You've likely heard all about the plant-based diet benefits for your health and the health of the planet. And, chances are you're ready to try out some of the delicious-looking swaps you've seen. But once you enter the supermarket for the first time, you freeze: Where do you even begin without a solid vegan grocery list?
For those of us who grew up eating things like chicken nuggets and big glasses of milk—two staples in the United States!—going plant-based can be tough. Maybe you're skeptical about tofu, or you can't imagine using oat milk in your favorite recipes. The good news is you don't have to make as many changes as you think, and an expert is here to help.
There are probably many options in your cupboard that are already plant-based—things like pasta, crackers, rice, and canned black beans. Fruits and veggies are good to go, too. Really, all you need is to add in a handful of other items to round out what you already have in your kitchen.
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, CT, is an expert when it comes to helping people pick healthy options. We got her advice on what to look for when shopping to make your next grocery run a breeze.
Here's the best vegan grocery list for beginners that will have you cooking up healthy, planet-friendly meals in no time.
The Best Vegan Grocery List, According to an RD
1. Plant-Based Protein
First up on your vegan grocery list is plant-based protein. While you might miss meat at first, there are plenty of tasty options you can use in a variety of dishes:
- Nut butter
- Nutritional yeast
- Hemp seeds
Amy's Go-To: Tofu
What do soy milk, edamame beans, and tempeh have in common? They all come from soybeans. When fermented and pressed, these beans turn into tofu—a plant-based protein popular in dishes all over the world.
"This is one of my favorite vegan proteins because it’s so versatile. I love that it picks up the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, and I love baked tofu when it’s nice and crispy. Plus, tofu is a complete vegan protein that provides protein in addition to fiber."
2. Healthy Fats
You don't need salmon to ensure your diet has plenty of healthy fats. Instead, add these heart-healthy plant-based options to your vegan grocery list:
- Nut butter
- Seed butter
- Ground flaxseed
- Olive oil
- Chia seeds
Amy's Go-To: Olive Oil
Though oils can get a bad rap for being unhealthy, olive oil has been widely studied, with many dieticians praising its high levels of antioxidants.
"Whether you’re making a vinaigrette or are roasting asparagus, olive oil is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It boasts heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. If you can, budget for higher-quality extra-virgin olive oil for recipes that aren’t cooked, such as salad dressings."
3. Whole Grains
Adding hearty whole grains into your meals not only keeps you full and satisfied, thanks to all the fiber. Doing so also provides plenty of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy and feeling your best.
- Whole-grain pasta
- Brown rice
Amy's Go-To: Oats
Oats are super versatile (and affordable), so it's no wonder this whole grain is a plant-based staple. Aside from making a delicious bowl of oats, you can also save some money by making your own oat milk at home in just a couple steps.
"Oatmeal is a wonderful vegan food that supplies both soluble and insoluble fiber. You can make a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or even for dinner (hello, savory oats!). Oats also make a fabulous ingredient for homemade almond butter protein balls."
Is there anything more satisfying than having fresh fruit on hand? You can stock up on any type you want, including:
Amy's Go-To: Berries
Berries are like nature's candy: perfectly sweet and full of vitamins and minerals.
"Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and other berries are so good for your health. In fact, a review study in Scientific Reports found that people regularly eating berries had lower LDL cholesterol levels, versus the people not regularly eating berries. I love berries in anything from a vegan smoothie to overnight oats."
There are so many fun ways to get creative with veggies when eating plant-based. For example, you can make a plate of crispy cauliflower wings! Here are some ideas to add to your vegan grocery list:
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
Amy's Go-To: Kale
The number one veggie you should add to our shopping list? Greens! If you're a fan of collard greens, spinach, or Swiss chard, you'd probably like kale. It's nothing short of a superfood.
"If you’re not a fan of kale, I hope you jump on board soon! The leafy green provides 19 milligrams of immunity-helping vitamin C per cup, and it’s an excellent source of vitamin K. I like adding kale to everything from salad to vegan pesto."
6. Other Swaps
Aside from your basics, experiment with some of the fun new vegan grocery items hitting shelves across the country. There's a swap for almost anything, and you can look at the nutrition stats to find the best fit for you.
Here are some options to try:
- Dairy-free milk
- Vegan cheese
- Vegan yogurt
- Mock meats
- Vegan butter
- Vegan eggs