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Foods for Vegans: What You Can and Can’t Eat

 

By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

Discover the best vegan foods that you should include on your grocery shopping list—perfect for creating easy, nutritious meals.

 

Have you thought about following a vegan diet but get stopped in your tracks because you’re unsure what vegan foods will actually leave you satisfied? Or maybe you’re simply not sure what qualifies as foods for vegans.

 

Well, I’m a plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist and am here to help! So let's get started. We'll cover what you can and can't eat on a vegan diet, plus a comprehensive vegan grocery list.

Why eat a vegan diet?

 

People go vegan for a variety of reasons—including environmental, animal welfare, and health benefits. When it comes to eating plant based, so many health benefits exist! The biggest one, in my opinion: When you eat a lot of plants, you’re taking in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can all help lower your risk of chronic disease. That’s a huge perk.

 

Additionally, if you’re looking for weight-loss benefits, you may very well see success on a vegan diet. After all, a study in Nutrients found that eating a vegetarian diet helps with weight loss. The research also revealed that following a vegetarian diet can help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as coronary heart disease.

 

Plus, there’s the simple fact that plants are full of fiber and even protein—and these nutrients help keep you fuller for longer. Vegan diets are typically higher in vegetarian sources of protein, such as beans and chickpeas, and eating these foods can result in a higher intake of protein and fiber, found a study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

 

Now, let’s take a look at what you can and can’t eat on a vegan diet. Don’t worry: I’m focusing much more on what you can eat!

 

Going vegan but not sure where to start? Are you starting a vegan diet and wondering what foods vegans can or can't eat? Here is your easy and useful guide to help you learn the typical vegan diet. It's a beginner-friendly guide to plant-based eating!

Foods you can eat on a vegan diet

When it comes to vegan foods you can eat on a vegan diet, you have oh so many options! First of all, foods for vegans include all fruits and vegetables—think berries, apples, oranges, broccoli, and mixed greens. You can also eat grains such as oatmeal and quinoa, as well as plant proteins like tofu and seitan.

 

Here’s an overview of what you can add to your vegan food list:

  • Beans
  • Bread
  • Dairy alternatives
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Meat alternatives
  • Nuts
  • Oils
  • Pasta
  • Plant proteins
  • Seeds
  • Snacks, such as vegetable chips
  • Sweets, such as dark chocolate
  • Vegetables

Foods you can’t eat on a vegan diet

Unfortunately, you’ll need to remove many items from your vegan food list. These include eggs, cheese, dairy milk, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. When you follow a vegan diet, you're cutting out all animal products.

 

In addition to the obvious foods to avoid on a vegan diet, you’ll also need to avoid some surprising foods. This includes honey, because commercial honey farming may harm the health of bees. If you love mayonnaise, you’ll want to opt for a vegan mayo that doesn’t contain eggs.

 

Also, certain types of sugar, such as refined sugars and many types of cane sugar and brown sugar, may contain bone char. So you’ll want to make sure to choose a vegan sugar, such as beet sugar.

 

Another no-go: anything that’s gelatin based, such as Jell-O, jelly beans, gummy bears, and marshmallows. You can, of course, find vegan stand-ins for many of these foods. And if you love wine, you’ll need to look for a vegan wine. This is because during the clarification process, a process called fining takes place. Casein, albumin, gelatin, or isinglass can be used for fining—all of which are animal based.

 

Here’s a list of foods to avoid on a vegan diet:

  • Beef
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Gelatin
  • Gummy bears
  • Honey
  • Ice cream
  • Jelly beans
  • Lamb
  • Marshmallows
  • Mayonnaise
  • Milk
  • Non-vegan sugar
  • Non-vegan wine
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Turkey
Going vegan but not sure where to start? Are you starting a vegan diet and wondering what foods vegans can or can't eat? Here is your easy and useful guide to help you learn the typical vegan diet. It's a beginner-friendly guide to plant-based eating!

71 Best Foods for Vegans

 

Now that you've gotten an overview of what you can and can't eat on a vegan diet, it's time for some real fun! I'm going over all the vegan staples that I recommend as a plant-based dietitian. 

