Have you recently begun, or thought about beginning, a whole food plant based diet? If you have, then you may be scratching your head wondering not only what to buy, but also how to obtain all the nutrition your body needs on plants alone.
Fear not, this is normal, but this plant based diet food list is your complete shopping guide of everything you could need to keep you 100% healthy.
Why Go Plant Based?
I turned to healthful plant based eating over 5 years ago, and so far I haven’t fallen to pieces or wasted away through the non eating of animal products, not like some may have predicted.
In fact, my body is thriving more than EVER! And, in these past couple of years I have seen and felt my health reach new heights.
I’m not saying that this way of eating will be the cure all for serious health conditions, I wouldn’t know about that. But I have certainly seen some improvements of my own chronic health issues (which at the time I presumed were just a normal part of life that I just had to live and get on with).
In no particular order, these improvements include:-
(I am not saying you will get the same benefits, this is my experience only)
- HORMONAL BALANCE – I have more evened out hormones than before, especially when it comes to PMS. Less food cravings, bloating and irritation are among these improvements and I put it down to not having animal hormones in my body any more.
- RADIANT SKIN – I’ve always been blessed with pretty good skin, which was probably due to the fact that even before I went plant based I was eating copious amounts of fruits and veggies anyway. But these days it is better than ever, and I’m getting older, which brings me on to my next point.
- ANTI AGING – The high antioxidant intake of eating so many whole plant foods really helps to slow the aging process, on not only the outside, but the inside too! And, in places where you can’t even see it, but where it is of even more importance.
- LESS ACHES AND PAINS – I always had a lot of general muscle aches and pains before (due to the fact that I do a LOT of exercise), but these days I don’t really feel anything much, even after a really hard workout. I’m pretty sure this is due to the anti inflammatory effects of my highly plant based diet.
- FITNESS – My fitness has gone to new levels these last couple of years, and certainly not because I am physically doing more exercise than I was previously. Again, I believe this ties in with LESS INFLAMMATION!
- GUM DISEASE – This is the weirdest one: I used to have inflamed gums that bled quite a lot when I brushed my teeth, and which my dentist confirmed was gum disease. I had this for years, and no matter how healthily I thought I was eating and looking after my teeth, I never could get rid of it. The last time I went to visit my dentist, she was shocked at the improvement. She not only told me it had completely gone, but also that she had no idea how it could disappear so quickly. I said it must be my plant based diet – she didn’t really believe it, I could tell. But, I know in my heart that it was definitely that, especially considering all the other amazing things that had already happened to my body. Either way, I was buzzing for days because I knew my clever body was slowly but surely regenerating and healing itself through eating high amounts of anti inflammatory, plant based foods.
- CLARITY – Sometimes extreme clarity, the kind of which I have never experienced. I have moments, or glimpses, of complete clarity and awareness that I never knew was possible before. True bliss, especially after my years of brain fog. It comes and it goes, but as a whole I can think so much more clearly and don’t get the forgetfulness that I used to, especially when hormonal.
How to Change to Plant Based Foods
As more and more people turn to this healthful, planet friendly way of eating, they will be looking for ways to swap their usual meat and dairy products with plant based alternatives. And, this may seem a bit of an overwhelming task at first.
It’s going to take time to re-educate yourself, not only about food groups and macronutrients, but also your taste buds and digestive system which will take a while to adjust.
Wondering what on earth you’re going to eat instead of your usual fare is often one of the biggest obstacles of such a huge dietary change.
Life long conditioned thinking patterns are powerful and you may have an uneasy feeling that you’re not getting enough protein and other nutrients in your meals. Or, you may even feel like you haven’t had a ‘complete’ meal without your usual meat or dairy, but you actually have.
All this will pass. As soon as you start to feel amazing with more energy and clarity than ever before, then believe me, it will pass.
Meeting Protein Requirements
Getting enough plant based protein is something you may need to be mindful of, especially if you partake in lots of physical exercise. You will find your needs will be higher under these circumstances.
You should try and get a protein source in at every meal. It’s easy to eat too many carbs on the plant based diet when you’re not quite sure how to do it correctly. And, by carbs, I mean the refined, bad kind, not the complex kind which are absolutely fine.
Wholegrains, tofu, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, legumes, soy milk, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and most veggies all contain protein in varying amounts.
Plant Based Food Swaps
Below are a few examples of easy food swaps to get you started. Don’t forget that a whole food plant based diet is also about eating healthy, low sugar foods and lots of wholegrains.
You will find I have added some swaps for unhealthy foods here too. Please scroll further down for your actual shopping list.
- COW’S MILK – Swap for almond, soya, oat, hemp, pea or rice milk (soya milk is the highest in protein and most nutritionally closest to cow’s milk).
- YOGURT – Swap for coconut or soya yogurt (again, soya is the highest protein and nutritionally closest to milk based yogurt).
- CHEESE – You can buy all sorts of versions of vegan cheeses these days.
- WHITE BREAD – Buy wholegrain bread; or even better, sourdough, which will be easier on the digestion.
- BAGELS – Again, you can buy wholegrain varieties.
