A list of what, how & why - equipment, produce, beauty, pantry items. This is a concise yet thorough guide to help you on your way to plan and prepare for a plant-based lifestyle. I have compiled a running list of my tried and true STAPLE items to help you see what works for me on a daily basis, and what may work for you too.
Adapting new life habits can be overwhelming, so I thought I might help by sharing with you all the foods and products that aided me in living a more authentic life over two years ago. By no means to I suggest you need to eat like me, shop like me or go out and spend your whole paycheck on these things (you better believe I didn't - student loans anyone?), but rather use this as a guide to slowly test out different things and build your own 'essentials' over time.
We are all a continual work in progress and I update this list often to simply share what is working for me, please modify according to your needs.
A long note on 'things': I truly believe that when adapting a plant-based, compassionate mindset you naturally begin to want to buy and own less. Cutting down on consumption is vital for the health of the planet and can do wonders for your mental clarity. Personally, I edited down my belongings by half within a few months which made the things I do still own all the more important. When when I do invest in something I try to make that it is the best investment I could make for myself, for the planet and for all who inhabit it. I'm not perfect, I'm doing the best I can - yes I create waste, yes, I use Amazon Prime and the like but listen, doing your best is better than doing nothing at all and I am getting better every day.
Try to make it a practice each time you purchase something new, you also take stock of what I no longer use, and give something away. Refine, life-edit, live mindfully. It is, and always will be, a process!
An even longer note on the diet I follow and why these foods work for me (and why they may work for you too): For the most part I maintain a balanced whole foods plant based diet. That means the majority of my calories come from whole fruits, vegetables and minimally processed grains. I don't eat this way every single day or at every single meal but it is what makes me feel my best. I suffered my entire life with chronic digestion issues and this way of eating healed what no doctor could but that doesn't mean I think it suits everyone. Experiment to find what works for you.
P.S - All of the links to purchase below are through Amazon.com as they send me a little kick back as part of their affiliate program, but it only works if you purchase it through the link on this page so if you do decide to buy anything, clicking through would be so appreciated!
Maple Syrup - Buy Grade B Organic REAL Maple Syrup for its higher mineral content, buy in bulk for a cheaper price. Pour a teeny bit over oats and cereals or mix with cocoa powder and a splash of water for a decadent chocolate sauce.
Coconut Sugar - My favorite non-liquid sweetener that won't spike your blood sugar. The taste is similar to brown sugar but less sweet. No it does not taste like coconut.
PB2 Powder - The answer to your "please let peanut butter be low-fat" prayers. This powdered version has 80% less fat than its creamy counterpart. I mix it into smoothies, or with a bit of almond milk and maple syrup to top bananas with but honestly, its good in just about anything.
Nutritional Yeast - BUY NOW! Nutritional yeast flakes are made from plant source that is high in vitamin B-12 content (an essential vitamin that vegans - actually all humans - can lack). It gives things a slightly cheesy, buttery flavor and is therefor a popular topping on salads, pastas and savory dishes of all sorts but I also like adding a bit to sweet things as well - it adds a complex, buttery flavor.
Apple Cider Vinegar- This is a total essential. I use it in everything from water to baking. ACV is a great flavor enhancer that is also wonderful for your digestive system (in small amounts). Easiest/best dressing ever: 1 tbsp. AVC, 1 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. mustard. My friend takes a shot of this stuff in the morning instead of coffee, totally worth a shot - it packs a punch.
Balsamic vinegar - If you love dressings and marinades this necessary. I also love cooking it down with a little sweetener to pour over frozen berries and almond milk.
Blackstrap Molasses - A rich, bitter, sticky syrup thats full of essential nutrients - calcium, vitamin c, magnesium, etc. You can add this to breakfast items, baked goods or smoothies to give the dish color and more complexity.
Herbs/Spices...my most frequently used are...
- garlic powder
- chili powder
- curry powder
- Mrs. Dash Salt Free Seasonings
- thai red curry paste
Fruit Preserves - A no-sugar added berry preserve is great when fresh produce is not available. Adding a spoonful to oatmeal makes all the difference for me.
Vegan protein powder - I am trying to ween myself off protein powder as I believe it is healthier to get all your macro (and micro) nutrients by way of whole foods but sometimes my body just craves a punch of protein - I can literally feel it and if your body gets this way too, I don't think there is any harm done. I love the brand linked because it has many other essential vitamins and minerals, so I know that when I drink it I have covered all my nutritional bases. I no longer have a shake every single day but when I do mix my protein powder with half a frozen banana, frozen spinach, maca powder and coconut water.
Maca powder - This ground up root is expensive so purchasing a small amount first may be wise - it adds a malted flavor to smoothies or baked goods and is supposed to be quite wonderful for issues related to reproductive health. I make a lovely chia tea concoction using maca and it also helps to get the mixture quite thick.
Cacao powder - Um, chocolate's non-heat treated, nutritious, more flavorful mama. Need I say more?
Hemp hearts - A great healthy fat that also packs a protein-punch. These tiny seeds have such a rich, wonderful texture - I love them whole or blended up with water, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and herbs to make a killer dressing.
