I get a lot of questions from people who want to eat healthier or transition to a vegan/plant based diet, but they don’t know where to start. They want to know what to buy, what to eat, what cookbooks I recommend and some easy, fast recipe ideas.
I thought it would be helpful to post a series about this topic. I’m starting with how to stock your pantry so you have items on hand when it’s time to cook and prepare meals.
With a few tips the transition can be easy. It’s helpful to keep your pantry stocked with some basic staples, which will give you more options, especially for those nights when you don’t have much time to prepare a meal.
Of course you’ll want to have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, which are essential to making healthy, plant based meals and snacks. Incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet is a great way to start eating healthier.
A great way to add more veggies to your diet is to increase the amount on your plate at meal time. Instead of being a small side, make it a larger portion of your meal or have a nice hearty salad as your meal. I love salad so I usually eat it at least once per day. I’ll go more into recipes and meal suggestions in another post.
You don’t need to go out and buy everything on the list at once. You can pick a few items you like and as you discover what foods and recipes you enjoy, keep those items stocked. I suggest always buying organic if possible.
BEANS & LEGUMES
There are so many beans and legumes to choose from. I prefer dry beans and usually buy them in the bulk section. I also keep canned beans on hand for those times when I didn’t plan ahead or need to make something in a hurry. Beans are great because they are nutritious, easy to prepare and inexpensive.
When you buy canned food, choose brands that are organic, have no additives or preservatives, and low to no salt. Also make sure the cans are BPA free.
Black Beans/Pinto Beans: Great for soups, burgers, tacos and burritos.
Refried Black Beans: Make sure they don’t have oil in them. I buy Trader Joe’s refried black beans with jalapenos, which don’t contain oil.
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans): These are very versatile. I use them in curries, soups, stews, burgers, and sandwiches. Roast them with BBQ sauce and put in your salad for a hearty meal. You can mash them, add vegan mayo (I like Follow Your Heart brand), pickles, mustard, dill and whatever seasoning you would normally put in an egg salad sandwich for a healthy vegan version. I’ve served this to non-vegans and they love it!
Lentils (green & red): You can buy these in packages or in bulk. They are great for soups, burgers, bowls, burritos, tacos and sloppy Joes. My family loves curried red lentil, kale and sweet potato soup and it’s quick and easy to make. Lentils make a great substitute for meat in tacos and sloppy Joes.
GRAINS AND FLOURS
Quinoa: You can mix quinoa with lentils or beans to make burgers. Add salsa once it's cook to make a spanish rice and use with burritos or tacos. Quinoa only takes 15 minutes to make so it’s great for a quick, healthy meal.
I make burrito bowls using quinoa, black beans, corn, and steamed veggies. Put chopped lettuce in a bowl and then add the cooked quinoa, black beans, corn and veggies and top off with salsa. Each person can make their own personal bowl. This is a quick, easy and healthy dish you can whip up in a hurry. You can also make a bowl using quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes and steamed veggies topped with a sauce of your choice.
Pasta (Brown rice or quinoa for a healthier and gluten free option): I keep spaghetti and penne or fusilli pasta stocked. For a quick meal you can make spaghetti with pasta sauce and add some sautéed mushrooms and chopped, steamed zucchini to the sauce or serve with steamed broccoli or veggies on the side.
Rolled Oats: Great for oatmeal, granola bars, cookies and baked goods. I also grind mine into flour for recipes that call for oat flour.
Oat Flour: Great for baking and for a gluten free flour option. If you are celiac make sure to buy certified gluten free oat flour.
Almond Meal/Flour: Use for baked goods, cookies, crumble toppings and more.
Brown Rice Tortillas
Sprouted Whole Grain Sandwich Bread: I love ezekial brand. You’ll want to check the label on breads as they often contain milk products.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Pumpkin/Pepita Seeds: These are good tossed in a salad. I also make a sauce by roasting them slightly in a pan on the stove and then putting them in a blender with some water, garlic, ginger,nutritional yeast and salt/pepper to taste. You can also make a creamy salad dressing with them.
Flaxseeds/Ground Flax: A great source of healthy fat. Add to smoothies, sprinkle on salads, in snack bars, and so much more. Mix 3 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon flax for a vegan egg substitute for baking.
Sunflower Seeds (Raw unsalted)
Raw Hemp Hearts/ Seeds: An excellent source of protein and good fats. Sprinkle on salads and oatmeal. I make my own hemp milk and it’s easy and delicious. Put ¼ hemp seeds in a blender with 2 cups water and blend. That’s it! Store in the fridge.
OTHER PANTRY ITEMS
Canned/Jarred Tomatoes,/Tomato Sauce/Pasta Sauce: I make my own pasta sauce using either fresh tomatoes or Pomi brand tomato sauce. I like Pomi because they come in little containers similar to a milk carton instead of cans and they don’t have any added ingredients, only tomatoes.
Coconut Milk: Great for soups or curries and also adds creaminess to dishes.
Nutritional Yeast: This gives dishes a cheesy flavor. Use for sprinkling over pasta dishes, to make cheese sauce and more. You will sometimes see it called nooch in vegan recipes.
Applesauce (unsweetened): Substitute applesauce for oil and butter for vegan baking. Use to sweeten dishes such as pancakes, desserts and baked goods.
Coconut Oil: I don’t cook with or use oil very often but I keep this on hand for baked goods, cookies and raw dessert recipes that call for oil.
Coconut Sugar: This is the sweetener I use for recipes that call for granulated sugar.
Medjool Dates: I use dates quite a bit. They are delicious to eat by themselves or you can put a little nut butter in them for a yummy snack. I also use them for granola bars, peanut butter cookie bites, raw brownies, smoothies and much more.
That should be enough to get you started. If you’d like to check out some recipes, CLICK HERE to go to my pinterest page where I have lots of vegan recipes. I’ll be sharing more tips and recipes in another post.
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