Being on a vegan diet or transitioning towards it, you inevitably come across people here and there with a puzzled look on their face, asking you if there's anything left to eat at all - that they could never do this - that this is just way too extreme...the list goes on.
The truth is that the plant-based world offers a culinary abundance if we just take a closer look. There are literally thousands of different types of fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds far beyond the apples, carrots, and lettuces.
With whole plant foods alone, you can already create a myriad of flavorful and satiating dishes but there's even more: With the rapid growth of veganism these days, companies go out of their way to come up with extraordinary pre-made plant-based products that not only resemble their animal-derived equivalents but often times outmatch them in terms of taste.
Being vegan has never been as easy and convenient as today. To give you an overview of all the possibilities, we put together this vegan grocery list to inspire you for your next trip to the supermarket or farmers market.
As a little bonus, we also created a printable list that you can download for free and use for your plant based grocery shopping.
Whole and minimally processed foods
Let's start out with having a look at all whole plant foods, the foods that nourish your cells with high-quality nutrition and create the perfect environment for a healthy and glowing body.
Choose from a wide variety of fruits and have them daily. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytonutrients: All the good stuff your body needs to operate at its best and prevent disease.
It doesn't get much easier than having some bananas or dates (maybe together with some nuts) as a snack: Their simple sugars provide you with quick energy along with all the health-promoting components.
Make sure to consume your fruits ripe, because that's when they're most nutritious and alkalizing. If they become overripe, simply freeze them to make smoothies, smoothie bowls, or ice creams later.
Fresh, dried, and frozen fruits are all perfectly fine. Besides smoothies, sprinkling some fruits (such as berries, finely chopped apples, mangoes, peaches etc) in your oatmeal is always a good way of sneaking that fruity goodness in.
Veggies are your best friends on a vegan diet, so load up on them in unlimited amounts. Vegetables are so calorically dilute that you practically can't overeat on them.
They are nutritional powerhouses filled with plenty of fiber and tons of important minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Leafy greens are especially nutrient dense and boast with chlorophyll as well as minerals that fruits sometimes lack.
If you have a hard time eating that many vegetables or leafy greens, you can juice some of them to flood your body with nutrients and enzymes. Just don't overdo it - you don't want to miss out on all that wonderful fiber.
Take the best out of the raw and cooked world. Frozen veg work just as well by the way: They're usually picked and packaged at the peak of ripeness and come with an almost identical nutrient profile as their fresh counterparts.
Starches in the form of whole foods are a reliable and healthy staple food on a vegan diet. These foods contain large quantities of complex carbohydrates that supply you with long-lasting energy and satiation.
Not only do starches fuel your body and brain with energy, they also come with an abundance of essential amino acids from proteins, essential fats, fibers, and minerals. Some starches like potatoes even provide you with a whole host of vitamins.
Stick to whole grains instead of refined ones and indulge in the variety of beans and lentils.
A quick word on gluten: According to Dr Michael Greger, gluten containing grains are very health-promoting for people without celiac disease. While the term gluten sensitivity is also floating around, it's still unclear if people are actually reacting to the gluten.
So if you don't feel any drastic side effects, make sure to eat a great variety of the following grains and legumes:
- Anything else made from White Flour
- Red Beans
- Snow Peas
- Soy Products (Tofu, Seitan)
- Split Peas
- Sugar Snap Peas
- White Beans
People eating a Standard American Diet get more than 30% of their calories from fat, most of which is unhealthy trans fat or saturated fat.
That's why fat has a far worse reputation than it actually deserves. In fact, unprocessed fats from whole plant foods are extremely health-promoting and support many functions of our body. They are critical for the proper development and functioning of the brain and nervous system, ensure cell health, and help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Eating a wide variety of healthy plant fats will provide you with the two essential fatty acids Linoleic Acid and Alpha-Linolenic Acid and in most cases give you an excellent balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
You don't have to go overboard with fats. A handful of nuts and a tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds a day should do. But feel free to try out any of the following super delicious and healthy fats:
Butters from Nuts & Seeds
Herbs & Spices
Adding herbs & spices to your food not only kicks up the flavor but is also quite beneficial to your health. Many of these seasonings come with enormous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
No matter if we're talking about fresh herbs like basil or ground up roots such as turmeric, different herbs & spices offer different benefits, so try to vary things a lot and nourish yourself with these little health boosters:
Condiments, Sweeteners and Miscellaneous Goods
In this category, we have all the condiments, sauces, sweeteners, packaged foods and other foods that didn't fit anywhere else.
If you have trouble getting in good amounts of veggies, there's absolutely nothing wrong with sprinkling a little bit of sauce on top to make it taste more delicious. Think about it as the proverbial sugar that makes the medicine go down!
Add the following foods here and there to your meals to keep things fun and exciting:
The dairy alternatives market is growing like crazy these days with new plant-based milk alternatives sprouting up everywhere.
Forget about the puss-filled, health-damaging liquid meant for baby cows and choose from the abundance of super delicious plant-milks instead:
What about processed food?
So far, we primarily covered whole, plant-foods that are ideal if you're striving for optimal health. That being said, having a little processed or junk food every once in a while is not the end of the world and your body should be able to deal with it pretty well if you make it the occasional treat and eat whole foods most of the time.
Also, if you're in the process of transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, these refined foods can make the shift tremendously easier. Do what it takes to stay away from the hormone, saturated fat, and cholesterol laden correspondent.
When possible, buy processed foods in organic stores such as Whole Foods. There you will find plenty of processed foods of decent quality that are explicitly labeled as vegan. In conventional supermarkets, things can be a little trickier and you will have to examine the ingredients list a little more carefully.
For each food category, we named a few typical brands that by accident have some vegan products in their line-up. For a full list of these accidently vegan groceries, make sure to check out Peta's guide on that topic.
Snacks & Sweets
Popular brands are: Back to Nature, Clif Bars, Cracker Jacks, Fritos, Fruit by the Foot, Kettle Brand, Landgarten, Mission Foods, Nabisco, Nature Valley, Ritz, and Simply.
Popular brands are: Alpro, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Daiya, Earth Balance, Follow Your Heart, GO Veggie, Provamel. Silk, So Delicious, and Tofutti.
Popular brands are: Beyond Meat, Boca, Gardein, Gardenburger, Lightlife, Tofurky, and Yves.
Breakfast & Baking
Popular brands are: Arnold, Barbara’s, Cascadian Farm, Duncan Hines, Hodgson Mill, Jello-O, Kashi, Kellogg’s, Streit’s, and Thomas’.
Popular brands are: Classico, Girard’s, KA-ME, McCormick, Old El Paso, and Ragú.
Popular brands are: McCormick, Old El Paso, Simply Potatoes, Thai Kitchen Noodle Bowls.
Create Your Own Vegan Grocery ListThat concludes the most popular foods on a vegan diet. Obviously, there's much more, especially in the area of processed foods, but this should give you a rough idea of the incredible variety in the plant-based world.
To put all of this into action, we created 2 printable grocery lists for you: One that deals with whole plant foods only and another one for packaged and processed foods.
You can download them for free below. Happy shopping!
Have you just started out on a vegan diet or been vegan for a while already? Which are your must-have items to get at the grocery store? Let us know in the comments below.
Lars is the guy for all things technical of this site but likes to write the occasional article, too. He has a degree in computer science and media and has been vegan since 2010. He loves nourishing plant-based food, playing tennis, and making noises with his guitar sometimes. Oh, and he's got a weird obsession with peanuts & coconuts.