So…what do I eat?
Well, as you can imagine, I get asked this question all the time. Strangely enough people still like to assume that being vegan goes hand in hand with being deprived. I mean if we can’t eat meat, milk, and cheese… we must be starving, right??
Thank goodness both you and I know that’s just not true .
I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked into a grocery store and thought to myself “Oh weary me…there’s absolutely nothing that I can eat in here!” In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I could literally spend hours browsing around Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s discovering interesting new foods I have yet to try. More often than not, my cart becomes so full of fun and exciting ingredients that I have to force myself to put some things back! (i.e. raw cashews are how much? Too much. A girl’s gotta budget after all!).
However, while I love to try new things, I do have a few favorite grocery items that have become pantry staples and/or make their way into my cart each week when I go food shopping. So since questions about what I eat are in fact the most common questions I get on this blog, I thought I’d share 30 of my favorite things with you.
Your Revamped Vegan Grocery List: Ashley’s Favs
1. Almond Milk (unsweetened):
Even if I wasn’t vegan, I’d still be baking and making my oatmeal, smoothies, cookies, cakes, and ice cream with this stuff. The creamy consistency of almond milk seems far more decadent than the mere 35 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per 8 oz lets on (I buy the Whole Foods unsweetened kind). Don’t love almond milk? Try coconut milk instead! It adds a nice tropical flair to whatever you add it to while only clocking in at 50 calories and 4 grams of fat per 8 oz. May I also suggest using it in a nice curry sauce or a creamy pina colada?
An apple a day keeps the munchies away! When I’m craving something sugary or sweet in the afternoon…a juicy apple is just the fix I need. Apples nix my cravings and fill me up thanks to a heavy dose of fiber (3.3 grams in just one medium apple). I like to slice up my favorite kind (either a Fuji or Gala) in the morning, toss it in a baggie or Tupperware container (for easy snacking) and store it in the fridge to keep the slices crispy and cold.
3. Arugula/Butter Lettuce:
Arugula (a spiky-looking little lettuce) is a great addition to any boring old salad. The slightly spicy/peppery flavor pairs perfectly with a citrus dressing or topped with orange sections, dried cranberries and walnuts. Feeling crazy? Use arugula in place of basil for a fresh take on your typical pesto. Butter lettuce is another one of my snazzy salad staples. It’s sweet flavor and a smooth texture goes wonderfully with slices of ripe avocado and bites of crunchy apples or juicy pears. I also find this type of lettuce is pretty voluminous, so it fills up my bowl, and me, quite nicely . You can easily find butter lettuce in the refrigerated veggie section of most grocery stores.
Beets are most definitely a love it or hate it kind of food. I for one happen to absolutely adore their deep, earthy flavor. Whether thrown on top of a salad or roasted in the oven and eaten on their own, beets are an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory , detox-promoting addition to any veggie based meal. Just be careful when preparing…these babies stain! (Which actually makes for an awesome natural food coloring).
5. Betty Lou’s Just Great Stuff (powdered peanut butter):
To say I’m addicted to this, well, just great stuff would be an understatement. Not only is Betty Lou’s powdered peanut butter a healthier, (figure-conscious) alternative to traditional peanut butter (and a godsend to pb-crazy people like me), but it tastes amazing too–especially mixed into oatmeal, spread on top of toast or scooped into a banana smoothie! Just mix a couple of tablespoons of the peanut powder with water and voilà! Instant peanut butter for a mere 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat (and the chocolate peanut butter version only has 40 calories and 1 gram of fat ). You can find it in the health food section of Shaw’s, online, or at Whole Foods. And you just may never want regular pb again.
6. Better N’ Peanut Butter:
This is another awesomely tasty peanut butter alternative. It has a stickier consistency than the real stuff, but it tastes just as delicious—I personally like to spread it on CocoLite crisps (see below) and top it with slices of banana or add a spoonful to my dessert hummus. Oh. And it’s only 100 calories and 2 grams of fat for 2 whole tablespoons! Guilt be gone.
7. Cayenne Pepper:
If you read my last post, then you already know how much I love cayenne. Not only is it a metabolism boosting superfood, but it also has the ability to pump up all sorts of food, drinks, an even dessert. Sprinkle a little pepper on your salad or in your protein shake for an extra kick. Heck, sprinkle it in this chocolate bar recipe or a batch of brownies for an unexpected and spicy (yet tasty!) surprise.
