Staring on your plant-based journey and need some help? I’ve put together ideas for vegan shopping, products, and resources.
If you haven’t read Going Vegan post yet, check it out. In it, I introduce some basics for those who are interested in starting to go vegan or want to add more plant-based meals to their diet.
Today I’ll be sharing what to look for when shopping, my favorite animal product alternatives, and other resources to aid you in your plant-based journey.
I also recommend checking out my post on 5 Vitamins and Minerals Vegans Should Keep an Eye on.
(my Popcorn Tofu)
What to look for when shopping
Animal ingredients can be found in many packaged foods but shopping does not have to be difficult when going plant-based.
The first thing I recommend doing is getting familiar with some of the names that are used for animal ingredients. Some words are obviously easy like cheese, egg, or milk but some others can be a bit trickier.
Check and see if these words are on the label:
- casein/caseinate – milk protein
- whey – milk by-product
- gelatin – bones, connective tissue, or organs of animals
- lard/tallow – animal fat
- the color “120” on ingredient lists – used to make something red, is actually derived from the cochineal beetle. How gross is that?
Don’t be fooled if you see “non-dairy” or “lactose-free” on the packaging. It could still contain casein which is the protein in milk (where lactose is milk sugar).
You can also tell if a product contains animal ingredients if the nutrition label contains cholesterol because only animals contain cholesterol.
One of the easiest ways that I realized I could find out if something has milk in it is to look for allergy information. Many products now have to label any allergen and because milk is a common allergy, it is usually listed right on the package under the nutrition info.*
Large retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer many vegan products and they are prominently labeled. Trader Joe’s has a large V to indicate vegan and a Vegan Product List. Even Target is offering many plant-based packaged foods.
Vegan shopping is only confusing in the beginning. Once you get to know the names of animal products and where to look for them, it’s like second nature.
Although I recommend sticking to most “real” foods like veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains for most of your diet for health benefits, we’re all human (and busy ones at that) so packaged foods will make our way into our diets at times. They can make life simpler and it’s always good to have a few vegan alternatives on hand if you’re in a pinch.
Besides knowing what to look for on labels, I think it’s very beneficial to know which products are fully plant-based when going to the grocery store. I’ve listed some recommendations for some of my favorite alternatives to their animal-based counterparts.
Keep in mind, everyone has different tastes and although these are products that both myself and my husband enjoy. If you’re not into one of them, try out a few till you find one that is right for you.
There are so many different kinds of non-dairy milk out there. Some that you might have heard of such as soy or almond but there are others out there now like cashew, coconut, flax hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, and walnut.
- My Vegan Parmesan (I put this on everything)
- My Chipotle Queso (this stuff is good!)
- My Port Wine Cheese Ball (great for parties!)
- My Tofu Feta Cheese
- My Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
- Nutritional Yeast
- Chao Cheese
- Miyoko’s Cheese (she has many different kinds)
- Treeline Cheese
- Daiya Cheese
- Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
- Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
Mac & Cheese (because you know it deserves its own category)
- My Creamy Vegan Cashew Mac & Cheese
- My Vegan Baked Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
- My Buffalo Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
- Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Mac & Cheese
- Amy’s Vegan Mac & Cheese
- My Easy “Alfredo” – totally like alfredo sauce! I use this on pasta or zucchini noodles
- Cauliflower Alfredo (creamy and healthy though maybe not as cheesy)
- Rich & Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
- Gardein Black Bean Burger
- Qrunch original qrunch burger
- Gardein ultimate beefless burger
- Sweet Earth Veggie Burger
- Gardein Crispy Tenders
- Gardein Chick’n Scallopini (gluten-free)
- Gardein Chick’n Sliders
- Gardein Stuffed Turky
- Trader Joe’s Chickenless Crispy Tenders
- Gardein Ground Beefless Crumbles
- Gardein Beefless Strips
- Beyond Meat Crumbles
- Field Roast Celebration Roast
- Upton’s Naturals Jackfruit
- Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh
- Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon
- Phoney Baloney’s Coconut Bacon
- or make your own vegan bacon
I also thought I’d share some of my favorite books, sites, and other resources that I found helpful when going vegan and that I recommend for more information.
Plant-Based Wellness books
- The Plant-Based Solution– Dr Joel Kahn
- Plant-Based Diet for Dummies– Marni Wasserman (I love the “Dummies” Series)
- How Not to Die – Dr. Michael Greger
Cookbooks & Other Vegan Books
- Veganize It – Robin Robertson
- Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook – Isa Chandra Moskowitz
- Betty Goes Vegan: 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Family – Annie & Dan Shannon
- Animal Persuasion: A guide for ethical vegans and animal advocates in managing life’s emotional challenges
- 21 Day Vegan Kickstart Kit from the Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine
- Happy Cow – helps to find veg-friendly restaurants
- The Vegan Society
- Finding Vegan – vegan recipes
- Leaping Bunny – cruelty-free product info
- Logical Harmony – cruelty-free beauty reviews
- Ecorazzi – online vegan magazine (news, pop culture, commentary, and animal justice)
- Is it vegan? – phone app
- Barnivore – vegan alcohol guide
- PETA’s How to go Vegan page – this organization can be controversial but it has some good resources
Some of these are available on Netflix or online for free:
- Food, Inc.
- Earthlings – very hard to watch but worth it
- Forks Over Knives
- Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
- Hungry for Change
What are some of your favorite tips for vegan shopping, products, and resources?
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Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who helps clients regain their energy, confidence and health by adapting and enjoying a plant-based diet. By uniting her functional nutrition education with her passion for plants and mindfulness, Mary Ellen offers a completely holistic and science-based approach to designing a healthy, plant-based life. When she’s not reading up on the latest nutrition research, you can find Mary Ellen doting on her two rescue shih tzus, creating the perfect vegan mac & cheese, or exploring the world with her husband.