Many individuals choose a vegan diet based on their desire to live a healthy lifestyle. While proper nutrition and exercise is certainly important, a balanced diet includes a sweet treat now and then. Whether you’re a beginning vegan or a veteran vegan you need to know how satisfy that sweet tooth without compromising your vegan values.
If you’re not a whiz in the kitchen don’t fret! There are a lot of products out there that are technically vegan to satisfy your sweet and salty cravings. Lesia Kohut, a chef and founder of LPK’s Culinary Groove in Toronto says because veganism is trending, these products are becoming easier to spot on grocery shelves.
“Companies nowadays big and small are jumping on whatever marketing bandwagon they can. You’re going to see a lot of vegan stuff out there [that] wasn’t necessarily labeled ‘vegan’ before,” Kohut says.
Anne-Marie Campbell is a Toronto vegan who lives very healthily as an MMA athlete but admits she does enjoy junk food like sweet and salty popcorn on occasion when she isn’t training.
“There’s a lot of vegan junk food at the grocery store,” Campbell says. “Some good ones are Oreos, Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, Ritz Crackers, So Delicious ice cream and frozen desserts and Tofurky frozen pizza.”
When she’s enjoying time with friends or family, she stacks up on mixed nuts, tortilla chips with salsa and vegan cheese and crackers.
“I also really like dark chocolate-covered coconut cubes and almonds,” she says.
Kohut has been creating vegan desserts for over 15 years. She took home the win for Toronto’s “Best Professionally Crafted Vegan Dessert” in 2009 and 2010 with her vanilla bars and peanut butter Nanaimo bars. Some of her favourite ingredients are certified organic sugar, coconut milk, dark Camino chocolate, organic peanut butter and of course fruit. She makes her own vegan ice cream with a coconut milk based sorbet which is sweetened with agave and other fruits that are in season.
Kohut says you don’t need to be a chef to come up with your own mouthwatering sweet creations. Random ingredients in your kitchen can do the trick. Such as this dessert idea she pulled together last-minute on her birthday:
“I took coconut milk and organic peanut butter and I whipped [them] together. Then I had some fresh raspberries available and some organic frozen blueberries. I just made myself a parfait,” Kohut says.
Kristen Bethel Lepine is a Toronto-based vegan educator and founder of a mobile vegan cooking school called Know Thy Food. She works with a lot of beginner vegans teaching them how to transition their diet and cooking.
“While I teach whole food vegan cooking focusing on unprocessed and simple ingredients – I still enjoy going out for cupcakes, cinnamon buns and vegan French fries,” Bethel Lepine says. “I know that vegan food trends are like any other ones and I can tell you that when vegans find anything sweet that they can eat, they are usually pretty excited.”
Creating your own vegan sweets is all about finding alternatives to the animal products use in most non-vegan treats. This includes dairy, honey, bone char refined sugar and gelatin to name a few. The way around this is finding alternative fats and sweeteners that work as well as animal-based counterparts.
Bethel Lepine says she uses dates, raisins, coconut sugar and sometimes stevia which are all great plant-based sources of sugar for her vegan desserts. Her recipe for vegan date squares is a quick and easy dessert fix anyone can make at home.
“I like to mix oats with some virgin coconut oil, date paste with some cinnamon and nutmeg. You can pop it in the oven or you can put it in the fridge if you want it raw,” she says.
Having desserts and junky snacks in moderation is a way to stay on track and fulfill your cravings. You can do this by learning more from a vegan cooking class, filling your kitchen with vegan-labeled products and visiting your local vegan baker. Having sweets and snacks should never be a guilty pleasure – just a delicious one.