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Vegan Food List For Beginners

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What Should Be on a Vegan Food List- For the Beginners?

The short answer to this is: Food! Similar to what should be on everyone else’s list (HA! how many of us are avid grocery list shoppers? In a perfect world right!)

When exploring vegan foods here is a pro tip: the hyped up gluten free, face free pseudo “Oreo” that screams “wellness” on its label is the gateway to a whole lot of vegan but not a whole lot of nutrients. Buying 10 packages of a cookie kind of like an Oreo won’t make you more vegan.

Theres. amore strategic way we can do this!

How Often Should I Shop as A Vegan?

The number one thing every new vegan needs to understand is that time seems to move a little faster in plant planet.  

Veggies perish fast.  If we’re moving on snail scale like we can conveniently do with frozen meats and cheese blocks we’re going to strike out fast. 

Produce should be the bulk of your meal.  A trip to the grocery usually occurs a bit more frequently for vegans (about 2x a week).  

  • Shop often
  • Choose mindfully
  • Have a plan for your choice
  • Divest from your standard shopping trail

Take Time to Ease Into Your Vegan Diet

Instead of starting with what should be on a plant based diet grocery list, i’d instead like to start with what should not! 

Here’s a quick reference list of all the things that can easily  remain on the grocery store shelf  without much despair: 

  • Stuff you wont eat but buy just because it says “vegan.”
  • Dairy free milk alternatives you think taste like crap but throw in your cart because you secretly think to yourself “there’s no going vegan without a little pain.”
  • A bunch of manufactured cheese substitute products.  Because if you’re destined for  “vegan pizza again” until death do you part so be it

All jokes aside, some of the products listed above are actually pretty great!  

You can choose them if you like, But they are not necessary.

 Just so you know- people have been living healthy, full fledged vegan lifestyles long before the evolution of Diya cheese. 

Beginners Guide For Going Vegan

Be gracious with yourself! If you’ve got 40 years of mainstream dietary habits tucked under your belt, it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to unravel them all in one shining veganuary!

Nutrition experts offer this advice-  “Ease into it. Set a deadline for yourself and try a new vegan recipe at least once a week to build up your repertoire until you have enough, trusted, uncomplicatedgo-to recipes”. Jean LaMantia, RD

New recipes rock! Especially as you build that vegan foundation.  You don’t have to go big or go home right away.  Some other weekly goal ideas that can help you ease into the vegan groove include:

  • Practicing proper storage of veggies and herbs to prevent food waste.  You can prolong the shelf life and taste by storing properly.
  • Learn to grow your own! Build an herb garden in your kitchen so you’re never left lacking.  And leave that damn packaged junk that always leaves you lacking where it belongs at the grocery for someone else!
  • Buy one new crazy plant or products at the grocery and USE IT each week.  This could be anything from cactus to amaranth.  Let’s unlock the gates of your tiny food jail and learn to explore!

Making Protein Choices On A Vegan Diet

Contrary to modern popular belief, the best protein we can get for our bodies does not come in the form of “The absolute largest quantity of protein we can get in a single product ever.” 

It might surprise you to learn, that most American’s don’t have any problem getting protein into their diet! This includes vegetarians and vegans.   

Don’t take it lightly when I say, vegan protein rocks!

Vegans typically get their protein by combining multiple plant products into one meal (for example beans and rice). Foods that must be combined to get in all the essential amino acids needed are called complimentary proteins. 

However, some plant based proteins do contain all the amino acids we need in a single food.  No one protein food is better than another, it is instead about our composition of meals combined for the day.

Easy Plant Based Protein Go To Items:

We can easily get the amount of protein we need in a day (on average about 60-80 grams) from plants.

Choosing protein from plants does not need to be hard. Here’s a few great products to choose: 

  • soybeans, soy products, or tofu
  • explore amaranth, quinoa, or buckwheat
  • hemp or chea seeds are a win
  • choose beans or lentils 
  • include almonds or other types of nuts

There are so many varieties to choose from in so many of these vegan products as well. For example, beans come in all sizes, shapes and flavors and can be utilized in so many dishes including burgers, Chili Sin Carne, and scrambles just to name a few.

Where do Faux Meats Fit Into a Vegan Shopping List?

While I poke some fun at convenience items at the beginning of this blog, items like textured vegetable protein, microwave hot dog alternatives, and meatless crumbles can actually be an excellent way to get in some really quick high quality protein.

The important thing is that we’re getting variety. Mixing convenience items with more traditional plant based proteins such as beans, quinoa, rice and tofu. 

 These are a good example of faux meats. These products are becoming increasingly popular as more individuals make the transition to a vegan lifestyle. 

How do I work grain choices into Shopping Trip?

Take your pick! there’s quite a few of them. The best part is no grain ever evolved from something with wings, legs, or fins.  Some great vegan grain choices include: 

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Millet
  • Bread
  • Rice

 Many grains also contain a good amount of protein! This includes Quinoa which is actually a complete protein. 

Spices For Vegans

One of the main reasons I think I could never return to my former carnivorous lifestyle is the food is just so dang flavorless! 

Vegans know how to spice it up! I always say to my meat loving friends-make sure it tastes great vegan first, then add the meat! 

Get those spices in the pantry and learn to use them! 

