Eating plant-based is becoming more mainstream, especially for people looking to improve their health with nutrition. Plant-based grocery shopping can be a bit daunting at first, but this vegan food list for beginners will make it a breeze.

This blog post will show you everything you need to make your way through your first vegan grocery list, from the produce section to the pantry staples of your local supermarket.

While you might assume you must go to a specialty or expensive grocery store to find your vegan food list for beginners’ staples, luckily, that’s not the case. Most items can be found at a normal supermarket, and we’ll take you through where to find all of them!

Getting started with a vegan grocery list

You might wonder where to start as you eat more plant-based or think about making dietary changes. The truth is there is no right or wrong way to start: you’re in charge.

Some people prefer to start with alternatives for their favorites, such as swapping dairy milk cream for non-dairy milk. Others feel more comfortable swapping to homemade alternatives, like making a tahini-based dressing as a creamy alternative to a salad dressing with dairy.

Either way, this path is yours. With this plant based grocery list, you’re ready to take grocery shopping by storm.

How to use this vegan food list for beginners

This blog post is not intended to be a comprehensive list of absolutely everything in a grocery store. That’s too long of a list and far too much food for most of us. However, you will have a big list of options by the end.

The goal here is to provide you with a framework to get started. Get to know the general healthy categories and use this guide for options to fill them in. As you choose a few foods from each category, you’ll end up with a balanced, tasty, and filling grocery cart of vegan foods that you’ll be excited to try.

So, without further ado…let’s go shopping!

Fruits and veggies

Fruits and veggies are the foundation of any eating plan, not just plant based people. As a registered dietitian, I’m thrilled whenever I can help my clients eat more fruits and veggies.

Fresh fruits and veggies are a great option, but did you know that frozen fruits and veggies are just as healthy as fresh? They are frozen at the peak of freshness, so they have just as many vitamins and nutrients. They’re also chopped and ready to add to soups, smoothies, or quick stir fry.

You’re also encouraged to consider some canned fruits and veggies. Not only are they incredibly budget-friendly, but they can also really help a meal come together in a snap. A few of my favorite canned fruits and veggies are:

  • Diced tomatoes

  • Beans (black beans, chickpeas, white beans, all beans really)

  • Lentils

  • Pumpkin puree

  • Canned pineapple in juice

Nutritionally, what gives fruits and veggies their color also tends to give that fruit or veggie their vitamins and minerals, too.

When choosing canned items, opt for the “no salt added versions when possible.”

So, eat the rainbow! Kick off your vegan food list with various colors for beautiful, enjoyable, and healthy produce.

bag of groceries in paper bags on wooden floor to accompany a plant based grocery listOrange fruits and veggies

  • Butternut squash (buy already cubed for quicker meals)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • 100% orange juice – I recommend fortified with calcium 
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Mango
  • Pineapple

Green fruits and veggies

  • Leafy greens – lettuce, spinach, collard greens, kale
  • Fresh herbs – make your recipes pop!
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli – fresh or frozen!
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini

White fruits and veggies

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cauliflower – frozen cauliflower makes really creamy vegan smoothies!
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes

Blue and purple fruits and veggies

  • Blueberries – buy frozen to save $$
  • Beets – canned save time
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Eggplant
  • Purple cabbage
  • Plums

Red fruits and veggies

  • Apples
  • Cherries – dried cherries make delicious trail mix
  • Watermelon
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries

Not all fruits and veggies are in the fresh produce section or the freezer. Remember that unsweetened applesauce, dried fruit, 100% juice, and dried carrot “chips” all count towards our goal to have mostly fruits and veggies.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are a rich source of phytonutrients, protein, and fiber. While it is perfectly okay to enjoy refined grains sometimes, I encourage more whole grains than refined overall.

A guideline to remember is that 50% or more of your grains are whole grain each day. Especially when looking to achieve better blood sugar, whole grains are healthier in the long run and more satisfied after meals.

I recommend picking a few whole grains to rotate throughout your meals. Here are a few of my staples for your vegan food list for beginners

Quinoa – make a big batch of quinoa for the week to save time

Rolled Oats – bulk oats are cheaper than buying individual packets. Use for granola, bowls of tasty overnight oats, and grind oats in the blender to bake with.

Pasta – can be whole wheat, brown rice, or even bean-based for a protein boost. Banza is one of my favorite brands of bean-based pasta for a higher protein option.

Brown rice – buy pre-cooked or frozen to save time without losing nutrition.

Whole wheat flour – make delicious, whole grain muffins or baked goods.