Fruits

One of the best things about a vegan diet is that all fruit is on the table. Here are a dozen of my favorite fruits to add to your plate.

 

1. Apples: These are such a staple, especially since they last a long time in the fridge. Make sure to eat the skin, which offers a good amount of fiber: A medium Gala apple boasts 4 grams of fiber, making it a good source of the cholesterol-helping nutrient. Slice up an apple, and add it to a vegan yogurt parfait. Or roast apples in the oven for a healthy dessert.

 

2. Apricots: You may be more familiar with the dried type, but get them fresh while you can. I love eating apricots as a snack because they’re so juicy and satisfying. Three apricots contain only 50 calories and boast a good amount of immunity-helping vitamin C.

 

3. Avocados: Yes, avocados are technically a fruit, and you’ll find them in the produce section of the grocery store. I’ll often add a quarter of an avocado to a salad or as a hummus toast topper. But avocado is also wonderful in an avocado smoothie. The food helps keep you fuller for longer because it boasts a whole lot of heart-healthy fats.

 

4. Bananas: My husband used to call me a monkey because I eat so many bananas. But seriously, the fruit is full of blood-pressure-helping potassium. I love bananas in a coffee smoothie (just swap out the Greek yogurt in this recipe for almond or cashew yogurt) and also in chocolate banana nice cream.

 

5. Grapes: These are such a juicy, delicious fruit. I love to keep grapes on hand both for healthy snacking (they're delicious when frozen), as well as an ingredient for a Greek yogurt parfait. To make the parfait vegan, simply swap out the yogurt for cashew yogurt or almond yogurt—or even flax milk yogurt! And make sure to choose a vegan cereal, such as Barbara's Organic Corn Flakes.

 

6. Lemons: Lemons are super versatile in the kitchen. Not only can you add lemon juice to homemade nice cream, you can add utilize lemons in anything from roasted veggies to salads. They offer vitamin C, and this nutrient helps you absorb plant-based iron from foods such as spinach. Simply squeeze lemon juice onto your salad or sautéed spinach, and you’re on your way to maximizing plant-based iron absorption.

 

7. Mangoes: These orange gems are such a hydrating fruit, with a water content of over 80 percent. Mangoes also contain filling fiber. Add them to a bowl of mango almond oatmeal.

 

8. Oranges: This citrus offers fiber, vitamin C (70 grams, which is 78 percent of your daily need), as well as a little bit of protein. And a medium orange provides a little bit of bone-helping calcium. Enjoy oranges in a vegan smoothie bowl.

 

9. Peaches: Here’s a stone fruit that’s a good source of vitamin C. Cooking peaches brings out their natural sweetness, and grilled peaches are so delicious. With an indoor grill, you can make grilled peaches all year long.

 

10. Pineapple: Hello, tropical fruit! In one cup of pineapple, you get 79 milligrams of vitamin C, almost all of your daily need. You also get satiating fiber, as well as a gram of protein. And here’s a unique benefit: Pineapple contains bromelain, which helps lower inflammation. Enjoy pineapple on its own, in a fruit salad or a yogurt parfait, or even in a virgin sangria.

 

11. Strawberries: These are one of my favorite additions to oatmeal bowls. Strawberries are good source of filling fiber, and research shows that eating berries may help your LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. In a review

study in Scientific Reports, people who regularly ate berries had lower LDL cholesterol levels, versus people not regularly eating the fruit.

 

12. Watermelon: Talk about hydrating—this refreshing fruit contains more than 90 percent water. The melon gets its red hue from the antioxidant lycopene, known for its anti-cancer properties. Enjoy a slice of watermelon, add it to a fruit salad, or make a watermelon cake.

 

Additional fruit and fruit juices to eat:

  • Acai berries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Coconut water 
  • Concord grapes
  • Cotton candy grapes
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Dried tart cherries
  • Figs
  • Goji berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew
  • Limes
  • Nectarines
  • Orange juice
  • Passion fruit
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Tangerines
  • Wild blueberries

Vegetables

One of the biggest benefits of a vegan diet is all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you'll take in from the foods you eat. Vegetables, in particular, provide a plethora of these nutrients. Without further ado, here are 12 veggies I really love—and I think you will, too.

