I'm not perfect and I slip from time to time. Coming off a particularly stressful week I found myself several bites into a few cheese wedges at a work function before I even realized what I was doing. Since going plant based I had abstained from cheese - no grilled cheese sandwiches, no mac and cheese, no cheese on my pizza, no cheese in my burritos. And then suddenly I found myself reaching for wedges of cheese. And I decided that it was ok. I wasn't going to beat myself up about it, I wasn't going to feel guilty, but I wasn't going to do it again. Sometimes it takes falling off to get back on and learn how to not fall off again. Also, by falling off the wagon and eating cheese I later realized the experiment I had done on my body and could finally determine the affects cheese has on me.
The Accidental Experiment
I ate the cheese around 4pm, and around two hours after consuming about six 1" wedges of hard and soft cheese I started to feel extremely bloated and could see the expansion in my stomach. I became quite gassy over the next few hours (7p-8p, sorry, husband) and had stomach pains as well. About an hour after that (9pm) I started feeling tightness and pain in my chest - not a heart attack, but gas build up that led to painful heartburn. I had to drink a glass of Alkaseltzer to help relieve some of the pain and bloating. I went to bed definitely not feeling the greatest, and all from about three ounces of cheese.
It turns out that it can take between four and five hours to digest cheese - and I felt the entire process.
I love cheese. I do. I grew up in Wisconsin where EVERYTHING came with cheese. I didn't think I could go plant based because I didn't think I could give up cheese, but I immediately noticed the effects of NOT eating cheese as soon as I gave it up. I don't feel bloated, I don't feel gassy, I don't have the reoccurring heartburn that I seemed to always have. And honestly, I haven't missed it.
Falling off the wagon this week only reminded me why I don't want to eat cheese. To me, its not worth feeling horrible for several hours after just a few minutes of enjoyment.
Now, just because I've tried to give up dairy cheese it doesn't mean that I still can't enjoy cheese. There are some amazing nut cheeses and soy cheeses out there (and some really gross ones too) that have replaced my need for cheese. Most of these can be found at your local specialty health food grocery store, Whole Foods, or even in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store near the tofu.
I recently discovered Miyoko's Kitchen Artisan Vegan Nut Cheese while shopping at Berkeley Bowl here in San Francisco. I've also found them at Whole Foods. These nut cheeses are AMAZING. I've missed having cheese and crackers and wine, and these absolutely replace what I've been missing! Just LOOK at these amazing pictures:
I can even begin to tell you how amazing these cheese are. If you're looking for something for a dinner party I would definitely try these out! Or just to have on hand as a snack! They're not cheap at $9.99 per cheese, but they are a great treat to have when you're really missing cheese!
Daiya Foods makes a collection of cheese to use for cooking and eating 'raw'. Personally I'm not a fan of these cheese on their own (like on a sandwich or in a salad), but I really like them for making lasagnes, mac and cheeses, or any other sort of melted cheesy sauce. Here are some recipes I've used Daiya Cheese in:
They've all turned out GREAT and I highly recommend this cheese in any type of cooking you may do that you need a cheese replacement.
Follow Your Heart makes a variety of vegan cheeses in slices and blocks, shreds, and even parmesan sprinkles. I've used the Slices and Blocks to make sandwiches and they're actually quite good!
So don't fear - there are alternatives to traditional cheese that makes you feel yucky! Try any of these and I promise you won't be disappointed!