8. Chia Seeds:
You already know I’m obsessed with these babies. Not only are they full antioxidants, iron, calcium, potassium, and omega fatty acids (to name a few key nutrients), but these heart-healthy, energy-boosting seeds offer the most nutritional bang for their buck— 3 whole tablespoons go a long way and pack only 10 grams of healthy fat, 10-12 grams of protein for 160 calories. This makes it a great staple for anyone looking to stay fit and trim ans full of energy.
9. Coconut Oil:
Chances are you’ve heard the hype about the stuff, but have you tried it for yourself? If not, buy it. BUY IT NOW. Use it anywhere you’d use butter (that’s why it’s a vegan’s dream) or oil. It’s a perfect addition to any baked good and adds an exotic flavor to veggie stir-fries and noodles. And while you’re at it…slather some oil on your hands and lips– it’s fantastic for dry skin or as an eye make-up remover too! Check out the health benefits of coconut oil here (from Dr. Oz) and here (from Shape magazine).
Sliced cucumbers are the perfect snack, so I always make sure to have a container full of them in the fridge. There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool, crunchy cucumber dipped in hummus, sprinkled with pepper, or even spread with a dab of almond butter. Of course, cucumbers taste perfectly fine on their own as well! Long day at work? Give yourself an at-home spa treatment. Place a couple of slices on your eyes for instant realization and instant de-puffing. Glass of wine optional . (Want to up the presentation factor? Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut your cucumber slices into pretty little hearts. Cute!).
11. Dates (whole-pitted):
Dates are nature’s candy. They taste exactly like caramel! Trust me. I like to use dates instead of refined sugar for sugar-free baking and I like to snack on a few dates during the day for a satisfyingly sweet (yet healthy!) treat. Dates are also a good source of calcium, potassium, and fiber. Looking for a great pre-workout treat? Stuff three dates with an almond for instant energy on the go. You can find dates next to the raisins and other dried fruits in most grocery stores.
Oh edamame. What would I do without you? I practically go into panic mode if I realize I’ve run out of this Ashley staple. I consistently have at least four bags in my freezer (two bags of shelled edamame and two bags still in the pods). I like to cook up a whole bag of the shelled kind and keep it in the fridge all week-long so I’m just one handful away from a quick and easy snack, or I’ll add a few spoonfuls of the beans on top of salads. I also like to cook up a bag in the pods so I have a healthy appetizer to accompany my meals. Edamame is by far my favorite protein source ( ½ cup clocks in at 7 grams of protein for only 120 calories). Just be sure to buy organic—soybeans are often the victim of GMOs. Want some yummy edamame recipes? Check out my Toasted Sesame Green Bean and Carrot Salad and my Protein-Packed Confetti Quinoa recipes!
13. Frozen Veggies:
Don’t have enough time to make a healthy dinner? Blasphemy I say! If you have frozen veggies in your freezer, the you have NO excuses. Toss those babies in the microwave and top with a zesty sauce or salsa and black beans and BAM. Instant dinner in 5 minutes. Done and DONE.
14. Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas):
These beans are another pantry staple of mine—and at only 89 cents a can (from Trader Joe’s), it’s easy to keep plenty of them in your kitchen. I use these versatile little legumes for baked goods, dessert hummus, or to toss in a salad or stir-fry for extra protein. I’ve been dying to experiment with roasting chickpeas, so keep an eye out for a recipe soon! Looking for some healthy dessert recipes? Try my LOW-FAT Chocolate-Covered Cherry Dream Dip, Naughty Biscotti (Gluten Free!), Soft and Chewy Cinnamon Spice Cookies (Gluten-Free!), and my Healthy Cinnamon Apple Pie Squares (Gluten-Free!).
If I had to name the one thing in this world I couldn’t go without every single day…hummus would be that thing. I often have at least three different kinds open in my fridge at any given time. Whether spread on Coco-Lite Crisps (see below), eaten with raw veggies, or topped on a salad in lieu of salad dressing, hummus is easily my best figure-friendly alternative to all those fattening dips, dressings and spreads out there. My favorite hummus tends to come from Trader Joe’s—be sure to try out their three-layer hummus (a multi-layer sampling of classic, red pepper, and cilantro hummus) and their sundried-tomato basil hummus and be ready to get addicted.
