed WFPB cheese
- Raw cashews (soaked overnight and drained well)
- Minced garlic
- Lemon juice
- Nutritional yeast
- Fresh dill and thyme
- In a food processor, throw in all the ingredients and process until smooth. Add water if required but let the mixture be firm and thick.
- Scoop all the mixture into a double layer of cheesecloth. Wrap it up to form a disc.
- Refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours to let the mixture sit and firm up.
- Once set, remove the cloth and rub some lemon juice and herbs on the disc if you want to add more fresh flavor.
This incredible WFPB cheese is as close to traditional cheese as it can get. You can add this cheese to salads, cut it as slices to put on sandwiches or eat it along with veggies.
5. Chickpea cheese slice
- Chickpea flour
- Soy milk (half a cup for flavor and creaminess)
- Garlic cloves
- Smoked red bell pepper
- Sun-dried tomato
- Chili flakes
- Lemon juice
- Coarsely grind garlic, red bell pepper, and sun-dried tomato.
- In a thick bottom pan, cook chickpea flour with water and soy milk into a thick paste on low flame.
- Add the ground mixture, chili flakes, and lemon juice to the paste, and cook for a few more minutes.
- Transfer the pan contents to a brownie mold lined with parchment.
- Refrigerate for an hour. Once it is set, cut the cheese into thin slices.
This cheese recipe is an excellent option for sandwiches and burgers. Instead of cutting it into slices, you can use it as cubes or shreds depending on the dish you wish to combine it with. You can store this cheese in the fridge for over a week.
5 Tips to stop eating cheese
Now that you’re all equipped with the cheese alternatives, it’s time to go over some tips that will make your transition to stop eating cheese easier.
1. Start by ordering cheese-free when eating out
Though cheese is readily available in grocery stores, we tend to eat more cheese-laden dishes when we are eating out. To start with, you should go for cheese-free dishes when you’re eating out at a restaurant. This practice will help you significantly cut down on cheese.
Check out our guide to eating out on the WFPB diet. You will discover plenty of plant-based options you can choose from if you’re going out to eat.
2. Take baby steps
The most crucial point to remember when attempting to stop eating cheese is that it won’t happen in a day. You’ll have to build a habit of it, grow your awareness and it will require daily work and self-control. We recommend self-awareness practices such as meditation to support your resolve.
So, the best way to approach this transition is by taking one small step at a time. It can look like, “I will eat cheese only once a week.” Then it can progress to going without cheese for two weeks or more.
3. Replace cheese in dishes with plant-based alternatives
If you frequently use cheese in your cooking, you should attempt to cook with alternative ingredients (as discussed in the previous sections).
Replicating the cheesy texture and flavor will make it easy for you to adapt to the new habit. Moreover, it will also help you overcome the sense of loss of your favorite food, as you can still enjoy cheese in a revamped and healthier form.
4. Explore other flavors
Cheese is only one of the flavors out of millions of foods humans know of. Also, it is used so widely in Western diets. Many other parts of the world don’t use as much cheese in their dishes.
Exploring various other flavors (of course, plant-based) can help you take your mind off the cheese and develop new tastes. You may also find something you never knew you could enjoy more than cheese.
5. Be patient and kind to yourself
Overcoming cheese addiction is not an easy task. You may find yourself getting off-track along the way. Remember that it is a part of the process, and it will take time.
Try your best to stay away from cheese, but you may find yourself craving it. Instead of feeling guilty about your craving, be kind to yourself. Even if you lose your way, keep getting back to it and achieve your goal.
We hope this article answered your questions about how to stop eating cheese and gave you a solid direction to get started on your cheese-free journey.