 

1. Asparagus: This green gem is a wonderful vegetable to include in your diet. It offers prebiotics, which help you maintain healthy gut health. Plus, asparagus provides filling fiber—and a surprising amount of protein, 1.5 grams per a half-cup serving. I find that both roasted asparagus and grilled asparagus are equally delicious.

 

2. Bell peppers: Here’s another vegetable providing good-for-your-gut fiber, as well as a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All these nutrients really go the extra mile: Eating green and yellow veggies such as green and yellow bell peppers may help decrease the wrinkling that can occur in the crow’s foot area, according to a study of Japanese women. I like to add bell peppers to anything from a creamy rice dish to a vegetable platter.

 

3. Broccoli: This cruciferous veggie is very high in antioxidants and provides immunity-helping vitamin C. I enjoy steaming or roasting broccoli as a side dish. I also love to make a broccoli slaw salad with the stalks—just swap out honey for maple syrup to make the recipe vegan.

 

4. Butternut squash: This veggie is great as a side (just roast it!) and also spiralized into veggie noodles. In fact, you can decrease your carb intake by making “pasta” out of veggies. This fall veggie has a lower glycemic index  of 51, which means it decreases surges in your blood sugar following meals.

 

5. Cucumber: Say hello to a wonderful low-calorie vegetable. Per cucumber, you get 2 grams each protein and fiber. Both of these nutrients help keep you fuller for longer. You also get blood-pressure-helping potassium. Add cucumbers to a chopped salad, or dip sliced cucumbers into homemade salsa.

 

6. Kale: This leafy green veg offers incredible health benefits. Per cup, kale provides 19 milligrams of vitamin C, making it an excellent source, as well as fiber and vitamin K. Plus, a study out of Edith Cowan University found that eating a cup a day of nitrate-rich vegetables—which includes leafy greens—daily can significantly lower your risk of heart disease. Add kale to anything from a smoothie to a salad. If your kale leaves are wilting, you can puree them with nuts, garlic, and olive oil for a quickie homemade pesto.

 

7. Mushrooms: Shrooms are a surprising source of vitamin D, which benefits both bones and immune health. In a half a cup of UV-grown white mushrooms, you get 366 IU vitamin D, almost half your daily need. I like to add mushrooms to hummus pita pizzas.

 

8. Onions: I always have a few onions in my vegetable drawer, because they taste so good in so many dishes! They boast fiber, as well as the health-helping antioxidant allicin. Add onions to anything from vegan fried rice to lentil salad.

 

9. Peas: A cup of green peas provides a third of your daily need for fiber, and the veggies also offers protein! Add peas to cauliflower rice, soup, and more.

 

10. Potatoes: Did you know potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin B6? This is an important vitamin for energy, as vitamin B6 helps your body convert non-carbohydrate sources into a usable form of energy. You also get fiber from taters. Enjoy a baked potato, or roast potato slices. Yum!

 

11. Spinach: This leafy green is a fantastic low-calorie vegetable that provides plenty of fiber. In three cups of spinach, you get 2 grams of fiber. Spinach also offers folate, a B vitamin important for a healthy pregnancy. As well, the veggie provides plant-based iron. Iron is important for transporting oxygen throughout your body. I really enjoy spinach in a lupini bean salad or blended into a smoothie.

 

12. Tomatoes: I like to recommend tomatoes because they boast lycopene. This antioxidant may help suppress cancer cells and may also prevent wrinkles by helping to protect your skin from UV damage! Snack on grape or cherry tomatoes, or add beefsteak tomato slices to a salad or a veggie burger.

