Going vegan is one of the best things you can do for your health, animals, and the planet. So why does it seem so hard? This post talks shares what vegans eat, a shopping list, and meal ideas so you can lose weight, gain strength, cultivate energy, eliminate disease, save animals, and heal the planet!
Transitioning to a plant based diet can be super intimidating. You might know that it’s the best thing you can do, but be totally lost on how to plan meals or figure out what to shop for.
That’s ok. And it’s normal.
But you don’t have to be lost. In this post I share my grocery list, meal ideas, and tips on how to prep so that you don’t have that last minute freakout where you’re calling for pizza or heading to grab fast food.
What Vegans Eat
Basically, everything you eat – except animal products. You’ll eat heaps of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, and stock up on some alternative products like nut milks, meat replacement, and seeds which will help you prepare the same dishes you’re used to – but better! Before we make a list of what to buy, here are some tips to get your kitchen prepped for a plant based lifestyle.
Go through the fridge, pantry, and food storage. Toss out expired foods and bag up anything that would stand in the way of healthy vegan eating. If you’re unsure about whether it contains animal products, read the label. If you don’t want to waste food, give it to a friend, donate it to a food bank, or put it in your car and give it to the next person you see who is homeless and/or hungry. Things to get rid of: red meat, poultry (chicken and turkey), fish, butter, milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc. For packaged foods, you can use an app like Vegan Pocket to scan the barcode and see if it’s vegan or not!
Grab a pen and notepad, and write down what you currently have for healthy, plant-based food in your freezer, fridge, and pantry. This will help you start your meal plan without waste, and build your shopping list from what you already have. I usually write mine in five main categories: Grains, Starches & Legumes, Fruits, Veggies, Meat/Dairy Replacements, Nuts/Oils. I do this because it helps me look at the foods as building blocks for my meals, which ideally will be a 40/30/20 mix of carbs/protein/fats.
Sample Shopping List
- Grains, Starches & Legumes: Sweet potato, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Steel Cut Oats, Black Beans, Chickpeas, Granola*, Bread*, Tortillas*, Pasta* (*gluten free if applicable)
- Fruits: Grapes, Pears, Strawberries, Blueberries, Banana, Apples, Peaches, Persimmons, Pineapple, Watermelon, Avocados, Raisins, Dates,
- Veggies: Spinach, Broccoli, Zucchini, Squash, Corn, Tomatoes, Romaine, Red & Yellow Onion, Green Onion, Celery, Mushrooms
- Nuts, Oil & Vinegar: Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Pepitas, Vegan Butter, Chia, Coconut Oil, Sesame Oil, Avocado Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, Hummus
- Meat/Dairy Replacement: Tofu, Tempeh, Vegan Burger Patties, Ground Flax Seed, Almond, Cashew, Coconut, or Pea Milk, Vegan Ice Cream (YAYYYYY), Coconut or Almond Yogurt
Keep it simple & Veganize it.
If this is new for you, now may not be the time to explore those complicated recipes you pinned on Pinterest (maybe just one per week.) Instead, start your meal planning adventure with things that you know are wins for your palate and family. You DON’T have to learn a bunch of complicated recipes to succeed eating an animal product free diet. Whatever you love to eat, with a few small tweaks, you can make it vegan! For example, if I looked at the inventory list I made, I might plan the following meals:
- Breakfast: Overnight oats with almond milk, pears, dates, and chia or southwestern tofu scramble
- Lunch: Large spinach & romaine salad with chickpea “tuna”, celery, tomatoes, onions and avocado or black bean & sweet potato burritos with avocado
- Dinner: Grilled tofu, quinoa & black beans, succotash with zucchini, corn, and tomatoes or pasta primavera with extra veggies and marinara sauce
- Snacks: Coconut yogurt parfait with strawberries, blueberries & GF granola & simple green smoothie
Put faves on repeat.
Plan to make a larger batch of the building blocks for your meals when you meal prep: bake 2-3 blocks of tofu, a sheet pan of sweet potatoes, cook 2 cups of quinoa, make a large bowl of overnight oats or chia pudding so you have easy breakfasts ready to go, and prep a HUGE salad which will be a base for three to four meals.
Eat the rainbow.
When you’re planning meals, if you’re not sure whether it passes muster, count the colors on the plate. Different food colors (in whole, unprocessed, perishable foods) denote different nutrients, so in a perfect world, we would eat the rainbow every day. Now, obviously, every dish may not have every color, but aim for at least three different colors and textures in every meal. This is a fun way to make sure you’re getting plenty of variety in your nutrition.
Shop the perimeter.
This one is easy: don’t shop the inner aisles of the grocery store, where most of the processed food hangs out. Stick to the perimeter, and choose real, whole, perishable foods to ensure that you’re giving your body optimal nutrition.
Meal Plan Ideas
I keep a running list on the notes section of my phone, which helps me come up with ideas when I’m feeling too foggy to figure it out. Here’s what I have right now:
- Overnight oats with berries & nuts
- Apple shredded with coconut yogurt, granola, cinnamon & raisins
- Scrambled tofu, spinach and tomato with avocado toast
- Avocado toast with red onion, cucumber, tomato, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper
- Coconut Yogurt with berries, granola, almonds
- Vegan pancakes with berries
- Vegan protein & greens smoothie
- Sweet potato, veggies, greens & black beans scramble
- Quinoa ratatouille
- Grilled tofu, sweet potato, broccoli/veggies
- Taco salad with black beans and walnut “meat”
- Burrito bowl with veggie burger patty, beans, corn, brown rice, tomato, onion, cilantro, romaine, avocado
- Chickpea “tuna” salad with lettuce cups or one piece bread
- Mediterranean quinoa bowl with cucumber, tomato, hummus, red onion, red cabbage, kalamata olives, and roasted chickpeas
- Pesto zoodles/spaghetti squash with mixed veggies (mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and spinach)
- Lentil loaf w/tomato sauce with broccoli and carrots
- Pad Thai with tofu (zoodles)
- Sweet potato zoodles with cashew cream sauce (alfredo) porcini mushrooms and coconut or portabello “bacon”
- Spaghetti squash pasta “bolognese” (try walnut “meat” or mushroom/olive marinara)
- Stuffed peppers with beans & quinoa & mixed greens salad
- Stir fry tofu with cauliflower/brown rice mix
- Cauliflower rice bowls with teriyaki tofu, asparagus & broccoli
- Portabello mushroom “steaks” with brown rice and broccoli
- Black bean, sweet potato & red potato enchiladas with red sauce OR mushroom, spinach and tofu enchiladas with cashew cream sauce
- Smoothie w/vegan protein & greens
- Carrots, celery & hummus
- Apple w/PB or almond butter
- Green juice & almonds
- Trail mix
- Coconut yogurt w/fruit
- Homemade popcorn (coco oil and sea salt)
- Energy balls/bars homemade (dates, nuts, dried fruit, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon)
- Zucchini brownies
- Apple zucchini muffins (coconut flour/applesauce)
- Banana nut muffins (coconut flour/banana)
- Coconut crack bars
I think the hardest part of going vegan is trying to go it alone. If your family and friends are not supportive of your decision, please make it a priority to find community – whether it’s in your local community or online, having a group of people who share your enthusiasm for eating plant foods is going to make a HUGE difference in keeping you encouraged! I love bloggers like Minimalist Baker, Chocolate Covered Katie, and Oh She Glows.