Nutritionist’s Beginner Vegan Shopping List (With Tips!)

Bags with vegan shopping

Are you a complete beginner to the vegan lifestyle?

Does the idea of switching out animal-based products for plant-based ones feel overwhelming or confusing?

I completely get it. Going vegan comes with a lot of unknowns.

What foods can I eat on a vegan diet? What vegan foods are unhealthy? Where do I even start?

That’s why I’m sharing my ultimate beginner vegan shopping list – to help you get started on your vegan journey.

And as a bonus, I’ll also be sharing my top 5 vegan shopping and meal-planning tips that I picked up in the 8 years I was 100% plant-based.

Let’s get shopping!

Getting Started on a Vegan Diet

As with any diet change, it’s important to take things slow and try not to worry about “slipping up”.

Transitioning to a vegan diet means that you’ll need to rethink your shopping list, so it’s almost guaranteed that mistakes will happen at some point.

My best piece of advice to anyone who is a vegan beginner is to embrace this new food journey and see the early stages as a learning experience!

And trust me when I say – filling up your shopping trolley with foods you’ve never tried before can be SO fun.

It won’t be long before you have new foods and recipes that will become a firm favourite in your diet.

5 Beginner Vegan Shopping and Meal Planning Tips

1. Make a meal plan (and don’t forget your shopping list!)

Being organised is KEY when you first go vegan – and I absolutely swear by meal planning. It’s one of the best ways to ensure you are eating a variety of nutritious foods throughout the week.

I recommend that all vegan beginners set some time aside every week to gather meal ideas and recipes, and then map out on a calendar when you want to have these meals.

Once you have your meal plan, the next step is to create a shopping list of all the ingredients you’ll need.

There’s nothing worse than turning up to the supermarket without a plan – especially when you are trying to figure out a completely new way of eating.

2. Look out for sneaky non-vegan ingredients

Milk powder finds its way into a lot of food products. I once saw a jar of pickled onions with milk powder in it – make it make sense!

Shopping as a vegan does mean you’ll need to pay close attention to the ingredients list, but it will get much quicker and easier with time.

These are a few non-vegan ingredients to keep an eye out for:

  • Milk powder
  • Honey
  • Egg
  • Gelatine
  • Fish

3. Start with easy swaps

If you’re coming from a meat heavy diet, I recommend starting with some like-for-like swaps.

Instead of using beef mince in a chilli, try a vegan mince alternative. Instead of adding chicken to a curry, try using Quorn.

You get the picture!

Whilst these aren’t the most nutritious, they are a great starting point and over time you can slowly incorporate more nutritious whole foods like lentils, beans and vegetables.

4. Eat the rainbow

A healthy vegan diet is one that includes a full spectrum of nutrients. And whilst it is possible to achieve a nutritionally complete vegan diet, it can be a little too easy to reach for all the beige vegan alternatives that exist nowadays.

One of the best ways to get a variety of nutrients on a vegan did is to make sure your trolley is filled with an abundance of colourful whole foods.

So, to get all of the benefits that plants have to offer, make sure your meals are packed with colour!

5. Don’t be afraid of fortified products

Some plant-based products are fortified with vitamins and minerals to fill a nutrient gap for those on a vegan diet.

For example, milk alternatives are often fortified with calcium and some meat substitutes are fortified with iron and vitamin B12 to match the nutritional profile of their animal-based counterparts.

Fortification has been a necessary part of our food production for many years and it’s used during the production of bread and other household staples, so it’s nothing to be afraid of.

In fact, I recommend opting for products that ARE fortified, to ensure you are getting all the essential nutrients you need on a vegan diet.

Ultimate Beginner Vegan Shopping List

Fruit and Veg

A vegan shopping list wouldn’t be complete without fruit and veg.

Packed with essential nutrients like fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate, fruit and veg are a great way to add more flavour to any meal.

My top tip for buying fruit and veg is to remember that variety is key. So make sure to mix things up week to week.

It’s also a good idea to have a few nutrient-dense options on your shopping list, such as:

  • Berries (mixed frozen berries are a great option)
  • Leafy greens (like spinach, kale and rocket)
  • Broccoli
  • Beetroot
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms

Reminder: frozen fruit and veg are just as nutritious as fresh (and often cheaper!).