 

Additional vegetables to enjoy:

  • Acorn squash
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Baby carrots
  • Baby kale
  • Baby spinach
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butter lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Collard greens
  • Corn
  • Delicata squash
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Jalapeno
  • Jicama
  • Leeks
  • Mixed greens
  • Okra
  • Parsnips
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Pumpkin
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Rutabaga
  • Sauerkraut
  • Seaweed
  • Shallots
  • Snap peas
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatillos
  • Turnips
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Yams
  • Zucchini

Grains

You probably already know to eat your grains—and to make at least half of them whole grain. But did you also know grains boast protein, some of them a super duper high amount? Yup. I'm sharing 10 of my top grain picks with you here.

 

1. Barley: This whole grain is one of the highest in fiber: A one-third cup serving of uncooked hulled barley offers almost 11 grams, an excellent amount and 39 percent of your daily need. The grain is also a good source of protein. Opt for hulled barley, which has the bran layer intact, or hull-less barley. These varieties are higher in fiber and other nutrients. Barley is delicious in salads and soups.

 

2. Bean-based pasta: As a plant-based dietitian, pasta made out of legumes is a staple in my home. I love that the noodles boast protein and also give me the ability to prepare quick, satisfying meals. I’ll make anything from pasta and veggies to a pasta casserole. For an even bigger protein boost, I’ll often combine lentil pasta with chickpeas or white beans.

 

3. Brown rice: This whole grain offers a good amount of satiating fiber. And research in Annals of Internal Medicine shows that eating a high-fiber diet—one containing 30 or more grams daily—led to people losing about four pounds over the course of a year. Add brown rice to a Buddha bowl, use it as a base for stir-fried tofu and veggies, or even add it to soup.

 

4. Kamut: This fiber-rich grain is quickly growing on popularity. And for good reason: In a study by Italian researchers, people regularly eating foods made with kamut saw their cholesterol levels decrease. You can serve kamut just as you would brown rice or quinoa, such as with grilled tofu and steamed broccoli.

 

5. Millet: Here’s an ancient grain that was originally cultivated thousands of years ago in Asia. Millet provides an ample amount of protein—6 grams per cup of cooked millet. In fact, it contains more than many other whole grains, including barley, brown rice, and grits. It’s gluten free, making it a good choice for many types of eaters. You can eat it in a plethora of ways, including adding it to a bread recipe, making millet porridge, and adding millet flour to muffins or other baked goods.

 

6. Oatmeal: This hearty grain is wonderful to eat because it has a high water content when cooked—hello, hydration!—and offers filling fiber as well as protein and other vitamins and minerals. Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. This means that eating oats will help bulk up both the weight and size of your stool, making it easier to pass. I suggest choosing unsweetened oatmeal, which contains no added sugar and has less calories than sweetened oatmeal. I love making overnight oats, as well as oatmeal protein balls.

 

7. Popcorn: Many people don’t realize that popcorn is a whole grain, but it is. And it's a prime snack food choice: A study in Health Psychology found that healthier foods like popcorn are just as likely to boost a bad mood as higher-calorie, more traditional comfort foods like ice cream. Enjoy air-popped popcorn on its own, or add it to a homemade trail mix.

 

8. Quinoa: A grain that’s a good source of protein? Yup! Quinoa offers about 8 grams of protein per cooked cup, which is 16 percent of your daily need. Quinoa is wonderful added to a salad or even a vegan power bowl.

 

9. Sprouted-grain bread: Most breads out there only have a couple grams of fiber. But sprouted-grain breads provide an ample amount, an incredible 4 grams per slice. This is because they're made of sprouted fiber-boasting whole grains, which can include wheat berries, quinoa, millet, oat groats, barley, rye berries, amaranth, and more. Use sprouted-grain bread any way you’d use regular bread—such as in a sandwich or as a base for avocado toast.

 

10. Whole-grain cereal: If you can, shop for fortified cereal, a terrific way for vegan eaters to get a dose of vitamin b12 and iron in the same food. Not all cereals are fortified with vitamin B12, so make sure to check the label. In a cup of fortified corn flakes, for instance, you get an excellent amount of both vitamin B12 and iron. I love adding whole-grain cereal to vegan yogurt parfaits.