Buckwheat flour – this flour might be new to you, but I encourage you to add it to your plant based grocery list. It is chock-full of flavor, not to mention vitamins and minerals. Buckwheat makes delicious crepes; try sweet or savory fillings for a tasty Sunday brunch at home (with leftovers to start your week off right).

Whole-grain crackers – be sure to check for butter or other ingredients that make the cracker not vegan.

slices of whole wheat toast on a wooden cutting board

Plant protein choices

Have you had the experience of telling someone that you’re eating more plants, and suddenly, they’re concerned about your protein intake?

The truth is that most Americans eat far more protein than is necessary. So even if your overall protein intake is less than most Americans, you’re not likely to be too low in protein unless you’re not eating enough calories overall or eating various foods.

A few of my favorite vegan protein choices for your vegan grocery list are:

Beans – beans are a good source of protein and come in all sorts of varieties. Canned beans are ready to heat and eat, while dried beans are less expensive but take longer to cook. Dried red lentils are the exception, cooking at about the same time as a box of pasta!

Tofu – Yes, tofu might sound weird, but many people, including myself, love this! Firm tofu has less water than soft, so you may prefer that if you include it on your vegan food list for beginners for things like scrambles and stir fry, where having the liquid part might be unappealing. The firm also tends to have more flavor variety when compared with other types of tofu options.

Tempeh – another soy-based food- is an excellent plant-based protein source. You can use it for just about anything. Tempeh tacos, anyone?

Peanut butter – did you know your PB&J childhood staple is a complete protein?

Vegan refried beans – perfect if tacos are on your mind! You can make them with some brown rice and wrap them in tortillas for one of the best quick lunches

Non-dairy milk

These days, there are so many choices for non-dairy milks. Which to put on your grocery list? I recommend finding one that is fortified with B12, vitamin D, and calcium. If you’re using dairy-free milk as a protein source, make sure you choose one rich in protein. Some non-dairy kinds of milk have almost none, such as almond milk.

I also recommend keeping an eye on added sugar. While they can taste delicious, many added sugars can add up and have a negative impact on blood sugar levels.

Almond milk – I love the rich, nutty flavor of almond milk. It’s also a great source of calcium and vitamin E but not great all the time because of its lack of protein.

Soy milk – is good for those who need to avoid nuts and is similar to cow’s milk.

Oat milk – it’s very creamy and makes delicious non-dairy lattes – a barista favorite!

Pea protein –  high in protein, creamy, and delicious. It helps to make meals and snacks with this milk a bit more filling, with 8 grams of plant-based protein per cup.

a blue plate with beans, lettuce, and peppers that is getting drizzled with olive oil that a hand is holding.

Healthy Fats

Meals and snacks are a combo of carbs, protein, and fats. Adding a little fat to a meal or snack can help keep you full longer. It’s important not to go overboard here if you are looking to improve your A1C or heart health.

A good example of how to use this in practice is with carrots. They are a healthy snack, but they won’t keep you full for long on their own.

Paired with peanut butter or hummus, suddenly, the snack is more filling. Other plant-based fats come from nuts and seeds, avocados, olives, and oils like olive, sesame, or avocado oil.

If you like the flavor of sesame, try some toasted sesame oil for a quick way to season sauteed veggies. Broccoli sauteed in sesame oil and then topped with a few sesame seeds taste great.

You can also try some of the non-dairy butter options available. Some are more processed than others, and the flavors vary. My personal favorite is Miyokos Vegan Butter.

Tip: as you get to know new vegan food brands, use their store locator on their website to see which stores near you carry their products. This saves you time by not looking for products at a store that doesn’t carry them.

Here are some healthy fat options with a smidge of protein for a little boost.

  • Nuts and seeds are portable and delicious, and nuts and seeds are also full of protein and fiber. Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds – options abound.
  • Chia seeds – egg alternative in baked goods, base for a quick vegan chia pudding, and smoothie booster.
  • Tahini – great for sauces and creamy, dairy-free salad dressings, too.

Healthy Convience Fods

Does your freezer have your back? You can save time and enjoy adding these to your list by purchasing foods that make your life more convenient. Now, these aren’t always the go-to options as they can be higher in sodium in saturated fats, but some can be a healthy option. A way to make these healthier is to load them with veggies to increase the nutrients and volume.

Most of us feel like we don’t have endless hours in the day to spend cooking, and that’s 100% okay! Having some options when you don’t have time to cook or don’t feel like it is good planning makes for a more well-rounded plant based grocery list.

Frozen entrees

You never know when traffic will suddenly double your commute time home. Having a few frozen meals means you’re ready to enjoy a hot meal, no matter what.