I don’t know how it took me so long to discover this cruciferous green, but boy oh boy am I glad I did. Whether steamed with fresh veggies, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, or baked with nutritional yeast into crunchy little chips, once you start eating kale you just won’t want to stop. I legitimately get “kale cravings”—something all my fellow kale eaters will understand! For a tasty kale recipe check out my Post-Holiday Detox Salad and my Spiced-Up Cranberry Orange Stuffing.
Lentils! Where have you been all my life?! These little guys also made their way into my kitchen a little late in the game…and now I can’t get enough of them. Lentils have a very bold and earthy flavor and taste especially nice with savory dishes like sautéed mushrooms or in a big ol’ bowl of roasted root vegetables. You can even mash them up to make vegan “meatloaf” or veggie burgers—they hold together quite nicely and amp up the protein in every dish. I like to buy the packages of pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s in their refrigerated section.
18. Nut Butters (almond, sunflower):
For those days when you’re sick of regular peanut butter (is that even possible?) or, if you’re just looking for a change, sunflower butter and almond butter are lovely stand-ins. The nutrition facts are pretty much identical to that of plain old PB but they each have completely different flavor profiles. Almond butter has a much more subtle flavor and a much grittier texture than peanut butter. It tastes fabulous topped on a bowl of steaming oatmeal or blended into an icy smoothie. Sunflower butter has a much stronger flavor and a thinner, smoother consistency which makes it a perfect spread for warm toast. Sunflower butter can also be blended into dessert hummus or used in place of peanut butter for a creative new take on peanut butter cookies. I like to buy the individual serving packets for easy packing and portion control.
19. Nutritional Yeast:
Don’t be weirded out by the name—this tasty little condiment adds a slightly nutty and cheesy flavor to vegan dishes, plus it’s high in vitamin B-12 and protein. Nutritional yeast tastes great in a savory meals like macaroni and “cheese,” sprinkled on fresh salads, or mixed into warm sauces and stews. I usually buy it in tubs from Whole Foods or you can buy the Bragg’s brand it in the natural sections of most grocery stores.
20. Pears (Bosc, D’Anjou):
When I’m getting a little bored with apples (or if I just want to mix things up a bit) I’ll turn to a similar fruit—pears! Bosc or D’Anjou pears happen to be my favs. I’ll poach or sauté them on the stove and add them to a cinnamon-spiked couscous or quinoa instead of apples in my holiday stuffing, chop them up and add them to my Fruity Tutti Fruit Bowl, or slice them up and add them to a salad with my Very Berry Vitality Vinaigrette. Of course, pears taste amazing just on their own, if you’re not looking to get overly fancy.
Did you know pineapple settles the stomach? It’s true! Why do you think they always serve it at Chinese food buffets . Aside from the fact that pineapple can prevent indigestion and stomach inflammation, it also tastes pretty incredible–sweet enough to eat for dessert, yet versatile enough to toss in a stir-fry or blended up and added to a sesame ginger dressing/dipping sauce.
22. Pumpkin Pie Spice:
If you want to make anything taste cozy and indulgent, this spice will do the trick. I used to put cinnamon on everything– sprinkled on fruit salad, added to protein shakes, mixed into peanut butter, added to cookie dough, dusted on toast…the list goes on and on– but as soon as I bought some pumpkin pie spice to make my vegan pumpkin pie, I realized it’s not just for Thanksgiving! A mix of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, this spice gives you more bang for you buck and makes everyday dishes taste like the holidays.
23. Raw Almonds/Sunflower Seeds/Soy Nuts:
Looking for a way to crush your hunger while getting healthy dose of fat and protein? Nuts and seeds are the way to go. I’ll often grab a handful of soaked almonds for a pre or post workout snack or I’ll toss some soaked sunflower seeds on top of my lunch salad to fill me up nice and good. I recently started soaking my almonds and sunflower seeds when I learned that doing so results in increased enzyme activity, greater absorption of the food’s nutrients by the body, a reduction in tannins, and increased digestibility. Check out this simple tutorial on how to soak your nuts and seeds here. And don’t worry–if you’re sick of almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds, soy nuts are a tasty alternative. At 6 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of dietary fiber, and 145 calories per 1/3 cup, these little nuts (which are actually soaked, roasted soybeans) are a figure friendly version to most other nuts out there. Toss them with raisins and granola for an easy homemade trail mix or eat them by themselves for a satisfying snack (I like to buy the unsalted kind).
