Transitioning to a vegan diet can seem overwhelming at first. What food can I eat now? Am I getting enough nutrients? What do I eat when I crave meat, cheese or chocolate? This list of vegan staples will help you build a strong foundation for your vegan journey; whether it’s a month, a year or for the rest of your days. Changing your diet is a great excuse to try out new ingredients, and experiment with your tastes.
Beans and legumes
We’re talking beans, chickpeas and lentils here – all of which can add heartiness to a meal due to their high protein and fibre content. Beans are also packed full of antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. They are easy to stock up on when canned or dried, as they last forever in the food cupboard, and can even be used to make desserts. Fudgy black bean brownies, anyone?
Stock up on tinned beans and legumes from our tinned goods range.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
We’ve all heard it before: “Eat your greens!”, but why? Green vegetables are nutrient powerhouses: packed with iron, calcium, folic acid and vitamin C, they also contain a host of phytochemicals, which have strong links to both the reduction of chronic disease and an increase in longevity. Leafy greens like spinach and kale can be added raw to salads, or late in cooking hot dishes to add a low-calorie nutritious boost.
Have a wide range of different fruits and vegetables on hand to ensure that you’re never far away from a healthy snack, or a quick and easy cooked meal. Fruit and vegetables provide energy, nutrients and protection from disease when they form the base of your diet. The important thing to remember is to make a rainbow; eat as many different colours as you can to ensure you’re eating a balance of different vitamins and minerals.
Meat and milk and egg substitutes
The huge range of meat, milk and egg substitutes currently on the market means it’s easier than ever to make simple swaps. The mince in Bolognese, the butter on your morning toast and the milk in your tea can all be switched for plant-based options.
At first you might get that “I NEED MEAT!” feeling, or think “I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT CHEESE!” But don’t fear, food manufacturers have been working away for years to create products designed to ease these cravings with plant-based ingredients instead. Meat alternatives such as seitan steaks (made from wheat gluten), bacon strips (made from tempeh) and pulled pork (made from jackfruit) will satisfy your needs. And cheese? The choice of vegan cheese now is astonishing: blue cheese, cranberry cheese, smoked cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, soft cheese and even halloumi! Thank you Violife!
As for egg: flax and chia seeds can be used as an omega 3-rich binder in place of eggs for cake recipes and there are also tailor-made egg replacement products such as this one from Follow Your Heart.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds, while a great option for grab-and-go snacking due to their crunchy, creamy texture and high fibre and protein content, are also delicious when toasted and added to salads, granola or porridge. Seeds in particular go well in smoothies as they add both body and a boost of omega-3 and -6; essential fatty acids that play a big role in brain health, reducing inflammation and regulating your metabolism.
If you’re not a fan of eating whole nuts and seeds, and have always thought of them as bird food, then nut and seed butters are a great place to start. They are delicious spread on crackers or toast or added to smoothies and before you know it you’ll be eating them whole, and like sweets. Other products such as Pulsin bars and chia pots give you more options for incorporating nuts and seeds into your day.
Often a move to a plant-based diet can go hand-in-hand with reducing other unhealthy foods from our diet. Switching out sugar for maple syrup for example, can help regulate blood sugar levels and add a source of antioxidants into your favourite sweet recipes. Dried fruit such as dates and apricot can not only satisfy sugar cravings due to their natural sweetness, but also improve your digestive health thanks to their fibre and potassium content.
However, you’ll be pleased to know there are an abundance of vegan friendly sweet treats out there from Booja Booja Chocolate Truffles to Ananda Round Ups (vegan wagon wheels). Check out our sweets and puddings for some healthy and indulgent treats.
This versatile grain-like seed is a complete protein, all by itself! It can be used in a variety of recipes or as an ingredient in its own right in burgers, salads, stuffed peppers, quinoa bake, casseroles, porridge…the list goes on! Adding a few portions of quinoa into your week is not only easy, but a step towards getting the recommended 50g of protein per day. Many transitioning vegans worry about hitting that target, but a diet that is high in whole foods will easily meet that need with healthy plant-based protein. Most people in the UK eat around 50% more than the recommended intake of protein, which can lead to kidney issues and negatively impact bone health.
Stock up on quinoa here.
Tofu is made from curdled soy milk which is then pressed into blocks. It’s full of calcium and a very good source of iron, manganese, copper, selenium, protein and phosphorus. Tofu also contains isoflavones, which are a group of plant chemicals that have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. Tofu is relatively flavourless but quickly takes on the flavour of the food it’s being cooked with, so makes a great ingredient in a wide range of dishes. There are also flavoured varieties available which can add an extra something to recipes where you may have used meats instead.
No, we’re not talking about scouring the tide-line at Yarmouth for a quick-but-sandy salad, though with over 10,000 varieties of edible sea vegetables on the planet, you probably could! Sea vegetables are a superfood, and the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet. Roll up rice, tofu and vegetables in some Nori sheets to make sushi or sprinkle Nori strips onto a salad.
Soy sauce and fermented foods
An ideal addition to a huge range of recipes due to its salty, deep flavour, soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans. Whether you add this to dishes for an umami seasoning, toss into salads, use as a dipping sauce or a marinade, soy sauce can strengthen the immune system and is a good source of vitamin B3. Low-sodium options are available for those following a reduced-salt diet.
Rice, oats, pastas, buckwheat, millet; all of these can form the foundation of a hearty meal at any time of day. Whole grains are a fantastic source of protein and fibre, making them satisfying to eat as well as containing a range of B vitamins and minerals such as selenium and iron.
Our meal packages are designed to make it quick and easy to create delicious, filling meals that meet your nutritional needs.
There are a huge range of exotic powdered goods out there, but here are a few versatile options.
Cocoa powder can be used in cakes, brownies and comforting hot chocolate, and as cocoa has been shown to boost mood, using it in porridge for breakfast can make those dark winter mornings easier to face.
Although a whole foods, plant-based diet can easily meet most people’s protein requirements, having protein powder on hand for use in smoothies, energy snacks and desserts can be a good idea if you’re particularly active or enjoy making your own on-the-go snacks.
Nutritional yeast flakes (“nooch”) can be used to add a “cheesy”, savoury flavour to sauces, salads or dishes such as tofu scramble. Fortified nooch is high in vitamin B12, which is essential for brain health and carries a host of other benefits. It’s the vitamin you’ll get asked about most when you transition to a vegan diet!
Yes, I’m aware you can’t eat information! However, knowing what you’re eating, and that you are meeting (or exceeding!) your nutritional needs, is empowering. There are many smartphone or web-based apps available to track your food intake (such as HealthWatch 360), and doing so for a few days or weeks enables you to course-correct your nutrient and water intake, and give you the tools to follow a balanced diet that meets all your needs. There is also a wealth of vegan blogs and nutritional information websites designed to help you choose foods that keep you healthy, vibrant and enthusiastic throughout Veganuary!