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For the Newbie Plant-Based Eater: Your Vegan Starter Shopping List


If you’re new to plant-based eating, there are several food items you should take note of and make into a regular part of your diet. These staples will help you to create the bases for meals of all types, from breakfasts to desserts and everything in between. Check out my recommendations for a vegan starter shopping list below:

1. Nutritional Yeast

This product looks like little golden flakes and is much loved in the vegan community. It gives you a boost of vitamin B12, as well as a burst of cheesy flavor and texture. Try sprinkling this stuff atop anything you’d eat with cheese, like pasta, popcorn, pizza, or on casseroles. Use it in this cheesy vegan mac n’ yeast.

2. Quinoa

Quinoa is a rich protein source; one cup of the cooked grain has 8 grams of protein. It is considered a super food, containing several essential vitamins and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, and copper. You can use it for breakfast in porridge, bake it in cookies, or mix it in salads and sushi.

3. Fortified Nut Milk

Nut milks can be used in anything in place of milk. They’re fortified with B and D vitamins, which are crucial vitamins for vegan to keep track of. Use a cup of your choice of nut milk in a smoothie for a healthy breakfast. Try vanilla caramel smoothie or pink powerhouse smoothie.

4. Blackstrap Molasses

You can certainly get enough calcium without dairy. Try eating blackstrap molasses for quick calcium. Just two tablespoons of the stuff can provide 400 mg of calcium. That’s more than the calcium in one serving of milk or cheese!

5. Cashews

Going vegan doesn’t mean giving up rich and creamy food. Use cashews to make cashew cream, which you can use in countless recipes such as Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Basil Cashew Cream or Raw Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Cheese.

6. Almonds

Almonds are a must-buy because they are a quick and healthy snack. Having ¼ cup of raw almonds will provide 45 percent of your daily value of vitamin E and manganese. Also, use them to make almond butter.

7. Hummus

Hummus is excellent for dipping and using on sandwiches. The chickpea and tahini dip is healthy and creamy. Try it on the vegan humdinger sandwich. For a creative take on the chickpea dip, try spicy sweet potato hummus.

8. Leafy Greens

Greens should always be at the top of your shopping list, as they provide a host of vitamins and nutrient benefits that are crucial to vegans. Kale is one of the best choices. Just one cup of chopped kale contains 206 percent of the daily value of vitamin A, 134 percent of vitamin C, and 684 percent of vitamin K. There are dozens of tasty recipes you can make with kale, such as vegan kale waldorf salad or kale and mushroom gratin.

9. Edamame

For protein that won’t pack on the pounds, choose edamame. One cup of prepared, frozen edamame contains 17 grams of protein and 16 grams of carbohydrates. You’ll keep a trim waistline while also fueling your energy tank. Blend the beans into oil-free kale edamame hummus.

10. Frozen Fruit

Frozen fruit usually has more vitamins and antioxidants than fresh produce since it’s picked when it’s ripe and then are frozen, rather than carted around and displayed in stores for days. Use frozen fruit for smoothies, which will help you get a nice chunk of vitamins and nutrients. Try blending a strawberry kale smoothie.

11. Organic Sprouted Grain Bread

Be on the lookout for breads, which can sometimes contain milk ingredients.  Sprouted grains are much healthier, so purchase organic sprouted grain bread or make your own. The sprouting process increases the level of antioxidants, vitamins C, B, and carotene.

12. Seaweed

This food is crucial for obtaining sufficient amounts of omega-3 fats on a vegan diet. It also provides iodine and vitamins C and E. Medically, seaweed has been used in China for centuries to treat a host of problems, including swelling, cysts, and enlarged thyroid glands. Add some delicious seaweed salad to your lunch for quick nutrition.

13. Dry Lentils

Legumes are a great food to store in your pantry since dried beans and lentils have a long shelf life. Always having some lentils on hand is a smart vegan move; their versatility makes them great for soups, veggie patties, and salads. One cup of lentils contains about 16 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein, a combo that helps keep both your hunger and your weight down. Use the lentils to make tasty dishes like lentil and mushroom shepherd’s pie and vegan BBQ lentil meatball sandwich with sweet miso coleslaw.

14. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that has a distinctive, nutty taste, and tough texture. It’s easy to prepare, which makes it a great choice for new vegans. Try using it in a vegan tempeh reuben sandwich, tempeh “tuna” salad, and tempeh picatta.

15. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has several uses and can be used on skin, in cooking, and for healing. Its’ versatility makes it a must-buy. Choose cold-pressed coconut oil, which is the healthiest option. Use it to make vegan corn bread.

