Many people think that being vegan is difficult, but nothing can be farther from the truth.
In the modern world, grocery stores are packed with choices that can satisfy the most stringent of plat-based health enthusiasts and the vegans who only want to eat mock meats and junk food.
There are plenty of options to go around.
This Easy Beginner Vegan Shopping List will show you a plethora of options and make shopping a breeze!
I'll also give you some pointers along the way that should be helpful for beginners and experienced vegans alike.
Let's get started!
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Beans and Legumes
If you're new to being vegan, embracing your beans and legumes is a great place to start. They're packed with fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates that will keep you full and satisfied for long periods of time, and they are versatile enough to be incorporated into many different kinds of dishes.
- Many beans can be used in sweet recipes (like black bean brownies) as well as savory dishes. If you're getting canned beans, be sure to get unsalted if you want to use them for this purpose to keep the flavor profile as versatile as possible.
- You can get beans in the bulk/dry section and cook them yourself without salt/preservatives if your diet requires. It's cheaper this way, but slightly less convenient. A pressure cooker can make the process a little easier.
- Some can also be found frozen, like peas.
- You can use white beans to make an easy low-fat vegan cheese sauce with lemon and nutritional yeast in a blender.
Depending on how starchy the root vegetable is, it can be used as a staple food or as a side. For example, you may want to use beets more as a side, but potatoes can be used as a staple food because they're filling and have enough caloric density. They're also neutral in flavor, just waiting to be seasoned with your favorite spices and additions.
- If you have an abundance of potatoes on hand, then you have a meal because there's so much you can do with them! Bake a white or sweet potato and stuff it with beans and jarred salsa for a quick and filling lunch or dinner.
- Yucca makes great fries if you cut them up and top with salt and pepper. You don't even need to bake it with oil for it to be delicious.
- Throw 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into smoothies to create a warm fall flavor.
The more vibrant and colorful your selection of veggies, the better! You don't have to stick to anything that's exotic and unfamiliar at first. Try to find ones you already like and perfect how you prepare them.
- Find a few green veggies you enjoy and focus on eating them on a regular basis.
- If you hate greens and have trouble eating them, try hiding them in a smoothie. You can really mask the flavor and texture when you combine with sweeter fruits like cherries or bananas and throw in some unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Don't be afraid of the steam-able microwave bags for convenience. They're perfect when you're short on time.
- You can also get a microwave-safe steamer bowl which is great for cooking bulk-bought frozen veggies that don't have a microwavable bag.
Depending on the season, you should be able to find most of these fruits in your average grocery store.
If you're a new vegan that's transitioning, meat alternatives are extremely helpful. They allow you to re-create your favorite comfort foods without hurting animals. Meat alternatives can also help you overcome the mental barrier that you "need" animal products to get by.
- When buying pre-made mock meats and veggie burgers, be very careful to check the labels. Some brands like Morning Star aren't fully vegan and use eggs and dairy. Look for 100% vegan brands like Gardein.
- You can freeze tofu or tempeh, so feel free to buy in bulk.
- Tempeh is the healthiest of all the meat alternatives, but tofu isn't bad either!
- Vegan jerky is fantastic, but you might only be able to find it online or at a Whole Foods.
- Be sure to try some of the new products as they come out. Items like the Beyond Burger are becoming all too real. If you're someone who hasn't eaten meat for a long time, it might even take some getting used to!
Although most vegan cheeses aren't the healthiest option, they're becoming extremely close to the real thing. Brands like Chao even have the whole melting thing down!
- Pre-made vegan cheeses are great to have on hand, but it's also easy to make your own healthier cheese sauces by blending soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and a bit of salt.
- For a lower fat vegan cheese sauce, you can replace the blended cashews with white beans or potatoes.
Aside from honey, vegans can pretty much eat any and all sweeteners. Keep in mind, honey (especially from smaller bee farms) is a hotly debated topic in the vegan community and one I suggest you do your own detailed research on.
*When buying conventional table sugar, it may be the case that non-organic cane sugar is filtered with bone char. To avoid this, simply buy beet sugar or organic cane sugar.
- If you don't like stevia, try combining it with another sweetener or even small amounts of real sugar. It tastes best when used in synergy with something else.
- Flavored stevia drops also tend to be far less "stevia-tasting" but also add other flavors like vanilla, chocolate or hazelnut.
- Consider using sweet fruits like dates and frozen bananas to naturally sweeten things to get an extra boost of nutrients and fiber.
Nuts, Seeds & Fats
Because fats aid in nutrient absorption, it's important to eat them in moderation for most people. Some plant-based doctors advise against it for aggressive weight loss or for specific medical conditions, but this guide isn't a medical one, so here are some great ways to get fat-based ingredients into your vegan diet.
- The fats on this list that aren't whole foods (vegan butters and oils) are generally agreed to be less healthy for you. I prefer to use them in moderation if at all.
- If you want to buy almond butter or another specialized nut butter, consider making your own at home because it's far less expensive and you can ensure there are no unwanted added ingredients.
- If you eat a lot of Omega-6 rich foods (like processed oils), it is even more important to eat ground flax-seeds to keep your Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratios in check.
Sauces and Condiments
There are so many vegan condiments out there that it's difficult to list them all, but here are a few of my favorites and what I like to do with them.
Spices and Flavors
You can usually find little clam-shells of sprouts (not literal shells of clams) in the produce section. Sprouts are loaded with nutrients and are great for adding texture to almost anything including sandwiches, salads or vegan poke bowls.
You'll typically be able to find clam-shells of
With a sprouting jar, you can have a near-endless supply of sprouts for pennies!
Order one online or check your local gardening or kitchen supply store.
If you're health-conscious, be sure to buy the unsweetened variety of these plant-based milks. Some of the "regular" products tend to be loaded with processed sugar and extra calories.
- If you're not supplementing B12 (you should) then make sure you're getting a milk alternative that has B12 added.
- In my experience, soy milk is the best in coffee because it's the most similar to "regular" milk in consistency and taste, but consider non-dairy coffee creamers if you like cream.
- You can use the raw materials, a blender and a nut milk bag to make your own at home.
- The coffee aisle of most grocery stores usually have plant-based options for creamers, even in a standard grocery stores, so be sure to check there. Also check where the shelf-stable creamers are for coconut-based powders.
Eating sea vegetables is important because they're one of the few sources of iodine aside from fortified salts. Here are a few of the best and most popular...
- One of my favorite restaurants uses dulse flakes in their vegan Caesar salad. Seaweed can be used in small quantities for a flavor boost without being "fishy".
- Rolling your own vegan sushi with nori is easy after a few tries. The bamboo rollers don't cost much and they last pretty much forever.
Vegan Junk Food
If you're so inclined, there's an endless list of vegan junk food to enjoy. You probably don't want to make these a regular part of your daily diet, but when the craving for delicious junk food hits, there are plenty of vegan ways to satisfy it. Here are a few of the most popular.
Printable Grocery List with Tips
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Learn About Other Vegan Products
We've got tons of articles on vegan products and brands, both healthy and not-so-healthy. Check them out below!