Veggie Burgers

Your vegan food list for beginners isn’t complete without your favorite veggie burgers. They make delicious quick lunches or dinners that can be crumbled to make vegan tacos or stirred into soups or chilis to make a hearty and quick meal.

Note: not all frozen veggie burgers are vegan or even vegetarian. Read those labels carefully!

Do you have an air fryer? You can cook burgers so fast at home using one.

Canned soups

More and more options are available these days for canned soups that are lower in salt and vegan. Nice to have on hand for when you want a comforting hot meal without so much effort. Check out the 1-quart cartons of soups, too, not just the cans.

Granola bars

Having snacks in your backpack, desk drawer, or purse is always a good idea. Keep an eye on those added sugars; they can sneak up fast. And if you like nut butter, almond, or peanut butter, packets can provide a filling vegan snack on the go.

Pre-cooked grains

The pasta aisle and the freezer might save you time the next time you plan to enjoy brown rice or another whole grain. You can find packets of microwave-ready whole grains in both places. Your grain bowl will be ready in a fraction of the time with these time savors and be just as healthy and delicious.

mustard, ketchup and relish bottles half full on white background

Vegan condiments and sauces

Have you been steaming veggies and left feeling like the meal just wasn’t that exciting? Try some new sauces and tips! Take a vegan meal from blah to ah-ha with a few tasty sauces and condiments! Here are a few of my favorites.

Vegan mayo – try Vegenaise or homemade mayo. Garlic aioli, anyone?

Mustard sauce – add dried mustard, apple cider vinegar, and a little sweetener to a small bowl. Add enough water in the end until you have your desired consistency. Optional additions are Dijon or cayenne pepper for spice! Yum.

Sriracha hot chili sauce is perfect for those days when you need some heat from spices that will give you an instant kick of flavor without adding more salt to your dish.

Cooking sauces – make for a quick meal! Saute a few chopped veggies, add your favorite vegan protein, and simmer with the cooking sauces until heated through and your kitchen smells delicious. While not all cooking sauces are dairy-free, many are!

Vegan salad dressing – Check for buttermilk, cream, sour cream, or cheese in the ingredients list. Vegan versions of these products are usually made from soy milk, tofu, and oils like canola and olive oil. Check for high saturated fat content, too.

Sweetener – whether you’re looking for a bit of sweetness in your morning smoothie or a baking staple, I recommend maple syrup, agave, or allulose as an alternative to honey.

Soy sauce – add a small amount of soy sauce to your salad for a salty, Asian-style flavor.

Coconut aminos are perfect as an alternative if you avoid soy products or gluten. Add fresh lime juice and black pepper for the best vegan dressing!

Canned coconut milk is a delicious base for homemade curry or creamier dishes. You can opt for the lower-fat version or water down a full can to get more bang for your buck.

Fun Food

It is surprising how often people think of healthy, vegan eating in black-and-white terms. There is plenty of room to work towards health and environmental goals through a vegan diet and have foods you truly enjoy. There is room for both.

On the other hand, just because a food is labeled as “vegan” doesn’t mean it is healthy. Vegan cookies and ice cream are both still treats. Enjoy them – yes – keep them balanced with mostly unprocessed, plant-based foods.

Here are a few of my favorite fun foods to have occasionally.

Vegan Chocolate

If you’re looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, vegan chocolate is a must-have on your vegan food list for beginners. Lots are out there, but I like Equal Exchange’s dark blend the best (it includes organic cane sugar). Chocolate bars or cocoa powder will also do in a pinch if unavailable at your local store.

Vegan cake and cookie mixes

Sometimes, the craving for cake or cookies will come up, and you’ll want to have a mix ready. Or you get an invitation to a party you know won’t have vegan sweets to offer, so you bring your own!

Try Vegan Cake Mixes or Vegan Cookie Mix by Simple Mills, available at most grocery stores these days. Or whip up a batch of Vegan Hummingbird Cupcakes using the Simple Mills cake mix.

You can use sugar substitutes at a 1:1 ratio in baking!

Plant based grocery list – key takeaways

As you’re getting started with plant based shopping at the grocery store, it may take a lot longer than you’re used to because you’re looking for your new pantry staples. That’s completely normal: don’t panic! It takes time to learn new skills and to establish a new routine.

But I promise that with time and practice, you’ll be back in a groove with quick shopping that doesn’t feel overwhelming. Make sure to pick a few items from each category, and you’ll have a well-stocked kitchen in which you’ll be excited to cook!

Vegan food list for beginners – next steps

Whether you’re looking to start a plant based eating or want some new plant-based recipes for your family dinner table, it can be difficult to know what foods are best. Luckily, we’ve compiled this easy shopping list of everything you need to get started on the right foot.

You may also like

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *