When I first went vegetarian about a year and a half ago, I had no idea what I was supposed to eat. I had stopped eating meat altogether, but had no true, healthy replacements in terms of the nutrients I was now lacking from eliminating an entire food group. However, after a lot of research, trial, and error, I slowly built up my healthy kitchen.
So, for anyone who is new to the plant-based life, I have created a vegetarian and vegan-friendly shopping list to help you stock up on the necessary nutritional goods.
Also!!! As a little *disclaimer*– I am by NO MEANS a dietitian, nutritionist, or health expert; I am simply talking from experience. These are personal recommendations, not a nutritional plan! So, don’t forget to go do your own research too!
Now, anyway, let’s get started…
Beans, Beans, Beans (and more beans!)
For plant-based eaters, making sure to incorporate some source of protein into every meal is more important than you may realize. Though, it can be tricky to do at first. Since most people do get their proteins and good fats from animal products, I decided to start off this list with one of the easiest and most versatile ways to get in your fuel. There are so many types of beans to choose from (pinto, red, black, kidney, garbanzo, etc.) as well as a wide array of simple dishes that you can make with them! Some of my personal favorites are: vegetarian chili, bean burritos, and black bean burgers.
Tofu is something that may seem utterly disgusting at first. It is a bit slimy and has a weird, incomparably squishy texture, but when marinated and seasoned well, these plain cubes will burst with flavor. Tofu is yet another incredible source of protein that can be used in many, many ways– from tofu scramble for breakfast, to baked and breaded tofu nuggets for dinner.
Like tofu, tempeh looks pretty gross at first glance. Though, again, it is great for protein intake and also a probiotic food! When cooked right, this lumpy texture stands no match to the incredible taste that it brings to the table. As pictured above, my all-time favorite way to make tempeh is barbecue-style with sauteed onions and bell peppers!
Almonds, cashews, pistachios, chopped walnuts, or what have you. Nuts are an easy-to-grab snack, a fun add-in ingredient when baking, and just an overall solid food to have in your pantry.
Or nut-free butters, like WowButter or SunFlower Butter! Whether you prefer natural creamy almond butter, or Nutella, I am sure this already holds its presence in your kitchen. Nonetheless, I had to add it to my list.
Seeds are minor kitchen staples that took me months to realize just how simply fabulous and resourceful they are! Some examples of staple seeds to buy are: chia seeds, flax seeds (both ground and whole), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, what on Earth do I use seeds for? And boy, let me tell you. I incorporate seeds into almost every meal. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds make for great salad toppings, chia seeds can be made into their own puddings, ground flax seeds are the perfect additives to give smoothie bowls their thick consistency, sesame seeds help give flavor to tofu and sauces, and the list goes on.
Grains (quinoa, rice, farro, etc..)
This is most likely a staple you already have somewhere in your pantry, but still a noteworthy item. Rices and quinoa are major components in stir-fries, stuffed peppers, rice and bean bowls, and pretty much anything else you can think of. They also are a healthier alternative to other grain products, such as breads or pastas.
Oats are also a part of the grain family, but I wanted to group them separately since they’re used in different kinds of dishes. Quick oats are a breakfast favorite for me. I make oat pancakes, overnight oats, stove top oatmeal, and even add oats into my smoothie bowls for texture and consistency.
Protein powder wasn’t something I was super big on until I started working out regularly. People use protein powder for a wide variety of reasons (not to mention there are many different types that do different things). So, I will leave this one up to you to look into for yourself if you’re considering trying it out!
However, I will say, the use for protein powder is not limited solely to protein shakes. I add my powder to smoothie bowls, chia seed puddings, protein pancakes, stove top oatmeal, and overnight oats. To me, the added flavor and thickness is everything.
Frozen Fruits & Veggies
Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are the way to go, but I do recommend stocking up on some frozen goodies as well. These last longer, give you more variety of produce in the winter months, and are crucial ingredients for a perfect smoothie bowl :)
Vegetable stock is one of those things that I never really kept in my kitchen until I started branching out my cooking skills. I now use it in more recipes than you may think– chilis, soups, quinoa blends, stuffed peppers, mixtures for homemade sauces, and so much more. It’s cheap and has a decently-long shelf life when unopened, so definitely worth a buy.
Seasonings, Spices, Sauces, and Oils
As I mentioned for tofu and tempeh, the way you season and cook your food is half of the battle for flavor. Thus, keeping your kitchen stocked with seasonings, spices, and sauces will ensure that no matter what dish you make, it will have your taste buds dancing.
Here are some of my personal kitchen seasoning staples:
- Onion Powder
- Chili Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Ground Ginger
- Salt & Pepper (of course)
- Soy Sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Vegetable Oil
And, well, there you have it! I hope this list was able to spark some ideas for your next shopping adventure. Happy cooking, everyone!