One thing I also like to mention about spices is to ditch those STUPID VARIETY SHAPED pre packed spice bottles.  

Try choosing your spices In bulk. You don’t need a shaker top on them either! I use little mason jar style type container. A purchase in the box “spice rack” is also a pretty terrible way to get things done!

  • Mustard Seed-Lends a deep earthy flavor 
  • Coriander- subtle sweet and sour flavor. Often found in Ethiopian or Southeast asian cuisine.  Use whole seed or powder. 
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cumin-rich and earthy. Typically used in taco seasonings and chili powders.
  • Tumeric-Earthy, bitter spice. Popular in Indiana dishes such as curries and Dahl. 
  • Nutritional Yeast: Cheesy flavor. Great as seasoning, in soups or as a sauce. 
  • Rosemary-powerful sharp flavor. Used in soups, salads, casseroles. 
  • Sage- a powerfully flavored herb. Add to bean dishes, infuse honey with sage, or add to polenta. 
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

What Do Vegans eat instead of Eggs?

Never fear, where there is a will there is a way!

The most popular alternative for binding agents such as eggs and milk when preparing foods are things like ground flaxseed and dairy alternatives such as almond, coconut milk, or soy milk. 

A good ol’ bowl of fiber rich cereal with almond milk is an excellent example of what to eat for breakfast on a plant based diet. 

Vegans may also use finely ground chia seed or silken soy in place of egg products. Silken soy can be an excellent replacer in dessert products such as these scrumptious vegan brownies. 

It’s actually truly amazing the near exact replicas you can make of your favorite recipe’s without using products like eggs and and milk.  Egg replacement in recipes has become increasingly common with not only vegans, but also for those with egg allergies.

What Can’t I Eat on a Plant Based Diet?

Thanks to the collective creativity of many pioneering vegans past, we can now make nearly any American cuisine plant based. 

The exception might be things like a stand alone piece of steak or chicken (although interestingly enough even that’s debatable).

Most who make the vegan transition become artists in mere months, and realize the true flavor potential in their meal choices! 

For my carnivorous and vegan clients alike, I encourage you to utilize a plant based grocery list as the backbone of your shopping trip. I provide it to every patient. 

All of us can use a little more adventure and a few more plants in our lives.  It’s also much easier to add meat to a meal or a grocery list than take it away, and thus a plant based list creates a healthy core foundation. 

What are some ways you add plants to your shopping cart? Are there ways you get creative with plants in your meals not listed above? Would love to hear about it in the comments below! 

Which Cooking Oils Are Vegan?

I feel like this is a weird one in vegan world that is critical for success but rarely ever discussed. 

Since we are now consuming more plants in every way shape and form, learning to cook and flavor them is critical! Oils are a key element in this sphere. 

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Light Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Sesame Oil 
  • Walnut Oil
  • Almond Oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Avocado Oil

Oils with the highest smoke points will withstand best under high heats.  Making sure you don’t go above an oils intended smoke point will help keep nutrients and flavor in check. 

Oils with lower smoke points are best used with cold dishes like salads. 

Infused oils are also an excellent easy way to add flavor to foods! 

Pump Up the Iron and B12 in Your Vegan Transition

Iron and B12 are some of the nutrients to consider in the vegan transition.  

While both iron and B12 can be found with the right combination of vegan foods or supplement, they do require a little extra attention.  

B12 is important for neurological function and red blood cell formation. Best sources for vegans include

  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Cremeni mushrooms 
  • Tempeh

Pack The Pantry

Every seasoned vegan knows all about a packed pantry.  Once we have our fresh produce lined up, next comes the dried and canned goods.  

Some excellent pantry staples include: 

  • Beans-dried and canned
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Millet
  • Bulger
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Tempeh
  • Nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachio’s, walnuts)
  • Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds)
  • Dried Fruits
  • Tahini
  • Peanut & Almond Butter

Basically, you never want to be left vegan without a plan.  If you didn’t have time to hit the grocery this week, the freezer and pantry should always have you covered.  

Re-Use Your Vegan Groceries

Making your own veggie stock is economical, sustainable, and user friendly. Keep your veggies separate in the freezer based on flavor profile.  

Sweet Veggies For Stock: Parsnips, golden beets, corn cobs, pea pods, carrots, and previously cooked veggies. 

Savory Veggies for Stock: Onions, spinach, chard, leek tops, carrot tops.  

Combine veggies based on desired veggie stock flavor! Be careful for richly colored vegetables such as beets if this is a concern. Foods such as potatoes may change the consistency of your stock.  

Veggies should be chopped into 1″ chunks prior to freezing.  f

10-Minute Vegan Meals and Snacks

I always challenge my newly vegan clients to finding snacks they can prep that are “easier than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” Here’s my starter list:

  • Veggies & Hummus
  • Mixed nuts and dried fruit
  • Bean & Quinoa wrap with cashew sauce
  • Rice cakes with nut butter and seeds
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Mixed greens with garbanzo beans, tahini, balsamic and oil
  • Overnight oats

With regular pre prepping, this “less work than a PB  & a list can quickly expand exponentially! Lazy is the best vegan way to be.

For a Full Weekly Vegan Meal Plan Check Out The Link Below

© 2022 Peace and Nutrition

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!

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