 

Here are more grains to try:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Amaranth
  • Bagels
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Brown rice pasta
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn pasta
  • Couscous
  • English muffins
  • Farro
  • Fonio
  • Freekeh
  • Grits
  • Millet flour
  • Muesli
  • Pita bread
  • Polenta
  • Rice cakes
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Taco shells
  • Teff
  • Tortillas
  • Vegan granola
  • White rice
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Whole-grain flour
  • Whole-grain pancake mix
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Wild rice

Vegan Protein Sources

While animal products are off the table on a vegan diet, a surprising number of nutritious and delicious vegan protein sources are at your fingertips! Here are 10 of my favorites.

 

1. Chia seeds: These tiny seeds are a good source of protein and an excellent source of fiber, making them a wholesome addition to meals. I like to use them as a topping for smoothie bowls, as well as in homemade chia pudding.

 

2. Chickpeas: In addition to boasting protein, chickpeas offer a surprising benefit to your immune system. The pulse is an excellent source of zinc, a mineral important for the development of some of the cells in charge of defending your body against toxins or foreign substances that threaten your immunity. I love to roast chickpeas and use canned chickpeas to make vegan edible cookie dough.

 

3. Edamame: This soy protein is a complete vegan protein that has all nine essential amino acids that your body is unable to make on its own—and provides not only protein but also fiber. And here’s an interesting fact: Even though soybeans are one of the top eight major food allergens, soybean allergies are actually less common than you might think. A study in Nutrition Today found that the prevalence of soybean allergies to be lower than the prevalence of the other top seven allergens that include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and wheat. Add edamame to everything from a Mediterranean salad to a vanilla smoothie—just swap in soy milk for regular milk to make the smoothie vegan.

 

4. Hemp seeds: Here’s another complete protein that includes all nine essential amino acids. In three Tablespoons of hemp seeds, you get 9 grams of protein! I like to add the seeds to everything from homemade energy bars to salads and smoothies.

 

5. Jackfruit: This meat substitute is popular for its meaty texture. However, because it doesn't provide that much protein—about 2 grams per cup—I recommend combining it with pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, and black beans for additional protein. Jackfruit works particularly well in vegan tacos and burritos.

 

6. Lentils: This pulse is so good for you. In one cup cooked lentils, you get 18 grams of protein, making lentils an excellent source. Additionally, you get an excellent amount of fiber, 16 grams, per serving. Lentils also provide potassium, iron, and zinc. I find the pulse to be super tasty in a lentil salad. For easier preparation, you can buy canned lentils or packaged steamed ones.

 

7. Mycoprotein: You’ll find a lot of mycoprotein options out there, which originate from a nutritious, fermented fungus. Make sure to look for a vegan option, as some of the products out there also contain egg whites. Mycoprotein works particularly well in stir-fries and Mexican dishes such as burritos.

 

8. Seitan: First, I’m going to say “yum!” Seitan is a relatively low-calorie, high-protein vegan protein source. Per 3 ounces, you get 16 grams of plant-based protein for only 120 calories. Plus, you get a good amount of iron, a nutrient people following a vegan diet need to be especially mindful of. For any vegan or vegetarian eaters who really miss the texture of beef, seitan really closely mimics that texture. Seitan is delicious in anything from a stir-fry to a sandwich.

 

9. Tofu: Tofu contains not only protein, but also calcium—an important nutrient that supports bone health. Blend silken tofu into your smoothies, or cook up a chopped block of tofu for a stir-fry. Pro tip: The key to crispy baked tofu is pressing it, which removes excess moisture from the block.

 

10. Walnuts: These are one of the highest-antioxidant nuts and have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body, which could help reduce chronic disease risk. Walnuts also provide a trio of protein, healthy fat, and protein to help keep you fuller for longer. You can of course eat walnuts as is, and I also love them in salads and vegan yogurt bowls.

