By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Want a plant based diet grocery list? I’ve created a basic shopping list for vegetarian eating. I hope you find this vegetarian grocery list helpful!
As a plant-based dietitian, there's one thing I get asked about a lot: what plant-based foods to stock up on. Want to be a fly on the wall in my grocery cart? I'm about to tell you
which foods are at the top of my plant-based shopping list!
I was a vegetarian for more than half my life, and eating a nutritious and largely plant-based diet has become second nature for me. I eat a largely plant-based diet. And while I know my nutrient needs inside and out after following the diet for so long, getting everything I need from food and supplements wasn't so easy for me to figure out at first. I know firsthand how challenging it can be at first to eat a balanced plant-based diet.
A big trend, plant-based eating simply means including more plants in your diet. Doing so can benefit your health in so many ways: It can reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It can also improve your energy levels and optimize your brain health.
Wondering what following this type of diet really means and how it differs from vegan or vegetarian eating plans? Curious about delicious, go-to meal options—as well as ingredients dietitians recommend you keep in your pantry and fridge?
Read on to get all the ins and outs of how to eat a balanced plant-based diet and put this plant-based grocery list to good use!
What Does Plant-Based Eating Mean?
Before we delve into what to put on your shopping list, let's talk about plant-based eating and what it really means. Ask 10 people about eating plant based, and you may get 10 different answers. For some people, it can mean taking in just being plants and being vegan. For other folks, it may mean eating more plants but eating a little bit of most foods and being a flexitarian.
And for people like me, it means eating a mostly plant-based diet with some animal products, like eggs, dairy, and seafood. I was a vegetarian for many, many years—and
one of my main protein sources is eggs, as well as more plant-based picks like dried beans and tofu. Such oil-free plant proteins can be helpful for plant-based weight
Ready to talk about what to stock up on at the grocery store, plus how to eat a more plant-based diet? Read on for a plant-based diet grocery list and much more!
What You Should Know Before Trying A Plant-Based Diet
Vegan, vegetarian, WFPB, and Meatless Monday are all hot terms in the plant-based eating realm. What do all these words mean? Get some decoding help in my interview with WomensHealthMag.com, plus learn how a plant-based diet can help you eat healthier.
Wondering about plant-based protein foods? This is one of the most common questions about nutrition I get as a dietitian.
What to Put on a Plant-Based Shopping List
With plant-based eating all the rage, it makes me so happy that more people are growing more concerned both about their own health as well as the health of the planet. So we of course have to chat about how to eat a plant-based diet. And part of that conversation is having a basic shopping list.
I chatted with Eat This, Not That! about small changes that can help lead to a more plant-based lifestyle, as well as which foods to stock up on. You can bet veggie superfoods like canned no-sodium chickpeas and bagged salad are on my plant-based diet shopping list. Curious about the top plant-based protein foods? Here's a sneak peek at that grocery list, which you'll see includes lots of fresh produce:
- Fresh fruit (think bananas, berries, and apples)
- Frozen fruit (such as berries and cherries)
- Fresh veggies (such as cauliflower, broccoli, squash, and sweet potatoes)
- Leafy greens (like kale and spinach)
- Pulses (like chickpeas, black beans, and lentils)
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters (such as almonds, pistachios, and sunflower seeds)
- Nutritional yeast
- Plant-based milk (such as almond milk)
- Whole grains (like quinoa and brown rice)
- Oils (such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil)
By the way, is nutritional yeast healthy? Nutritional yeast is the cheese of the plant-based world. If you're vegan or a plant-based eater, this is a top food I recommend you add to your pantry. Is it healthy? I weigh in via this WellandGood.com post.
While I won't be giving up cheese anytime soon, I may be adding a dash or two of "nooch" to sandwiches, homemade grain bowls, and other dishes!
The Health Benefits of Eating Plant Based
We’ve long known the many benefits of a vegetarian diet, such as a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. There are even more benefits to eating plant based!