- JAM – Buy whole fruit jam with no added refined sugars. Or, make your own simple raw berry jam.
- HIGH SUGAR CEREALS – Swap for porridge oats, homemade quinoa breakfast bowl, millet porridge, buckwheat grouts, chia pudding, homemade granola, buckwheat pancakes, buckwheat-peanut butter waffles.
- MEAT (PROTEIN) – Use soya mince, tofu, vegan sausages, homemade veggie burgers, chickpea burgers, tempeh, quinoa, pulses, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. You can probably make all your usual meals out of these substitutes.
- EGGS – Make tofu scramble. Or for baking use homemade flax or chia eggs – all very simple to make.
- WHITE FLOUR – For baking use a mix of wholemeal, spelt, buckwheat, homemade oat flour, rice and quinoa flours. You will probably need to do a half-and-half mix with a proper wholemeal flour for a good texture and rise.
- REFINED SUGARS – Use instead, Xylitol, stevia, coconut sugar, erythritol, yacon syrup, agave nectar and maple syrup. Just use all of these in MODERATION as they are still a sugar!
- FATS – Use coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil and peanut oil for cooking. But, always use oils sparingly, if not at all, if you want to stay as healthy as possible being plant based.
As you can see there really is an abundance of healthy plant based foods to choose from. As you become more adept at your cooking skills, you will find you can pretty much recreate all of your favourite dishes into plant based versions.
And if you need inspiration then there are lots of tasty recipes here to help you out.
If you buy everything on the shopping list below (or at least your favorites from each group, but remember to keep it varied every week), then you will have everything you need from all the food groups to keep you healthy.
I recommend before you do your shopping that you also read about plant based macronutrients. Also, how to put a nutritionally complete meal together is a great resource. Understanding both of these things is VITAL to your long term health. It’s not as hard as you may imagine as it will soon become second nature, even after a couple of weeks.
Plant Based Diet Food List
- VEGETABLES – Green leafy veg, salad veg and leaves, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, bell peppers.
- POTATOES – White, new potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- SQUASHES – Pumpkin, butternut squash, onion squash.
- FRUITS – Berries of all kinds, bananas, tropical fruits, apples, pears, kiwi, grapes, citrus fruits, pomegranates.
- NUTS – Brazil’s, macadamia, cashew, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans.
- SEEDS – Chia, sunflower, pumpkin, flax, hemp.
- PEANUT BUTTER – Sugar free peanut butter, and other nut butters such as almond, cashew and walnut.
- PULSES – Kidney, cannellini, borlotti, butter, and aduki beans; plus chick peas and green peas. Canned or dried are both fine.
- MEAT SUBSTITUTES – (optional, but usually needed whilst learning) – such as soy protein burgers, sausages or mince.
- CHICKEN – You can buy meat free chicken nuggets, or sliced meat free ham.
- QUINOA – A full spectrum amino acid that can be used as a source of protein, carbohydrate, and fat all in one.
- NUTRITIONAL YEAST FLAKES – A great source of B12 (buy the one already fortified with it), protein, and a great cheese tasting substitute.
- MUSHROOM SAUCE – A Worcester sauce substitute.
- VEGETABLE BOUILLON – A vegetable stock powder.
- SUPERFOOD POWDER SHOTS – A great way to get a shot of pure nutrition, and to be sure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
- NUT MILKS
- CHEESE SUSBSTITUTES – Especially mozzarella – great for making your own vegan pizza.
- SAUERKRAUT – To keep gut flora healthy.
- SOURDOUGH BREAD
- AVOCADOS – Eat LOTS of these as they are one of nature’s perfect foods.
- ALL HERBS AND SPICES
- FATS – Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil. Use SPARINGLY!
- DARK CHOCOLATE – At least 70% is usually dairy free AND healthy too as a treat!
- CACAO POWDER
- DRIED FRUITS – Apricots, dates, apple, sultanas, currants, goji berries, golden berries, raisins.
- ALL THINGS COCONUT – Flakes, cream, milk, desiccated, yogurt, fresh.
- SWEETENERS – Coconut sugar, Xylitol, Stevia, maple syrup, agave nectar, date paste, brown rice syrup (ALL to be used in moderation only)
- BUCKWHEAT FLOUR
- BUCKWHEAT GROUTS
With so many plant foods you can eat in place of your normal diet, you need never get bored. The world is now changing and plant based eating is becoming bigger than ever, of which you can see the evidence of everywhere.
Supermarkets are selling meat and dairy replacements as common-place, with more and more exciting variations coming out continually. Restaurants, even fast food joints, are now offering vegan dishes to suit all needs. So, it really is easier than ever to make the change to what is (when done correctly) a healthy way to live your life.
Need More Guidance?
If you are stuck for ideas, or would like a structured plan to help get you into new habits fast then, please check out this free one week meal planner. It will show you how to put your meals together correctly to ensure you receive the correct amounts of calories, nutrients and protein.
You will also find lots of family meals in this 15 easy plant based recipes post. This post gives you ideas for one pot, mostly store cupboard staples cooking ideas that are also nutritionally sound meals to keep you healthy and thriving.