Recently a friend in my facebook group More Plants Please asked me to give her some insight on what I buy at the grocery store to be set up for success with consistent healthy plant based eating. I wanted to give her an organized and structured response. Here it is.
WHERE TO SHOP
Firstly you have to pick a store that carries a variety of healthy foods at a reasonable cost (ideally.) Unfortunately it may be hard to find what you want at the best prices in one place. I buy 80% of my food from Trader Joe’s and the rest is split between Whole Foods, Amazon and Target. There are other very good supermarkets and of course CSAs and Farmers’ markets are wonderful.
I eat a whole foods plant based diet so this is my personal recommendation. Even if you currently eat animal foods this list will support your health and add nutrition for anyone.
WHAT TO BUY
Items to buy on a weekly basis
Fresh perishable foods don’t last very long and need to be purchased more frequently.
Fresh raw greens: spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, chard. These cam be used for smoothies and salads and can some are good eaten cooked. Buy organic if possible. I also buy them prewashed and bagged for convenience.
Salad Mixes: I’m in love with salad mixes. They are prewashed and bagged combinations of raw veggies usually consisting of greens, cabbage, kale, shredded carrots, squash, seeds and dressing. These are perfect for making quick salads and bowls. Be weary of the premade dressings and check to see that the ingredients are as ‘clean’ as possible and not too high in fat due to added oil.
Fruits: Buy fruits at different stages of ripeness so that you can eat some while others are ripening. The great thing about fruits is they can be cut and frozen for future use in smoothies. If they have a skin that you wouldn’t typically eat, like bananas and kiwis, peel them before freezing. This can also be done with avocados.
Items to buy once or twice a month
This will depend on how much storage space you have in a fridge, pantry or freezer
Other veggies like tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet potatoes
Frozen fruits: Frozen fruit is great for fruit ice cream and smoothies. It’s also another time saver- no peeling and cutting and clean up! they will stay good in the freezer for a few months.
Frozen veggies are great for stir fries. They are also good to have on hand when you’re out of fresh veggies and can’t get to the store. You want to be prepared as much as possible.
Coconut water and unsweetened nut milk: I use these as bases for smoothies and shakes and drink them alone sometimes. If you want to do the 3 day smoothie cleanse you will need these 3 day smoothie cleanse
Dates and Figs and other dried fruits. I love snacking dates but I mainly use them to make date paste which I use as a sweetener in baked good. Avoid dried fruit with added sugar. The fruit should be the only ingredient ideally.
Organic tofu and tempeh. I like to use these soy products in dishes in which meat and animal products are traditional components like chilies. Tofu scramble is an awesome dish that resembles scrambled eggs if you season it with cumin. tempeh is fermented soy beans and is less processed than tofu. Tofu can be very processed and genetically modified so I buy it organic only. Both are terrific sources of protein and I eat them once per week usually.
Items to buy once per month or less
Whole grains: Bulk bins are great for grains and they are very inexpensive staples. They can be bought packaged. Make sure the item is the only ingredient on the package. Oats: groats, steel cut or rolled (in order of least processed to more processed.) Brown or wild rice, quinoa. Gluten free pasta. There are so many varieties including bean pastas that have fiber, protein and less carbs.
Gluten free flours: Gluten free is my personal preference: all purpose mix, rice, almond, coconut, sorghum, buckwheat, chickpea etc. These are great for gluten free baking. You can also make your own flour from oats by grinding it in a food processor or coffee grinder.
Beans: Cooked or uncooked. Cooked beans have a long shelf life. If you are buying them cooked read the ingredient label. Ideally the only ingredients are beans and water and maybe a little salt.
Cacao powder: This is the raw version of commercial cocoa powder. It’s great for hot chocolate, my vegan brownies and smoothies. vegan gluten free brownie recipe
Flax seeds: Ground or whole. I add them ground to smoothies and oatmeal. they are also useful in baking as an egg replacer. Flax seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Whole flax seeds are less exposed to oxidation but they are not digested if consumed whole. If you buy them whole for freshness, grind them before use or in a blender when making smoothies and shakes.
Pasta sauce: no sugar or oil added. 365 in Whole foods is a good brand.
Salad dressing and other sauces: Read labels. If the list of ingredients is 15 items or less, the fat is 3g or less per serving and the overall calories are 50 or less per servings its a good choice. Making you own dressing with vinegar, stevia, essential oils and a thickener like avocado is even better.
Those are my main staples. I do buy coconut oils and use it very sparingly in some dishes. If you have these in your kitchen they build a foundation for a balanced plant based lifestyle. If you need some simple recipes contact me to purchase a copy of my book More Plants Please.