The grocery store can be a wild, untamed wilderness when you’re trying out a new diet for the first time. Entering the store can take on a whole new meaning for you, but it’s nothing to go all Nat-Geo crazy about. When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet and I’d ask my sister to pick something up for me, this would be her response: “Okay, but I’m not getting any weird expensive vegan thing for you, what do you need?”

The stigma that my sister had is falling away, just like most of the general trepidations about trying out a vegan diet. Sometimes the ingredients we buy can look a little “exotic” but once you and nooch become best friends, you’ll be living in plant-based harmony.

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To help decipher some of the more non-traditional grocery items, check out this list (and send it to a friend!) and enjoy the benefits of some new yummy foods. You can tackle that wild safari of a grocery store and embrace your inner Green Monster!

1. Nooch

If you don’t know the nickname, you aren’t nooch obsessed. In “layman’s terms,” nutritional yeast, has a nutty cheesy flavor that gives a great taste to sauces, dips, and my personal favorite noochy popcorn. This delightful condiment also contains vitamin B12 and protein, so add that nugget o’ knowledge to the “oh, but where do you get your protein and that one vitamin that vegans need” repertoire.

2.  Liquid Amino Acids

Soy sauce? Please. Amino acids are where it’s at, specifically Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s. They contain 16 amino acids to help with your health! Use it in any recipe calling for soy sauce.

3. Vital Wheat Gluten

Vital wheat gluten is the glutenous glue that holds together your homemade seitan sammies and sausages. All hail SEITAN!

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4. Kombucha

So this isn’t perhaps something that would come to mind for everyone, but I didn’t find out about this vinegar-y drink until I became vegan. According to our “All you need to know” Kombucha guide, “Consumed for over 2000 years to improve health and fight against infection and chronic disease, kombucha has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, especially since the use of probiotics became commonplace.” Find out how to make it at home right here.

5. Pink Salt

The benefits of “true salt” are numerous. It helps with digestion and regulates blood pressure and acidity in  your body. You can even get some of the benefits without even eating it — just pick up a salt lamp!

6. Dates and Nuts

There is a world of possibilities with dates, nuts, and your food processor. Eat dates whole for an on-the-go energy boost, or blend with nuts to create a base for pies, ice cream Popsicles, energy bars, nut balls, and more!

7. Hemp Protein

An awesome addition to smoothies and recipes, hemp protein packs a hefty nutritional punch. It’s one of our 3 Superseeds Tou Should Be Eating. Why should you be eating it? Well, Hemp seeds are loaded with digestible, vegan protein: Just two tablespoons have 24% of your daily requirement (impressive, huh?). It’s a high-quality protein, too, with a balance of all the essential amino acids. They’re also loaded with fiber (yay, digestion!) and packed with other nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6, vitamin e, the b vitamins and folic acid,” as Amanda Etty writes.

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8. Kale

Oh kale, you’re just about the most versatile leafy green we know. Kale is awesome in salads, dehydrated or baked into chips, blended into smoothies or juices, and so much more! Why is kale so great? Let us count the ways! One cup of kale includes:

  • Over 1000 percent of your daily recommended vitamin K, an antioxidant that promotes bone growth and regulates blood clotting.
  • Over 180 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A, which aids vision, growth, bone formation, tissue repair and red blood cell production.
  • 200 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C and 5 grams of fiber, which is important for digestion and regularity.
  • Significant quantities of vitamin B6 (maintains healthy nervous and immune systems), as well as iron and calcium.
  • Eye-health promoting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

So throw some in your cart and get cookin’!

9. Tempeh 

Tempeh is a delicious fermented food made of soybeans. Fermented foods are great for you because they are easier for your body to digest. Wondering how tempeh is made? Soybeans are cooked and de-hulled, which infuses them with a culturing agent, then they are “incubated” overnight to form a cake. Nutritionally, “tempeh is high in protein and dietary fiber, and a great source of several vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, magnesium, manganese and copper.” If you’re looking for a great way to test out tempeh, might I suggest the delicious tempeh reuben? You won’t regret it!

10. Lots of Veggies and Fruit!

We obviously couldn’t leave those off the list! As much as there is a certain drama surrounding the new taste and ingredients of a vegan diet, at the core, it’s about eating healthy whole foods that satisfy the palate, and celebrate our earth. Looking for some favorites? How about zucchini, collard greens, sweet potato, avocado, and bananas!

Image source: Sean and Lauren / Flickr

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