Many studies also show that eating a plant-based, vegetarian diet may help you lose weight. A review
study reveals that adopting such a diet could help you lose a good amount of weight: about 8 to 10
pounds for the typical person. That amount is higher—up to about 14.5 pounds—in males, older adults,
or people starting at a higher weight or having weight loss as a goal.
In the study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers reviewed 15 studies (representing volunteers in the United States and across Europe). They found that the high fiber and often low fat content of a vegetarian diet helps to reduce daily calorie intake. So you eat less by not necessarily counting calories.
It’s also possible that such a diet may increase insulin sensitivity and thus cause the body to expend more energy
digesting, absorbing, and distributing nutrients in the body, according to one study in the review. The researchers found no significant difference between following a vegan diet and one that
allows the consumption of dairy and eggs.
Ready to add more plant-based meals into your day? One simple way to begin is to increase your fiber intake. Aim for 40 grams per day, the amount found beneficial in the studies, suggests lead study author Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
This is about the amount in ½ cup of lentils or chickpeas, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup raspberries, 1 medium pear, or 1 cup whole-wheat spaghetti. But don’t increase your fiber intake all at once: If you don’t currently take in a lot of fiber, increase by a serving or two a week until you get to the desired amount.
The Benefits of Making a Shopping List
Now that you have your shopping list ready to go, let's talk about why it's so important to have one in the first place. I usually keep a running list of what I need at the grocery store. But sometimes, I wander into a supermarket with no list—and at those times, I typically end up with a few too many extras in my shopping cart.
It makes sense that pre-planning your grocery-store trip can help deter you from stocking up on too many treats. A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior put this theory to the test. The research looked at 1,372 low-income people in Pittsburgh. Most of these people were African-American, and 78% were overweight or obese.
The study authors found that people using a shopping list consistently had a lower BMI, on average, and ate more nutrient-rich foods—including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The researchers note that shopping with a list can not only help you remember what you need but also help limit impulse purchases and help filter out foods that undermine healthy-eating goals. Other research supports this, finding that as the number of options increases, self control decreases.
Although this study was done on a specific demographic, it’s possible that the results would be similar among the general population. Regardless, next time I go to the grocery store, I’m going to bring along a list in hopes that I bypass all the baked goods (my weakness!).
Amy's Recipe to Try
You'll love this
recipe: Cantaloupe Banana Nice
When you're grocery shopping this week and plant-based meal planning, you may want to add cantaloupe to your list. When I'm craving ice cream, I'll often blend up a quick, plant-based nice cream version with cantaloupe. Plus, the dairy-free ice cream tastes just like summer anytime of year.
You can make many variations on nice cream. I'll add other fruit, like frozen wild blueberries, to my vegetarian grocery list, for more spins on fruit ice cream. And chocolate nice cream is delicious to add to a meal plan, too.
Bonus recipe: Vegan Mediterranean Prune Salad
Salads are my jam, so I've spent plenty of time experimenting with combos and flavors. This Mediterranean-diet-inspired entree is a creation I'm quite proud of!
Prunes are the shining star of this deliciously sweet salad that also touts edamame, almonds, and roasted beets. I think you'll love this plant-based delight. Looking for other vegan recipes? Give my pizza with mushrooms or my vegan power bowl with maple-Dijon dressing a taste.
This blog post was updated in June 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- Your Plant-Based Beginners' Diet, WomensHealthMag.com
- 15 Easy Ways to Transition to a More Plant-Based Diet, EatThis.com
- Nutritional Yeast is the Answer to Cheese-Loving Vegans' Prayers. But is it Healthy?, WellandGood.com
- A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Changes in Body Weight in Clinical Trials of Vegetarian Diets, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Using a Grocery List is Associated with a Healthier Diet and Lower BMI Among Very High-Risk Adults, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
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Do you have a basic shopping list? What would you add to this plant-based diet shopping list and recipes ideas? What are your favorite foods for a plant-based diet?
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