Your Plant-Based Diet Starter Kit: The Only 20 Items You Need to Succeed
So you're finally ready to start a plant-based journey. But where to begin? One way is to banish all meat and dairy on Mondays and try the 21 Meatless Monday recipes for inspiration. But if you want to dive right in and start to eat healthier and plant-based, every day for at least a week, you may need some help when it comes time to stock up at the store. That's where this list comes in.
Whether you are going plant-based to lower your lifetime risk of disease or to benefit the planet, the first thing to do is spend time in the produce aisle.
So first, stock up on vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, legumes and all nature of foods you can grow (as opposed to foods that are raised or that walk or swim). Then add your favorite whole grains, in their most minimally processed forms, since those whole wheat and brown rice style grains are full of fiber and will keep you feeling satisfied and full for longer, while helping to prevent blood sugar spikes.
How Are You Going to Satisfy Your Cravings?
Whether you love to snack on salty crunchy chips, or have a sweet tooth and can't live without chocolate chip cookies or a pint of ice cream with your RHOBV viewing session, you can find plant-based salty snacks and dairy free ice creams.
Can't imaging enjoying a cup of coffee without creamer? There are so many new dairy-free coffee creamers that we provide the 20 best tasting dairy-free creamers that are plant-based and will satisfy your need for foamy froth on your am latte!
Here is a plant-based starter kit to buy at the store and have everything you need on-hand as you begin your vegan diet journey: Snacks, treats, staples and even a few unexpected plant-based delights in the mix. And of course sign up to get the 4-recipes-a-day meal plan newsletter in your inbox every morning that is our helpful 7 Day Beginner's Guide to Going Plant-Based. It has expert tips and plenty of inspiration to keep going and motivate you through your first week.
So many questions pop up when you start your plant-based journey. Some include:
"Can I have creamer in my coffee?" Yes, since these days there are many great plant-based non-dairy creamers that taste as good as the real thing. Still other questions include: Do I need to be strictly vegan? The answer to that is up to you. You can decide to avoid all animal products and byproducts, from dairy to honey, or you can go mostly plant-based which means avoiding as many animal products as you can, but forgiving yourself if you slip up.
Where Do I Get My Protein on a Plant-Based Diet?
"Where do I get my protein?" is another common question and legitimate concern, although there are so many clean plant-based sources of protein, including these 20 Vegetables with the Most Protein to eat on a plant-based diet. And of you can substitute plant-based sources of protein into most recipes that call for meat. For the Top 10 Sources of Plant-Based Protein, according to a nutritionist, here are some easy ways to add protein into your diet:
- Seitan has 21 grams of protein for 1/3 of a cup
- Tempeh has 16 grams of protein in 3 ounces
- Lentils contain 13 grams in a half cup of cooked legumes
- Hemp Seeds have 10 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons
- Tofu has 9 grams of protein for 3 ounces (or one third of a block)
- Quinoa has 8 grams of protein in one cup
So with a little planning, and shopping, you won't lack for protein if you mix any of these into your stir-fry, your grain bowl or your morning smoothie (in the case of hempseeds).
Here is Your Starter Kit to Help You Get Going on a Plant-Based Diet
For most people, the easiest way to get off go is to simply seek out vegan or plant-based substitutes for their favorite foods. That's what worked for me, since I had never really tried oat-milk ice cream or cashew-nut cheese before going plant-based in spring of 2019. Now I am a walking expert and encyclopedia on all the different plant-based alternatives that are easy, tasty and healthier for you than meat, if one reason you are going plant-based is for the sake of human health.
When shopping for plant-based or vegan products, it helps to know your motivation. For me, it's driven primarily by a desire to be healthier as well as concern for our environmental wellbeing. I love animals, as do most people, so the fact that I don't eat them is a major win.
On the health front: Simply by avoiding saturated fat in meat and dairy, studies show, you can lower your lifetime risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, including hormonal cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer, and now, a new study finds, pancreatic cancer as well.
Plant-Based Starter Kit. What to Buy to Make Going Plant-Based Easier
It's so much easier to go plant-based now, even than it was just five years ago. Along with the ubiquitous Beyond Burgers and Impossible Meats, you now have a plethora of delicious and authentic tasting meat alternatives in the chicken category, as well as plant-based dairy products like cream cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream and as mentioned, non-dairy creamers.