Grains

Grains are a great source of fibre and contain key nutrients like B vitamins.

They often get a bad rep because of their high carbohydrate content – but it’s important to remember that carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for our bodies. So cutting the carbs is a no go in my books!

But if there’s one tweak you can make to improve your health on a vegan diet, it’s to choose whole grains over highly processed grains. This small swap could also significantly lower your risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes (1, 2).

These are some must-have grains:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Bread (choose wholemeal or seeded for more fibre)
  • Oats

Proteins

Can you get enough protein on a vegan diet? You certainly can.

The trick is to eat a variety of plant-based proteins, as this will ensure that you are getting all the essential amino acids your body needs.

Where you can, try to have at least 2 sources of protein with every meal and mix things up throughout the week.

My top 10 vegan protein sources to add to your shopping list:

  • Dried or tinned lentils
  • Tinned beans (e.g. kidney beans, black beans and cannellini beans)
  • Tinned chickpeas
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Edamame beans (I recommend buying frozen)
  • Vegan meat replacements
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seitan (if you’re up for it, why not make your own at home!)
  • Quinoa
  • Optional: protein powder (this is great way to increase your protein intake if you are active)

🍔 Vegan Meat Replacement Brands*

Healthy Fats

Fat is an essential part of any diet. It helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D and E, and has an important role in the production of hormones.

However, there are some fats we should be prioritising more over others – here’s a quick lowdown:

  • Unsaturated fats (e.g. mono- and poly-unsaturated) are the ones we should be eating more of. Omega-3 falls into this category, which is known for being found in oily fish, but there are also some plant-based sources.
  • Saturated fat is the type we should be limiting in our diet, as it has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Plant-based sources of saturated fat include coconut oil, palm oil and some processed meat alternatives (like Beyond Meat).

Make sure to include some of these healthy vegan fats on your shopping list:

  • Tahini
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Walnuts
    • Cashews
    • Flaxseeds (source of Omega 3 – specifically ALA)
    • Chia seeds (source of Omega 3 – specifically ALA)
    • Hemp seeds (source of Omega 3 – specifically ALA)
  • Nut butters
  • Rapeseed oil (source of Omega 3 – specifically ALA)
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Edamame beans (source of Omega 3 – specifically ALA)
  • Olives
  • Optional: Algae oil supplement (source of Omega 3. Make sure it contains 250mg of DHA/EPA)

Dairy Alternatives

Dairy is a key source of calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine for non-vegans, so it’s important to replace these nutrients when you switch to a vegan diet.

You can do this by choosing fortified plant-based dairy alternatives such as:

  • Fortified vegan milk alternatives (with calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine)
    • Soya (most nutritionally similar to dairy in terms of protein)
    • Pea (most nutritionally similar to dairy in terms of protein)
    • Oat
    • Coconut
    • Almond
  • Fortified vegan yoghurts (with calcium)
    • Soya
    • Oat
    • Coconut (often higher in saturated fat, so have these ones less frequently)
  • Fortified vegan cheese (with calcium)
  • Nutritional yeast – a nutritious alternative to parmesan or can be used to create a cheese sauce (most brands contain vitamin B12, but nutritional yeast is not a source of calcium)

Other Cupboard Essentials

  • Herbs and spices
  • Soy sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar (great for dressings or baking)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Cornflour (I use this to crisp up tofu)
  • Vegan stock cubes
  • Yeast extract (not for everyone, but Marmite adds so much flavour to a nut roast or gravy)

Tasty Extras

Just because you’ve decided to go vegan doesn’t mean you need to avoid your favourite foods.

As a nutritionist, I am a big advocate for BALANCE – which means that some chocolate or ice cream every now and then is absolutely fine (maybe even encouraged!).

Trying to avoid foods like this may end up doing more harm than good to your relationship with food, so feel free to add these to your trolley in moderation:

  • Vegan ice cream
  • Dairy free or dark chocolate
  • Frozen vegan pizza

Now It’s Time To Go Shopping!

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