When talking about vegan diets, I feel there is a major focus on the foods you need to exclude, rather than on the foods that you can actually eat! Since I have started incorporating more vegan meals into my diet, I’ve been so much more creative in the kitchen and it’s actually opened doors for me! I try to eat a varied diet, but there are a few products which I always reach for. So, to make the transition to a vegan diet easier, I have assembled a list of vegan staples, friendly foods which I rely on frequently in my cooking. I also recommend including these foods in your diet because they provide certain nutrients which can be lacking in a vegan diet. Read on for Vegan Pantry Staples: 5 Must-Haves for the Plant-Based Foodie!
1. Nutritional Yeast
You will have probably already come across nutritional yeast in the vegan community, because it is fortified with Vitamin B12, an important vitamin involved in production of red blood cells and nerve cell function. We can only get vitamin B12 from specific foods and animal products, therefore if you are vegan, it is important to include foods fortified with B12 into your diet. At a first glance, nutritional yeast may not look very appealing, but it is so versatile and has a cheesy/salty flavour. Try adding it to pasta sauces, homemade pesto, or even sprinkling it onto popcorn!
Nuts and seeds are great plant-based sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids which can be converted into DHA and EPA (the other omega-3s) in the body. This is beneficial because DHA and EPA are found mainly in oily fish, so it’s difficult to get them from your diet if you are vegan. For these reasons it’s important to ensure you are getting enough plant-source of ALA, because your body can use it to make the other essential omega-3s. To give you an idea: this is about 6 walnut halves, or a tablespoon of chia/flax seeds a day.
3. Medjool Dates
Medjool dates are packed with fibre and are naturally very sweet. They have a thick and gooey centre which resembles a caramel texture, so they are great for vegan desserts or snacks. Try adding one or two to your morning smoothie or making these vegan chocolate truffles…(thank me later!)
Miso is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is becoming more widely available now in the UK. It is made from fermented soybeans and has an incredible umami flavour. Fermented plant foods are great sources of K2 and probiotics, which may have beneficial effects on our gut microbiota (1). Miso can be used to add flavour to a wide variety of dishes including soups, risottos, curries, or easy vegan ramen.
5. Wholegrain Cereal (Excellent vegan staples that ensure you load up on Vitamin B12)
I love to start my day with a bowl of cereal, plant-based milk, and fresh fruit. Wholegrain cereals provide a great source of fibre, and again look for brands fortified with B vitamins! I’m definitely a Shreddies girl, but some of my other favourites include Weetabix, Grape-Nuts, and Bran Flakes. Top your cereal bowl with a spoon of nut butter and you have a perfect, nutritionally balanced breakfast!
I hope you enjoyed this list of what I consider to be vegan essentials. Obviously, there are several other staple products such as pulses, wholegrains, herbs and spices, but the products mentioned above may be slightly less obvious and do not get the hype they deserve. I’d love to hear your favourite vegan pantry staples in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram as I’m always experimenting with new vegan recipes myself! And after you’ve fuelled up on all that plant-power, time to Keep YOUR Fit ON!
1. Sánchez B, Delgado S, Blanco-Míguez A, Lourenço A, Gueimonde M, Margolles A. Probiotics, gut microbiota, and their influence on host health and disease. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2017;61(1):1600240.