There are now great non-dairy cheeses of all variety, including slices, shreds and spreads. Some are made from cashew milk, while others use almond milk, and still others are from a blend of plant-based incredients. When it comes to Mayo and other vegan substitutes, watch out for tropical oils like palm oil and coconut oil, since both are high in saturated fat and you could be swapping out one unhealthy item (butter or mayo) for another.
But don't skip the innovative products that make disbelievers shake their head in wonder at the taste and how similar to the real thing a plant-based substitute can be. The one that I love to use to blow people's minds is JUST Egg, which whips up into an omelet as delicious as any you'll ever taste.
When it comes to "getting over the hump" and starting out, not all decisions are made with health as the first priority. Sometimes you just want what you want. Like pizza, or ice cream.
For that moment, I suggest you stock up on Amy's Pizzas and Oatly ice cream. When you're entertaining, make sure to keep a box or large bag of Gardein Meatballs which will give you traditional dinner options (add them to a red sauce and serve over your favorite pasta) even if you're not a big cook.
Califia almond milk is so tasty, I have it on cereal and never blink about the taste. It just tastes like milk to me. Now with all the products flooding the market, you can make it through an entire day, week, or month of plant-based meals and never feel you've "compromised" on your favorite foods and tastes.
Because of all the choices out there, I decided to put together a Plant-Based Starter Kit that is what I used to get through my first period of going plant-based. That plus I signed up for Sakara Life, which is full of delicious and fresh tasting prepared salads and meals, But that set me back a pretty penny so I decided to not continue it and instead go it alone. Still, if a plant-based meal delivery service is a helpful tool for you, there are so many great ones, including Mosaic Foods.
This kit is includes all the foods that I love and depended on when I went plant-based and had to figure it out.
Here, I have compiled my best version of your Plant-Based Eating Starter Kit. I realize you may like a different choice of plant-based milk or non-dairy creamer or dairy-free ice cream –enter your personal favorites and add a rating at the Product Reviews in the Beet Meter – where we rate products for both taste and health.
But for now, with a quick sweep of Whole Foods, I came up with the only 17 items you need to start your journey and transform to being a plant-based eater. This is a kit, so use it as needed. And good luck!
Breakfast Starter Kit Items
1. Almond Milk. We love Califia Brand but there is also Oat Milk and many other great kinds of milk out there. This is a personal preference. If you like Blue Almond or another option, go for it. There have never been more milk choices at the market.
2. Coffee Creamer. Again this is a personal preference. I chose Califia Better Half combo of Coconut Cream and Almond Milk, but you can choose any of the growing number of non-dairy creamers hitting the shelves. If you like creamier taste try the Oatly Barista Edition.
3. Vegan Butter Spread. Earth Balance is a fantastic plant-based butter spread. So is Myokos (more of a solid) and I Can't Believe It's Vegan. These melt well on toast or bagels, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the real thing in a blind taste test.
4. JUST Eggs. Every other egg substitute makes scrambling or omelets watery or lacking stiffness, but JUST Eggs actually give you that egg-like texture when you make them. I loved this option all summer for healthy protein-packed breakfast, especially mixed with veggies.
5. Tofutti Cream Cheese. You could start an office fight of us all arguing over which one is the best cream cheese, but the larger point is that there are great new plant-based offerings. Suffice it to say that Tofutti is my favorite, but there are lots of good ones. Check out our review with the Beet Meter ratings attached for the story. Then add your ratings and reviews.
6. Oatmeal. Okay so there is nothing particularly vegan about it but it's the perfect base to add other fruits and nuts and raisins on top, and fill up quickly without any compromise. If you're Gluten-Free we recommend Bob's Red Mill classic for a base. Just add almond milk.
7. Non-Dairy Yogurt. This is an especially tricky category since most people don't love the overly-sweetened coconut milk choices that are everywhere. We have found a few that are tasty, not too sickly sweet, and have a yogurt-like taste and consistency. Check out the yogurt review we published, and add your favorites and ratings to The Beet Meters!
Lunch Starter Kit:
1. Vegenaise. The great thing about lunch is you can go out for a salad or veggie wrap, or pick up soup or another veggie-based offering -- even an Impossible Whopper. If you're making your own sandwich at home, make sure to have Follow Your Heart Vegenaise handy.
