Dairy-free and delicious

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina & Dave Shishkoff

Portrait of Vesanto Melina• Last month, I had the pleasure of being a presenter at the Dairy-Free Living course – complete with tastings – at Vancouver’s Central Library. One thing is now clear: there is an abundance of delicious, healthful dairy alternatives.

Vancouver is home to several independent non-dairy milk and nut-based companies that produce a pleasing array of cheeses. There’s also a completely vegan ice cream shop: Nice Vice. Many ice creameries offer vegan alternatives, including Ernest Ice Cream, which serves outstanding lemon and chocolate vegan options.

While in the past, non-dairy cheese could be pretty dismal, very appealing products are now found in mainstream supermarkets and natural food stores. One can find Earth Island products, other non-dairy cheeses, mayo and even cheesecakes. Also explore the Parthenon Supermarket’s wonderful assortment on West Broadway.

One highlight is Miyoko’s Creamery, which sells products online. Their highly acclaimed, cultured, nut-based (organic, GMO-free) cheeses offer a taste experience enjoyed by even the most critical dairy fans. Textures include hard and soft cheeses with rich and compelling flavours. I had the opportunity to attend a vegan ‘wine and cheese’ party in San Francisco, catered by Miyoko herself, and was amazed that the flavours of many dairy-based favourites have been replicated or even surpassed. While sampling, I realized it is not milk that makes cheese what it is, but the culturing process. Alternatives can be based on cashews – most frequently used – that are carefully cultured and seasoned. Check out the variety of products at www.vegansupply.ca

People often confide they would like to go vegan, but they just can’t give up cheese. Some are uncomfortable with the distress experienced by cows and calves when separated after birth so humans can have the milk. A few are aware that, after a dairy cow’s high productivity drops, she is sent to the slaughterhouse, typically to become hamburger meat. Her lifespan is about six years instead of the normal 18 or so. Dairy production involves repeated, forced impregnations. The male calves, unable to become milk producers, experience short, confined lives before becoming veal. Environmentalists are becoming aware that choosing to rely on animals for food can have a negative impact even greater than our transportation choices.

Yet when delicious, satisfying and sustainable alternatives are available that neither harm animals nor boost one’s cholesterol levels – it’s win-win-win!

Another lively new trend is the booming popularity of tasty and quick vegan restaurant food. The two locations of Meet (on Main and now in Gastown) are packed most nights with people enjoying their award-winning veggie burgers and comfort food.

The demand and growth of vegan foods is apparent at major chains as well. Nearly all grocery stores stock non-dairy milks, ice creams and meatless products like Gardein. It used to be a real feat to find a pizza place with vegan cheese; Now, there’s Vegan Pizza House, Panago’s and more.

www.meetup.com/meatlessmeetup frequently hosts events in Vancouver and sometimes in the Tri-Cities, Surrey and Richmond. People who don’t intend to go vegetarian, but who want to lower their eco-footprint are also very welcome.

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver based registered dietitian. www.nutrispeak.com, 778-379-5377. Dave Shishkoff is an athlete and the founder of veganstart.org

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