 

Here are additional plant proteins to add to your vegan food list:

  • Almonds
  • Almond butter
  • Black beans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Cashew butter
  • Edamame hummus
  • Fava beans
  • Flaxseeds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hummus
  • Kidney beans
  • Lupini beans
  • Mung beans
  • Pecans
  • Peanut butter 
  • Peanuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pinto beans
  • Pistachios
  • Powdered peanut butter
  • Plant-based deli meat
  • Plant-based ground beef crumbles
  • Plant-based sausage
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tahini
  • Tempeh
  • Veggie burgers
  • White bean dip
  • White beans

Non-Dairy Products

When it comes to eating a satisfying vegan diet, dairy substitutes—including milk, yogurt, and butter—are key. Here are 10 of my favorites:

 

1. Almond milk: In a cup of almond milk, you get an excellent amount of the daily value for calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D—that is, if the almond milk you’re drinking is fortified. Look for unsweetened almond milk, as there’s no reason to take in any added sugar from plant-based milks! When unsweetened, a cup of almond milk can be as low as 30 calories. I love almond milk in anything from a pumpkin smoothie (just swap out the yogurt for almond milk yogurt) to a latte.

 

2. Almond milk yogurt: This is a great breakfast or snack option for vegan diets. Per 5.3-ounce serving, you get 6 grams of protein, making the food a good source. Sub in almond milk yogurt for any recipe that calls for regular or Greek yogurt, such as overnight oats.

 

3. Cashew milk: Cashew milk provides small amounts of iron and calcium and is typically low in calories when unsweetened—around 25 to 40 calories a serving. Some cashew milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12 and zinc. The milk has a more buttery taste than a nutty one, which makes it delicious in a vegan blueberry smoothie.

 

4. Coconut milk: Unsweetened coconut milk has a nice creamy texture—but just know it doesn’t contain much protein. Most coconut milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and so you may get up to 50 percent of the daily value for vitamin B12 and 30 percent of the daily value of vitamin D per cup. Coconut milk is awesome for vegan cooking and adds creaminess to dishes such as curry. I like it in a mandarin smoothie bowl, too.

 

5. Hemp milk: Hemp milk is especially great in a latte, and you can use it in baked-good recipes such as muffins. Hemp is a complete protein, like soy. A cup of hemp milk contains 60 calories and 3 grams of protein. You also get other nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D.

 

6. Margarine: You might be surprised to see this on the list of vegan dairy substitutes. Years and years ago, margarine often contained trans fats. But these days, that’s not the case at all. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, for instance, is American Heart Association Heart-Check certified, making it an easy heart-healthy choice in the grocery aisle. Most importantly of all, it has no harmful trans fats. Plus, all the palm oil it contains is sustainable—and its production creates 70 percent less carbon emissions than dairy butter, uses 80 percent water, and 60 percent land.

 

7. Nutritional yeast: In addition to being packed with up to 5 grams protein per Tablespoon, most nutritional yeast is also fortified with B vitamins, such as vitamin B12, and boasts plant-based iron. I love to sprinkle nutritional yeast onto pasta salads, rice, roasted veggies, and even popcorn.

 

8. Oat milk: This alt milk is great for everything from adding to coffee to baking to using in vegan smoothies. It steams really well if you’d like to add it to cappuccinos or lattes. A cup of oat milk typically has around 110 to 130 calories, 2 to 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber. Gluten free? It’s important to shop for an oat milk made with gluten-free oats.

 

9. Soy milk: Per cup of fortified soy milk, you get 120 IU of vitamin D, making it a good source of the fat-soluble vitamin. A cup of the complete protein can contain up to around 9 grams of protein. I like to blend soy milk into smoothies.

 

10. Vegan cheese: These days, you can find meltable vegan cheese, shredded vegan cheese, and even spreadable vegan cheese. I especially love cashew-based vegan cheeses, which are fancy enough to serve at dinner parties. Per ounce, you get 3 grams of fiber—a nutrient you won't find in dairy-based cheese!

