Staring on your plant-based journey and need some help? I've complied vegan shopping tips and some of my favorite products.
If you haven’t read my 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 vegan shopping and my favorite animal product alternatives to aid you in your plant-based journey.
- What to look for when shopping
- Shopping for Plant-Based Alternatives
- Cheese Alternatives
- Mac & Cheese (because you know it deserves its own category)
- Creamy Vegan Sauces
- Vegan Mayo
- Veggie Burgers
- Poultry Alternatives
- Beef Alternatives
- Pork Alternatives
- Fish Alternatives
- Butter Alternatives
- FREE Grocery List
- Other helpful vegan posts
- 💬 Reviews
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. 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.
Shopping for Plant-Based Alternatives
Although I recommend sticking to whole foods like veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains for most of your diet, we're all human (and busy ones at that) so packaged foods will make our way into our diets at times too. 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 such as:
Some of my favorite dairy-free milk comes from Elmhurst which has no added ingredients like thickening agents. They only have nuts and water.
I'm sharing some of my recipes because they're just as good (if not better than some store-bought items).
- Nutritional Yeast
- Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
- Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
- My Vegan Parmesan (I put this on everything)
- My Vegan Queso (this stuff is good!)
- My Port Wine Cheese Ball (great for parties!)
- My Tofu Feta Cheese
- My Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
Mac & Cheese (because you know it deserves its own category)
Again, sharing some of my recipes because they're darn tasty
- Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Mac & Cheese
- Amy's Vegan Mac & Cheese
- My Creamy Vegan Cashew Mac & Cheese
- My Vegan Baked Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
- My Buffalo Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
- My Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Creamy Vegan Sauces
- Daiya Delux Alfredo
- 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 - baked and comforting
- My Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Sauce - creamy and delicious
- Just Mayo
- Gardein Crispy Tenders
- MorningStar Farms Chik’n Nuggets (make sure you get the vegan ones)
- Gardein Chick'n Scallopini (gluten-free)
- Gardein Chick'n Sliders
- Gardein Stuffed Turky
- My Popcorn Tofu is like vegan chick'n nuggets
- My Buffalo soy curls
- My Vegan Chicken Salad
- My Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup
- Gardein Ground Beefless Crumbles
- Gardein Beefless Strips
- Beyond Meat Crumbles
- Field Roast Roasts
- My Vegan Mongolian Beef made with soy curls
- My Walnut Meat Tacos
- Upton's Naturals Jackfruit
- Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh
- Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon
- Phoney Baloney's Coconut Bacon
- Vegan crab cakes recipe
- Gardein Golden Fishless Filet
- Good Catch
- Gardein Crabless Cakes
- Sophie's Vegan Fish Products
- Earth Balance Buttery Spread
- Miyoko's Butter
- Or I substitute coconut oil or olive oil
FREE Grocery List
Download my free grocery list which is included in my Vegan Made Easy Guide!
Click here or the image below to:
- Hit the grocery stores like a champ thanks to our pre-made shopping list so you don't forget an item
- Have all of your meals organized for the week so you don't have to think about it last minute with our meal plan template
- Make mealtimes so easy with my top meal planning tips so you're spending less time in the kitchen on weeknights
- Ensure you're getting the right nutrition with my with my handy Vegan Nutrient Guide
- Get healthy food on the table fast even if it's almost 7pm and you've got no clue what to make thanks to my top 5 easy vegan dinner recipes
Other helpful vegan posts
- Going Vegan 101
- Plant-Based Nutrition Basics
- Vegan Meal Planning
- Vegan Meal Prep
- Vegan Kitchen Staples
- Plant-Based Kitchen Tools
- Free 5-Day Vegan Meal Plan
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel clear and confident about what is uniquely nourishing to them. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition information have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.
Great installment to your Going Vegan Series. Great tips. I could have used some of these when I went vegan (like casein that I didn't realize wasn't vegan until 2 months into veganism...).
"Don’t be fooled if you see “non-dairy” or “lactose-free” on packaging. It could still contain casein which is the protein in milk (where lactose is milk sugar)."
They just sneak stuff in to everything.
Thanks so much for sharing this at Healthy Vegan Fridays - I'm featuring your post this coming Friday =)
Mary Ellen says
I was fooled a number of times with shady wording and then found out there was casein in some of the cheese and ice creams I was eating too. They do sneak it into everything!
Thanks so much for the feature Kimmy! I really appreciate it. 🙂
Deborah Davis says
This is a great series! Thank you for sharing these valuable and informative tips for going vegan at the Healthy Happy Green Natural Party! I'm Pinning and sharing this!
Mary Ellen says
Kyra @ Vie De La Vegan says
I love your Going Vegan series Mary, so useful! Another thing I found useful when shopping was knowing which additive numbers weren't vegan (for example, colour 120 is derived from the cochineal beetle, so that's not vegan) - when I was a teenager I printed out the non-vegan additives onto a sheet of paper to carry with me while grocery shopping, and eventually I had most of the numbers memorised (nerd alert!). Now I have an app (Chemical Maze) which is useful if I'm unsure while shopping.
Mary Ellen says
Kyra, that's a great suggestion! I'm going to add that 120 detail to this page (and credit you). "Nerd alert" lol, I could seem myself doing something like that as well - I actually call myself a "nutrition nerd" on my About Me page.
Christine (Run Plant Based) says
Such a great post with lots of information, thanks! I have not watched Earthlings yet, I can't even get through the trailer for it. But that's why I'm a vegan. 🙂
Mary Ellen says
Yes, that's why I am too! 🙂