Five years ago, when you heard the word vegan or vegetarian, most people thought of salad with the occasional fake meat product that resembled mystery meat in a middle school cafeteria. Vegans and vegetarians have spent years trying to convince people they are able to eat more than just salads, but when it came to doing anything other than cooking for themselves, salads and french fries were the reality for many plant-based eaters. In truth, that was even my reality as a vegan at the start of my transition to veganism. However, many different food companies and restaurants are opening up their doors to vegan and vegetarian-friendly options and these strides are taking the plant-based community by storm. 

When I first went vegan almost four [CRAZY] years ago, the plant-based options around me were scarce and limited. I have to admit, living in California for the first few months of veganism spoiled me [California is ahead of the game with the plant-based movement] with the number of vegan options in stores, at restaurants and even on campus. However, when I returned to the midwest after my freshman year in San Diego, my vegan “high” came to a halt. Anyone can buy rice, beans, fruits, nuts, and veggies and live a cheap vegan lifestyle. However, there are foods beyond rice and beans that I enjoy and just because I didn’t want to eat animals and animal by-products doesn’t mean I didn’t want to have all of those in my life as well. I remember the first time I found vegan ice cream, vegan cheese, etc. It’s a euphoric feeling of eating the foods you adore without the cruelty involved with the “real” thing. Over the past four years, I have seen a number of strides in the vegan and vegetarian food industry and I’m certain these numbers can only increase from here. I get to eat meat that tastes like meat, cookie dough that tastes like cookie dough and ice cream that is rich and creamy without a single animal product in them and nothing makes this animal-loving girl happier than that. 

To this day, a lot of meat-eaters make the remark that meat and dairy alternatives contain a lot of chemicals. Now, some do. However, the number of chemicals in processed foods that aren’t vegan or vegetarian are either equal to or surpass those in plant-based processed food. So, I’ll be over here, eating some of the following foods, with the same or fewer chemicals as their meat and dairy counterparts. 

Dairy-Free Milk / Dairy-Free Ice Cream 

For me, this is the biggest game-changer of them all. Sometimes, you need a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for a movie night on a Friday and sometimes you want to make brownie batter just to eat with your sister. Without dairy-free milk and ice cream, I wouldn’t be able to do either of these things. However, with the plant-based milk demand increasing, the amount of plant-based milk types and brands as well as plant-based ice creams has increased exponentially. In stores today, there is an entire section for plant-based milk and ice cream, which of course are two very important stops for me on any shopping trip. 

Burger King Impossible Whopper / KFC Vegan Fried Chicken 

When I tell you I cried when I first tried the Burger King Impossible Whopper, I’m being 100% serious. I have never been a fast-food kind of girl, so I really never ate at Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, etc. However, the sheer fact that fast-food restaurants aka meat cesspools offer plant-based options other than french fries is a feat in itself. The success of the Impossible Whopper and the hype for the upcoming KFC Vegan Fried Chicken shows the importance of plant-based options in every type of restaurant. Plant-based is the future and these products are proving it. 


Starbucks Frappuccino Drinks

When I was in middle school and was first introduced to caffeine, my main source was through the bottled Starbucks Frappuccino beverages. Nowadays, these aren’t beverages I would drink on the regular, if ever. However, Starbucks has released new bottled Frappuccino drinks with almond milk! These are perfect for when you’re in a rush, want to grab a coffee on the way out of the store or just to keep for when you aren’t in the mood to make your own coffee!


Kroger’s Simple Truth Cookie Dough

I love baking, I really do. There are some days, however, where the last thing I want to do is get 25 ingredients together to bake. When this happens, my go-to would be break and bake cookie dough. Up until recently [two weeks ago], I never had this chance. However, when I walked through the cooler section of Kroger on a fateful Monday afternoon and locked eyes with “Plant-based Cookie Dough,” I knew I was in for a treat. This cookie dough is great for baking cookies or just for a midnight snack! I can have cookies in an instant [or 12-14 minutes] without having to go to the grocery store to get millions of ingredients. 


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