 

Here are additional dairy alternatives that are considered vegan foods:

  • Banana milk
  • Barista milk
  • Cashew milk yogurt
  • Coconut milk yogurt
  • Flax milk
  • Flax milk yogurt
  • Macadamia milk
  • Oat milk creamer
  • Oat milk yogurt
  • Pea protein milk
  • Pistachio milk
  • Plant-based butter
  • Plant-based kefir
  • Rice milk
  • Sesame seed milk
  • Tofu desserts
  • Vegan cream cheese
  • Vegan half-and-half
  • Vegan ice cream
  • Walnut milk

Pantry Staples

When it comes to vegan cooking, keeping a staple of pantry products on hand makes cooking up a quick meal so much easier. Try these 10 foods, which you'll always find in my kitchen cabinets.

 

1. Boxed vegetable broth: I use low-sodium vegetable broth for everything from making soup to sautéing vegetables. It’s such a wonderful staple to have on hand—and allows you to cut calories by not using oil or vegan butter.

 

2. Canned tomatoes: I always keep a few cans of tomatoes in my pantry for an easy addition to anything from a vegetable stir-fry to a homemade quiche. Canned tomatoes are pretty awesome in that they offer more of the antioxidant lycopene, versus fresh tomatoes. Buy the no-salt-added version if you can.

 

3. Coffee: I don’t know about you, but a really good bold coffee brightens up my day. I prefer whole beans, which offer a robust flavor when freshly ground. In addition to morning coffee, I love a decaf espresso with a fruit-based nice cream for dessert.

 

4. Grapeseed oil: Grapeseed oil is one of my favorite oils to recommend for heart-healthy cooking. Per Tablespoon, you get 2 grams of monounsaturated fat and 10 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Plus, grapeseed oil is rich in phenolic compounds, and it contains vitamin E and phytosterols, per a study in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights. The oil is especially terrific for roasting vegetables.

 

5. Maple syrup: This is my go-to vegan sweetener because it boasts 60-plus health-helping polyphenols, as well as the blood-sugar-helping mineral manganese and the B vitamin riboflavin. One of the polyphenols forms when sap is boiled to create maple syrup and is called Quebecol, after the province of Quebec. I like to add minimal added sugar—after all, it is still added sugar!—to recipes like maple Dijon dressing and chickpea cookies.

 

6. Olive oil: There's a reason olive oil is a go-to for many folks. It contains heart-healthy fats and has a delicious flavor. Olive oil is great for cooking up butternut squash or for grilling asparagus. I recommend keeping an everyday oil on hand for cooking, as well as a higher-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling onto salads and roasted veggies.

 

7. Soup: I love a good broth-based soup to help hydrate me! Up to 60 percent of our bodies are made of water, and when you feel thirsty you're likely already 1 to 2 percent dehydrated. Keep a few cans of low-sodium vegan soup in your pantry, such as minestrone or vegetable soup. 

 

8. Spices: I love keeping a variety of spices and herbs on hand to jazz up any food in seconds. Spices also add excitement to your plate for very few calories. Ideally, look for ones that are sodium free. For example, you can add cinnamon to oatmeal or coffee. And oregano, basil, and rosemary are great paired with roasted veggies or even to flavor a mocktail.

 

9. Tea: I recommend tea for its health benefits: Drinking green tea may significantly help reduce your blood pressure, found a review study in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Drink tea straight up, or use it as a base for an oat-milk matcha latte.

 

10. Unsweetened cocoa powder: This is one of my favorite ingredients to add to food. Why? In a study in Journal of Nutrition, older adults who ate flavonoid-rich foods including wine, chocolate, or tea scored better on cognitive tests! I like to add unsweetened cocoa powder to everything from protein balls to smoothies.

 

Here are additional pantry staples to add to your vegan food list:

  • Agave syrup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Avocado oil
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • BBQ sauce
  • Beet sugar
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut sugar
  • Corn starch
  • Jam
  • Jelly
  • Ketchup
  • Marinara sauce
  • Mustard
  • Olives
  • Peanut oil
  • Pumpkin seed oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Spray oil
  • Sriracha
  • Tamari
  • Truffle oil
  • White vinegar
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  • Vegetable bouillon
  • Yeast

Snacks and Sweets

Here's a fact: Living without snacks and sweets isn't very fun. I like to recommend healthier plant-based options, which is why I put together this list of seven of my favorites.