Okay. I know what you’re thinking but hear me out. I’m not crazy. The same stuff you find floating around in the ocean can also be found on the shelves of most supermarkets, and for good reason! Sea vegetables (including deep green kombu, dried black hijiki, chewy red dulse, emerald wakame, bright, leafy sea lettuce, and dark, toasted nori) have a variety of health benefits– they are high in essential amino acids and are an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, iodine, potassium and vitamin B-12. You can often find seaweed in soups, salads, or wrapped around your sushi, but my favorite way to eat seaweed is toasted. Trader Joe’s makes awesome Toasted Seaweed Snacks in both regular or wasabi flavor for just 99¢! Personally, I like to eat the toasted wasabi seaweed strips with a dollop of hummus and a slice of avocado. Yum!
25. Roasted Corn:
I always have a couple of cans of corn on hand just in case I want to make my famous Mexican Salad (complete with avocado, black beans, cilantro hummus, mango salsa, brown rice, and of course, corn–post to come soon!) but once I discovered this bag of roasted corn in Trader Joe’s frozen food section…I knew I wouldn’t be able to settle for anything else. This corn tastes almost as good as my Dad’s famous grilled corn on the cob…without all that extra work . Use this corn in anything from soups and salads to chili and stir-fry. I promise you’ll be just as hooked as me!
26. Shredded Carrots:
I love carrots no matter how you slice, dice or juice them, but just recently I’ve discovered a new way to eat these healthy orange root veggies–shredded. Shredded carrots bulk up a salad and cook up quite nicely in a stir-fry. Looking to get extra creative? Cook up some shredded carrots and mix them with spaghetti squash– top with marinara sauce and voilà! You have a healthy pasta alternative for dinner.
27. Soyatoo (whipped topping):
Everyone needs a little whipped cream in their life, and yes, even vegans can enjoy this tasty treat every now and then. Thanks to Soyatoo, my puddings, pies, cakes, and hot cocoa don’t need to go naked all the time. Soyatoo is made from soy milk and has roughly the same nutrition facts as regular whipped cream. It’s a bit expensive ($4.99 a can) but it tastes amazing– it’s definitely worth the splurge for special occasions. Try it on my Cha Cha Chocolate-Hazelnut Chi Pudding or my Oh So Sassy Strawberry Shortcake .
So clearly this is the stereotypical vegan shopping list staple, but only because it’s so darn versatile. Use silken tofu in protein shakes, soups, sauces, pies and puddings and use the firm kind to chop up and bake, grill or add to a stir fry. Tofu absorbs the flavors and seasonings cooked with it, so you can marinate firm tofu just like you can marinate meat, and use the silken kind in dessert recipes. Don’t believe me? Check out my pumpkin pie recipe.
Quinoa is another great way for vegans and vegetarians to get their protein. Not only does quinoa have all nine essential amino acids– making it a complete protein– but it has 10 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup. I like to make a big batch of quinoa on a Sunday night and store it in the fridge for the week. Make breakfast quinoa by mixing it up with a little cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, and chopped up apple or banana, toss a couple spoonfuls on top of your salad for lunch, or mix it with some steamed veggies for an instantly easy dinner. Looking to add a little extra flavor to that quinoa? An easy trick I often use is to cook the grain with low sodium vegetable broth instead of water (and sometimes a splash of carrot juice!). It makes all the difference. Looking for an easy recipe? Check out my Confetti Quinoa.
30. Whole Wheat Coco- Lite Pop Cakes:
Put down the rice cakes people! You might want to prepare yourselves. You will be 100% addicted to these amazingly low-calorie and satisfying snacks at that very first crunchy bite. I first discovered Coco-Lite pop cakes while wandering around at Whole Foods last summer and they’ve been on my weekly grocery list ever since. Whether topped with peanut butter, hummus, ice cream or fruit– you don’t have to stop at just one cake. At only 16 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of sugar per 7-8 inch pop cake you can eat as many as you’d like without feeling the guilt. I usually buy the whole wheat cakes, but I just discovered that they have other fun flavors like Maui Onion, Blueberry Cinnamon, Original, Carrot, Strawberry, and Triple Green. Check out this link for some awesome recipe ideas.
So what are you waiting for?
Get shopping! And get eating .