Old Fashioned Oats - Oats are an everyday staple for many vegans - they are a great source of fiber to fill you up fast. Oats versatile as well - enjoy them for breakfast, add them to smoothies for bulk or grind them up into flour for my gluten-free pancake recipe found on the blog.
Oat groats aka Buckinis - the perfect crunchy topping for smoothie bowls, oats or salad. Soak them over night for a cereal like texture.
Quinoa - an essential source of protein with both savory and sweet applications. Cook it in bulk and store in the fridge to use throughout the week.
Brown Rice - I prefer brown rice over white but to be honest, I don't eat it all that much. I personally don't find it digests well but for many it does so have at it!
Rice Noodles - As a thai food enthusiast, I find myself buying these a few times a month. I add some red curry paste and veggies and call it a night!
- low-sodium fire roasted tomatoes - for soups/stews/savory dishes of all kinds
- low-sodium tomato paste - for chilis/soups
- low-sodium VEGAN tomato sauce - because, lazy nights
- low-sodium canned beans - chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, white beans
Produce & Frozen foods
I won't go into too much detail here these are just my staples that I find myself buying time and time again.
Green apples - Full of fiber.
Bananas - Fresh or frozen, another vegan staple! They freeze wonderfully and have many applications!
Lemon and lime - Squeeze citrus in your water, over greens and use them dressings and smoothies.
Mango (fresh or frozen) - Big bold flavor, sweet, sour, fresh or frozen. Eat them whole or blend for creamy dressings and smoothies.
Berries (fresh or frozen) - Full of fiber and antioxidants, total no-brainer. They are also so beautiful...you eat with your eyes first.
Avocado - A go-to source for healthy fats. Use it whole or blended into a quick, creamy dressing with some citrus, vinegar, and herbs.
Lettuce/spinach/leafy green - Change it up but try to have one "greens" meal a day whether its in a smoothie, cooked or as a salad.
Fresh herbs/aromatics veggies - Garlic, onion, shallot, parsley, basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, dill.. herbs just make everything better - always have something growing or on hand.
Cucumber - Super hydrating, put it in everything.
Sweet potato - This is another great staple, bake a few ahead of time and use them throughout the week. So filling!
Yellow potato - The best for potato fries.
Carrots - One of my favorite snacks.
Dates - Okay, if you don't eat dates, you need to, they are basically candy. Whenever you need a quick hit of energy I grab a date or two and you're on your way.
Fermented foods - Saurkraut, kimchi, pickled veggies. Packed with probiotics for optimal digestion, they also add amazing flavor and texture to salads, sandwiches, tacos and soups.
1 liter or more water bottle - I used to struggle to drink any water during the day but having a water bottle near me at all times makes it easier. Drink 1 liter upon waking and try to get in two more liters throughout the day.
Food processor - Let this be your first purchase of equipment on this list as you are sure to fall in love - it's versatile, easy to use and an inexpensive investment that is worth every penny. Shred tons of veggies in no time, blend up dates, oats and nuts for energy balls and make the worlds fluffiest banana ice cream (sorry Vitamix) with this little wonder!
Vitamix or other high-speed blender - Another life changer. Although a good blender is technically an investment you can purchase a certified reconditioned Vitamix on an (interest free) payment plan. I think I paid $70 for 5 months. This thing has a 5 year warranty and makes all of your vegan dreams come true - smoothies, dressings, soups, you name it. It isn't 100% necessary but it is a delight to have around the house.
Vegetable Spiralizer - invest in a quality spiralizer like the one linked. Whether you eat your veggies raw or cooked this makes everything more interesting.
Cutting boards - this bendable cutting board makes it breeze to "chop and dump", as they say (no one actually says that).
Glass containers - for storing all of your food, if you are lazy like me you can make your meals in bulk and pack up the rest...leftovers for dayzzzzz.
French Press - because coffee, duh.
Nut milk bag - For making homemade almond milk, straining smoothies to make juice, making nut cheese, and more! This isn't essential at all but another really fun thing to have if you have a little extra time on your hands...homemade almond milk is excellent!
Coconut oil - I know you know that coconut oil does everything and goes everywhere but I'll just remind you now. Use it to remove your makeup, as a full body and face moisturizer, as a hair mask, to condition your nails and you can even oil pull with it.
Argan oil - I find this oil more delicate and better for day-time application on my face and neck. It absorbs quickly so you can use it under makeup.
Rose Water Toner - This alcohol free toner is just wonderfully cleansing.
Tonge scraper - GET INTO IT. This tool is used in Ayurveda (yoga's internally focused sister science) to help cleanse the palate, aid in digestion and rid the body of impurities. I don't know about all that but I do feel fresher and almost as if I taste my food better when I do use it.
Note: I haven't found a real preference when it comes to face wash, shampoo, conditioner and body wash yet. I am currently testing out different cruelty free and vegan brands till I find my favorite one. I only wash my hair 2 times a week (down from washing it everyday before I went vegan...total bonus, less greasy scalp) so unless I wanted to create a lot of waste, this is a slow process - I will report back. Also looking for a cruelty free dry shampoo!
Want to know more? Please visit the Resource page, where I have compiled all the most helpful websites, videos, personalities, books and movies pertaining to health, wellbeing and the ethics of a plant-based lifestyle.