 

1. Dark chocolate: This is one of the healthiest “indulgent” foods out there, as regularly consuming dark chocolate may help lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Dark chocolate boasts antioxidant-rich cocoa but without as much (or sometimes, any at all) added sugar as milk chocolate contains. I keep a bar of dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage in my pantry. The higher percentage means that the chocolate contains less added sugar.

 

2. Dried seaweed snacks: These are such a fab snack for when you’re craving something crunchy but don’t want to overdo it on calories. For instance, each pack of gimMe Seaweed Snacks is just 50 calories and provides 2 grams protein.

 

3. Fruit pops: If you’re human, you’re going to crave something sweet now and again! Frozen fruit pops are a top vegan pick and are usually in the ballpark of just 50 to 100 calories.

 

4. Snack bars: I keep a big supply of vegan snack bars on hand in my pantry. Favorites include vegan bars from LivBar and KIND Whole Fruit Bars.

 

5. Snack packs of olives: I’m a huge fan of portion-controlled olive packs, such as Pearls Kalamata Olives to Go!, mostly because I don't need to open an entire jar of olives to have a snack. They satisfy my cravings for salty foods really well. The best part? You get heart-healthy and filling monounsaturated fats in every olive.

 

6. Vegetable snacks: When I’m craving something crunchy, I’ll often reach for a bag of Harvest Snaps Green Pea Snack Crisps, which have a base of peas. I like that each serving is a good source of both fiber and protein.

 

7. Vegan cookies: I’m all about making my own vegan cookies, but sometimes I'll take a shortcut and toss Sweet Loren’s Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough into my oven. Each vegan cookie is 120 calories. If I don't want to do any work at all, I’ll reach for Partake Chocolate Chip Cookies—you can eat three of the vegan cookies for 140 calories. 

 

Here are other snacks to add to your vegan shopping list:

  • Baked potato chips
  • Corn chips
  • Guacamole
  • Frozen chocolate-dipped bananas
  • Fruit leather
  • Pita chips
  • Plant-based energy balls
  • Tortilla chips
  • Trail mix
  • Vegan cookie dough
  • Vegan jerky
  • Vegan marshmallows
  • Vegetable chips
Going vegan but not sure where to start? Are you starting a vegan diet and wondering what foods vegans can or can't eat? Here is your easy and useful guide to help you learn the typical vegan diet. It's a beginner-friendly guide to plant-based eating!

Final Thoughts

 

While a vegan diet may seem limiting, there are many more foods that you can eat—versus what you can't eat. When you aren't sure whether or not a food is vegan, read the ingredients list to see if it contains any meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, or other non-vegan ingredient.

 

Then use the list of what you can eat to put together healthy, balanced vegan meals. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I recommend combining foods from several different categories to create a balanced meal. What this means: Pair a fruit or vegetable with a whole grain, a plant protein, and a source of healthy fat such as avocado, olives, olive oil, nuts, or seeds. If you need more inspiration, take a look at my vegan meal plans.

 

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored blog post. However, because I partner with brands I love, I included some current and past clients in this article. These include Florida Department of Citrus, Wild Blueberries of North America, Watermelon Board, USA Pulses, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Pure Maple Canada, gimMe, KIND, LivBar, Pearls Olives, Harvest Snaps, and Sweet Loren's.

 

Going vegan but not sure where to start? Are you starting a vegan diet and wondering what foods vegans can or can't eat? Here is your easy and useful guide to help you learn the typical vegan diet. It's a beginner-friendly guide to plant-based eating!

Sources

  • study in Nutrients 
  • study in the British Journal of Nutrition
  • A review study in Scientific Reports
  • A study of Japanese women
  • study out of Edith Cowan University
  • Research in Annals of Internal Medicine
  • A study by Italian researchers
  • study in Health Psychology 
  • A study in Nutrition Today 
  • study in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights
  • A review study in Scientific Reports
  • A review study in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  • A study in Journal of Nutrition

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I'd love to hear from you! What are your favorite foods on this list of vegan foods?

 

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