2. Cheese Slices or Shreds. Make your grilled cheese or salad with vegan cheese. Chao makes a good one, as does So Delicious (the mozzarella is legit) and for nachos, we love how Miyoko's singles melts and grips the chips like the real thing. These cheeses make it easy to be plant-based, even for cheese lovers. (Trust us.)
3. Head over to Sweetgreen or Just Salad, or even your local BK when you're feeling lazy and need fast food for the Impossible Whopper, or make yourself a hummus and flatbread snack, or avocado toast. For a list of amazing lunch options to make and bring to work, check out the 21 Day Plant-Based Challenge and look at the Carousel of Recipes!
Snack Starter Kit:
1. Air-popped Flavored Popcorn. Most of the offerings include cheese so look for the Vegan "V" sign. We love Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt flavored popcorn because it delivers the most band for the buck when you want a little indulgence mid-afternoon.
2. I also lived on Hippeas, which I won't tell you are healthy, but made of chickpeas and with that much-needed crunch, these yellow bags of snacks had a way of disappearing when we kept them on-hand in the office kitchen. Stock up and feel good about your afternoon indulgence.
3. Natural, Raw Almonds. This is pretty basic. But if you need an easy, protein-packed healthy snack to have on hand, almonds are a great bet. Steer away from the salty or roasted options that carry more sodium and calories than you need.
4. Home-made-style Hummus. Protein, protein, protein. Everyone asks where to get it. You know that plant-based protein is abundant in chickpeas and soybeans, tofu and of course hummus. In fact there are dozens of sources. But for the low-hanging fruit, keep hummus in the fridge and dip anything you like into it. Celery, pretzels, your finger. Just eat it.
Dinner Starter Kit:
1. Veggie Burger. Dr. Praeger's, Hillary's, Boca, and others all make tasty, filling and healthy veggie burgers that don't try to imitate meat. If you want something that will "fool" your tastebuds stick with Beyond or Impossible (my personal preference). These are more classic veggie burgers from beans, mushrooms, beats, and other recognizable grown ingredients.
2. Frozen Pizza. Amy's vegan supreme plant-based pizza is a medley of veggies like mushrooms, peppers, and meatless pepperoni and veggie sausage, all on an organic crust and covered with a generous dose of vegan mozzarella-style cheese. Keep these stocked!
4. Beefless Ground crumbles. Making Tacos? shepherd's pie or a bolognese sauce? These ground-up alternative meats are delicious and you would never know that there is no beef in the sauce.
5. Sliced Italian Saus'age. There are now so many options for sliced or breaded "chicken" and "pork" as well as meatballs, and other alternative meats you can try a new one every night for a month and still not have tasted all of them. We suggest keeping a bag on hand for when you want to add them to pasta or another traditional meat-filled dish.
Dessert Starter Kit:
1. Non-Dairy Ice Cream. So Delicious and Oatly make amazing non-dairy ice creams. So does Salt and Straw, depending on whether you prefer Almond Milk, Oat Milk or another base. The richest of the bunch are coconut cream based treats; when we tried them all we loved the Ben & Jerry's which taste as rich as the real thing but are massive calorie bombs. Still, when you transition to plant-based eating, don't deprive yourself. A couple of pints of non-dairy ice cream go a long way to make your new lifestyle choice feel delicious.
2. Partake Cookies. Whether you love to dip them in milk or just savor them on their own, the Ginger Snaps out of the box have all the authentic taste of the cookies you grew up with. My dad had a particular hankering for these and while chocolate was my jam, I can't snap a ginger snap without thinking of long beach days, sailing our sunfish, and generally enjoying a little well-deserved treat. These will bring you back!
3. Tate's Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. What is summer without chocolate chip cookies? The best of the bagged (not homemade) are Tate's and now that they make a vegan version, you don't have to ever compromised your plant-based lifestyle for taste. Stock up. Your houseguests will love them too!
And watch: The Game Changers. We can't say it enough. If you're an athlete or doing this because your body doesn't recover as fast as it used to, or you want to boost your performance overall, plant-based athletes are so inspiring that you can't help but feel like you're making the right choice for your body. Watch it on Amazon Prime tonight.