How to Grocery Shop as New Vegan

 Photo by Mike Petrucci

Photo by Mike Petrucci

 
 

As a new vegan or plant-based enthusiast, navigating the grocery store can be overwhelming. But, don’t fret, grocery shopping can be fun, especially when the market is full of interesting, nutritious and delicious plant-based options!

There a few basic tenants when it comes to grocery shopping with a vegan lens. This will make the shopping experience enjoyable and a constructive use of time — trust us, it’s quite frustrating to bring items home to realize they are not vegan! Just ask any vegan’s well-intentioned mom about the importance of reading labels.

 

Shop the periphery

 Stay on the outside lanes — this is where all the good stuff is! Think produce and other perishable items. Most items that come in a box and have a long shelf life are not the best for you, vegan or not. Make your vegan diet the ultimate plant-based venture by sticking to whole foods like greens, berries, and root vegetables.  

 

Read labels

 The ingredient list tells you mostly everything you need to know to determine if the product in hand is vegan. Some products have allergen information listed after all the ingredients which will tell you if the 8 common food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans) are in your food. Otherwise, you may need to pull out your magnifying glass to help decipher what’s in your food that may not be vegan.

The following are common allergen labels: 

 

CONTAINS WHEAT, EGG AND SOY INGREDIENTS. MAY CONTAIN MILK

 

What do these labels mean? Some ingredients are not so obviously animal-based and the allergen list is a quick way to check if a product does contain dairy or eggs. When a product says it “may contain” an allergen, this means that in the factory where the product is made there may be cross contamination by shared equipment, which is very important to know if you have a true allergy.  

Other ingredients to look out for that are not vegan include:

Whey

Gelatin

Lactose

Casein

Honey

Shellac

L. Cysteine

Some grocery store items like beer and wine don’t have ingredient labels. And you may think, what animal product could possibly be in my glass of Chianti?! With the processing and filtration of many alcohol products, animal-based ingredients may be used such as isinglass (which comes from fish bladder), gelatin, egg whites or even sea shells! You can avoid the use of any animal by-products in your beverage by looking up your favorite bubbly here.

 

Choose versatile ingredients

Buy ingredients that can be utilized in more than one recipe for different meals of the day. Check out our vegan grocery store staples and recipe ideas below to get you started.   

 

Our favorite grocery store staples

  • Greens: to make a quick salad, green smoothie, or chop into cooked grains
  • Pre-cut veggies (think celery, carrot, radish, etc.) to have for on-the-go snacks
  • Hummus: perfect spread for a wrap, on top of a baked sweet potato or as a nice creamy addition to vegetable soup
  • Ezekiel bread: great for avocado toast, hummus and veg sandwiches or DIY croutons
  • Canned beans: make 3 bean salad for the week by combining kidney beans, chickpeas and fresh green beans and toss in a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and diced shallots
  • Frozen veggies: broccoli, mixed veggies and corn are a perfect staple to have on hand to throw into a stir fry, fajitas or mix with rice and tofu
  • Frozen berries: have a variety of frozen fruit in your freezer to whip up refreshing smoothies at any time. Our favorite smoothie combines frozen strawberries, banana, spinach, and orange juice.
  • Flax and chia seeds: get your Omega-3’s with these powerhouse seeds. Soak chia seeds before adding to a smoothie, mix with almond milk for chia seed pudding, and always consume flax seeds ground to get the most benefit.
  • Non-dairy milk: goes well in cereal, coffee, banana pancakes and more. Since there are so many varieties on the market, try them all to see what tastes best to your palate.
  • Sweet potato: this superfood is rich in vitamin A, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Make homemade sweet potato fries or a quick supper by topping cooked sweet potato with a medley of black beans, corn, salsa and avocado. We promise, eating vegan has never been so easy OR delicious!

Make shopping extra fun by perusing vegan blogs and cookbooks for inspiration for your next plant-based meal. Sharing meals with friends takes a lot of stress out of cooking new recipes and strengthens bonds of friendship as well as dedication to this healthy lifestyle.

Bon appétit!  

 

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Bridget Henley