When starting a vegan diet, knowing what to buy from the grocery store can be challenging. I follow a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet and have eliminated both refined sugars and oils, so I stick to simple, whole foods that allow me to make healthy, simple, and delicious dishes.
Having a few panty staples always on hand makes grocery shopping and cooking on a vegan diet so much easier. As a longtime vegetarian and a vegan for the last 20 years, here are five versatile pantry items that I always have on hand to make healthy and delicious meals:
Beans are my favorite food and I always have them in my pantry! Beans and other legumes are low-fat, high-protein, starchy foods packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidant compounds, and dietary fiber. When shifting to a plant-based diet, you will find that they are highly satiating and are a great replacement for some of the meat you are accustomed to eating. They offer many of the same beneficial nutrients as meat without the cholesterol and saturated fat, and with additional fiber and other micronutrients found only in plant foods. Beans help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol and are known to increase longevity!
I typically use my instant pot to cook beans. I soak them overnight and then cook them in my instant pot with lots of different kinds of vegetables. The flavors of the vegetables soak into the beans as they cook together, making for a very flavorful dish.
I always have steel-cut oats on hand. They are rich in protein and fiber, and I love having them for an easy, healthy breakfast. For days that I don’t have time to make my smoothies, I soak my steel-cut oats overnight and cook them in my instant pot in the morning. I typically pair my oatmeal with lots of berries, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I also add a banana and a splash of unsweetened almond milk for creaminess. It’s an absolutely delicious breakfast and keeps me full until lunchtime.
Brown rice is also another one of my pantry staples. It is high in fiber and magnesium and is a great addition to any meal. I often pair this with my beans and vegetables for an easy, delicious, and nutrient-balanced meal. It can be as easy as adding it to my instant pot, so the entire meal is ready at the same time.
I love potatoes of all kinds! Sweet potatoes are my absolute favorite, but I also enjoy red potatoes, gold potatoes, and white potatoes. Potatoes are high in potassium and rich in Vitamin C and help to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Not to mention, they are so easy to make a meal out of! You can download a recipe for Plant-Powered Lasagna or Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Jalapeño Cashew Sour Cream here, or check out The Whole Foods Cookbook for even more recipes!
Nutritional Yeast and Spices
Nutritional Yeast is something that I always have on hand. It is a great source of fiber and minerals, and it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein (this is typically only found in animal products). It also can add a cheesy-like taste to any dish, which I love! I frequently add this to my sauces or use it as a salad topping to add texture and additional nutrients.
I also always make sure to have an abundance of different kinds of spices on hand. When eating a whole food, plant-based diet, flavoring is everything! I use a lot of spices. I have the basics like Italian seasoning, black pepper, and garlic powder, but I also cook a lot of Indian food, so I have a lot of spices geared toward that like ginger, turmeric, and coriander. I also love a bit of spice, so I make sure to also have cayenne, chili powder, and red pepper flakes on hand.
Although the majority of my grocery shopping is produce, it is still so important to have healthy, simple pantry staples to make complete, nutrient-balanced meals. I hope you found these foods helpful and that they find their way into your pantry soon!