So you’ve decided to take the plunge and transition to a vegan diet, yay! The first question that will probably come to mind is: “What can I eat?”
As I’ve mentioned before, it took me a long to time to fully get the hang of a vegan diet so I get that it can be daunting and confusing.
To help you out I’m going to run through the staple items I buy on my online monthly shop to give you an idea of the “foundations” of what I eat. It’s quite easy to get the hang of individual recipes but having an understanding of the foods your diet will be based on is crucial to sticking at it.
The item I found easiest to change was MILK! There are so many options it’s ridiculous. My faves are unsweetened soya, unsweetened almond, hazelnut and hemp milks. But there are many more: oat, rice, chocolate flavoured, vanilla flavoured… I would advise just getting a selection and see which you like best. The ones I get are fortified with vitamin B12, D and calcium so make sure to check this before you purchase.
Also a tip for the future, keep an eye on the amount of sugar in each type. When you’re transitioning don’t worry about it too much but I try to stick to the unsweetened varieties to keep sugar levels low.
The next category is WHOLE GRAINS! I always keep wholemeal spaghetti, pasta and rice in the cupboard. These have reasonable protein levels as carbs go and are a great base for a lot of dishes.
As for convenience foods, I keep a good stock of rice noodles and microwave rice. Not all the flavours of microwave rice are vegan so make sure to check the individual packets. The rice can be cooked in 3 minutes and the noodles take about the same in a wok. If I have a limited time to cook, these are the foods I turn to.
Next up, TINS. These are so cheap and last for ages so it’s worth stocking up. I always use tinned plum tomatoes for making sauces (spaghetti bolognese, chilli, pasta sauce etc) and I’m pretty sure they’re about 30p a tin, bargain!
mixed bean salad | Mexican bean mix | kidney beans | mixed beans in tomato sauce
The first 3 can be eaten hot or cold and can be added to many dishes and salads. The last one is basically baked beans but includes more than one variety. These are a good source of protein and are good for bulking a dish and adding flavour!
In addition to all these, I buy tinned sweetcorn in case I’m low on fresh veg and Amy’s Soup which is another great one if I’m pushed for time. Not all the soup flavours are vegan but there are many options that are; plus they’re all organic and mega tasty!
The foods that have become a staple part of my diet that I NEVER ate before are NUTS & SEEDS. The ones I usually buy are almonds, cashews, walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds and sunflower seeds. I pick and choose which to add to my morning smoothie and add seeds to salads, wraps and stir fries.
These can be bought from a local grocery shop, farm shop or market, health food shop and supermarkets, although there won’t be as much selection at a supermarket.
Onto the DAIRY replacements. For me, cheese was the hardest thing to give up. Not just because I found it so yummy but because a lot of dishes have some sort of cheese added. Anything tastes good with melted cheese on, right?
So here’s what I use for replacements:
Pure butter: This quite honestly tastes no different from the dairy spreads.
Violife cheese block and cream cheese: The block isn’t quite as crumbly as regular cheese but I use this for toasties and it grates and melts as normal.
Mayola: The taste reminds me of mayo and salad cream mixed together… But it’s a great addition to sandwiches and wraps.
There are also some sauces that I tend to use regularly. I’m not a hundred percent sure that all brands are vegan so check the ingredients, but I use:
Soy sauce | Branston pickle | various chutneys | sweet chilli sauce | Nandos peri peri
I get fresh stuff weekly which includes:
Fruit | veggies | replacement meat (ham etc) | humous | tofu
I don’t eat loads of meat replacements, mainly smoked tofu which you can get from health food shops or Ocado. I keep a few bits in the freezer like pies, ‘chicken’ strips, burgers and sausages all of which are the brand Fry’s (available from Waitrose, Ocado and health food shops). These are handy to have in your freezer but don’t build your diet around them as they can be more costly and aren’t the best, health-wise.
That’s pretty much it, I think. I hope this has been helpful! Holla at me in the comments or on social media if you have any queries.