While this list isn’t all-inclusive, it’s a great start for those of you just starting your vegan journey. What’s on your must-have list for the newbie vegan eater? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: Sunrise POS / Creative Commons



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38 comments on “For the Newbie Plant-Based Eater: Your Vegan Starter Shopping List”

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3 Years Ago

Couple things: Kale needs cooking to release it\'s full benefits. Anyone who hasn\'t tried kale chips, you are missing out! So addicting! Spinach and a couple others need to be cooked too, can\'t remember which ones right now. Soy is tricky because it\'s usually GMO and high in xenoestrogens which are linked to higher incidences of breast cancer, but it is yummy! Now, if someone has issues with candida, is nutritional yeast a good idea? Maybe it should be mentioned. Otherwise great list, I love everything on it, except for the yeast which I haven\'t tried yet, and tempeh which I have in the fridge, going to try it today, making tempeh on sprouted ancient grains buns. It\'s funny because just last night I was thinking I needed a book to know which foods would keep my B12 up. You read my mind! ;)

3 Years Ago

I have perhaps a stupid question! When you say 1 cup of chopped kale (or whatever leafy green), is it a packed cup (as in, do you smoosh down the greens as you continue to fill the cup), or just a filled cup without any packing? Does that make sense? I\'ve often wondered this, and would like to know if I\'m measuring correctly!

Thanks and love this website :)

4 Years Ago

Nutritional yeast ... is just weird. I haven\'t really figured out how to use it. I was expecting a Parmesan cheese kind of flavor and it\'s not. I haven\'t given up on it yet. I have Tempeh in the fridge waiting to be fixed. Haven\'t decided how I want to fix it for my first try of it. I\'ve been on a mostly plant based diet for a few years now. I think if you go slowly you won\'t miss the meats as much. Now I can\'t stand the smell of beef being cooked! Makes me nauseous.

15 Nov 2016

Hey Becky,
I like using nutritional yeast on my popcorn, after I put coconut oil on it. I also use nutritional yeast in my tofu scramble eggs (extra firm tofu, 2 garlic cloves, minced onions, tablespoon of coconut oil, 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast, half teaspoon of turmeric.)

4 Years Ago

Don\'t forget some Vegannaise!

Koko Bibi
4 Years Ago

Shop at your local farmers market!!

Shannon Leigh Ruark
4 Years Ago

I wouldn't reccomend nutritional yeast, fortified nut milk, or edamame but the rest of the suggestions are great!

Christelle VEROVE
26 Mar 2014

Come on! Yeast is the best on pasta!!!!! :D I do understand not liking it though but pasta is just not pasta to me without it! ;) Edamame I only tried recently and I LOVED it. Not that good without a bit of salt though... Nut milk I still have to try.

Canticle De Rox Clark
4 Years Ago

Tasha Laurie :) helpful maybe

Jen Swanson
4 Years Ago

I don't know about this list. I'm newly vegan (after 1.5 years vegetarian) and if I thought I had to eat this type of food all the time to be vegan, I wouldn't be able to maintain it and probably wouldn't even try. I think there needs to be more of an effort to show people that there are so many substitutes out there now that actually taste like or almost like the real thing (ie: grapeseed oil vegenaise, tofutti sour cream/cream cheese, earth balance buttery spread) that it is easier to transition. Nutritional yeast, sprouted bread, dry lentils, quinoa, etc. is going to turn off most people...you have to get down to their (my) level and work your way up to that stuff.

Christelle VEROVE
26 Mar 2014

I agree that it might discourage some people but I think it\'s actually kind of sad to have to resort to substitutes instead of discovering a whole new range of tastes. Even though I\'m a fan of meat/mayo/cheese substitutes, I recently realized that it kept people used to the taste of meat (in addition to having the same name -> chicken-like, beef-like, etc) which basically sends the message that having the taste of a dead animal in your diet is a normal thing. I know it\'s easy to say as most vegetarians/vegans were omnivores in the first place (as was I) but I still think it\'s kind of sad to have such a hard time losing the habit to eat meat-tasting products. Perfect for those in transition though !

Deborrah Cooper
10 Sep 2014

What Christelle fails to understand is that just because someone (1) doesn\'t want to eat meat because of the ethical problems with killing animals or (2) doesn\'t want to eat any animal products because they want to better by animals and the entire planet, it doesn\'t automatically translate to (3) that they did all those things and no longer like meat.

See, you\'re mixing apples and oranges here. It\'s like this - you know you\'re obese. You know you shouldn\'t eat ice cream and candy if you want to stop being obese. So you don\'t eat it because you know its a bad thing to do. It\'s a decision you made to reach a specific goal. However, that DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON\'T LIKE THE TASTE, SMELL AND FLAVORS of candy and ice cream. Get it?

So replacements and substitutes are fabulous things for new vegans as well as vegans tired of looking at lettuce and kale. Sorry but that gets super boring after awhile and you want to have something different. That is when meat flavored items can help out. A lot.

Sharon Johnson
4 Years Ago

Latrina, I knew it was up your alley!!

Latrina M. Patrick
4 Years Ago

Sharon Johnson I was planning to do an upcoming blog on this! :-)


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