A wide variety of fresh vegetables / Source
2. Vegan food
What it is, where to buy it, how to cook it, and recipes to get you started.
How to eat like a vegan
Veganism is more than a diet, but that’s the part that gets the most attention for one simple reason: We all need food to live.
But food is more than that; it’s our family traditions, our treasured memories, and plays a role in our special gatherings. Food is a medicine; it can nourish us.
This guide will show you how to transition to an entirely plant-based, nourishing vegan diet while keeping family traditions and a budget.
And if you are a vegan without an income or a home, I’ve got hacks for you too.
This section is quite big and contains a lot of information, so I broke it into several subsections. At the end of each chapter is a related resource that will offer you the chance to learn more, which I highly encourage you to use.
Non-vegan foods to remove from your pantry and fridge
Let’s start with the easy stuff.
As a vegan, you’ll avoid foods that come from animals like:
- Meats like chicken, pork, and beef
- Seafood like fish, shrimp, crab, and tuna
- Dairy products like eggs, milk, cheese, and ice cream
You’ll also want to look out for ingredients made from animal by-products, including these:
- Albumen (egg whites or the protein contained in them)
- Carmine (red coloring from crushed beetles)
- Gelatin (collagen from various animal parts)
- Shellac (confectioner’s glaze from beetle secretions)
- Vitamin D-3 (lanolin from washed lamb’s wool)
- Whey (lactose, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fat from a by-product of the cheese industry)
Other sneaky places you'll find animal products
Here are the foods that you might not think include animal-derived products but do, including:
- Boxed cereals (vitamin D3, milk or milk proteins, gelatin, or honey)
- Marshmallows, gummy candies, and chewing gum (gelatin or beeswax)
- Baked goods like cake and cookies (eggs, dairy, or honey)
- Beer and wine (Isinglass, aka fish bladders)
Don’t let these lists overwhelm you. Like anything else, veganism gets easier with time and practice.
Now, let’s learn about all the plant foods to fill our pantries.
Foods to keep on hand
Most people think being vegan is surviving on salads and vegetables alone, which is untrue.
Plant-based meals include a wide variety of foods like:
Besides those foods, vegans also enjoy the following plant-based staples.
Plant-based burgers, roasts, and sausages are good vegan options / Source
One of the biggest misconceptions about a plant-based diet is that you are going to give up all the foods you love. Not so! Living vegan doesn’t mean giving up the familiar tastes of your favorite pre-vegan foods.
Were you a fan of thick, juicy hamburgers? Replace them with plant-based versions made from beans, grains, and vegetables. What about sausage or deli meats? Bacon?
There are vegan versions of those too.
Finding vegan meat in stores
Look for brands like Beyond Meat, Gardein, Impossible, Field Roast, or Tofurky in the refrigerator or freezer sections of the grocery store.
Are you looking for something a little more budget-friendly? Making burgers at home can be done at home with a few inexpensive ingredients.
Three delicious vegan tofu dishes / Source
Soy powerhouses: Tempeh and Tofu
If we’re going to have a conversation about vegan staples, we must speak about the top two soy powerhouses: tofu and tempeh.
They’re similar in that they are both soy foods that have been around forever. Frequently used in vegan cooking, tofu and tempeh are favorites because of their versatility and ability to absorb flavor.
The similarities end here.
Tofu is highly versatile
Tofu is made using the same methods and techniques as dairy-based cheese. Tofu’s texture allows it to mimic cream, eggs, mayonnaise, and even some soft cheeses, which makes tofu a go-to for many vegans.
But tofu isn’t without controversy, however.
It has to do with phytoestrogens called isoflavones.
Tofu and soy
The idea is that these soy isoflavones act like the female sex hormone estrogen, potentially increasing the risk of cancer and reducing testosterone levels in men.
But concerns about adverse effects are not supported by the clinical literature available at the time of this writing.
Soy is one of the most researched foods — nearly 2,000 soy-related papers published annually — and based on the health benefits in these studies and the benefits noted in clinical trials, soy is not only safe to eat but also beneficial when eaten in moderation. (1, 2)
Tempeh is a high-protein food
Tempeh, on the other hand, has many nutritional and textural differences from tofu.
Made using a cultural fermentation process using whole soybeans, tempeh has a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins than tofu. Between the two, tempeh is a healthier, less processed choice.
And it's just as versatile.
A cold dairy-free case at the grocery store / Source
Replacing dairy-based milk in recipes isn’t complicated, but it does help to know which dairy-free milk will work best in the methods you’re trying to create.
In general, soy milk is an excellent choice as an alternative in any recipe. It’s thick and creamy, just as you’d expect milk. Plus, you can find soy milk in almost any mainstream grocery store, which is why it is my go-to recommendation for plant-based milk.
Oat milk is just as versatile as soy milk and is easily found in grocery stores. Other options include almond, flax, hemp, pea, or macadamia nut milk.
Whichever dairy-free milk you choose, it’s important to remember to buy the unsweetened or original version. Some plant-based milk contains flavors or sweeteners, which can add unwanted sweetness to dishes if you plan to cook with it.
You’ll find dairy-free milk in two places at the grocery store; the refrigerated case as well as in aseptic containers stocked alongside their dairy-based counterparts.
Cheese made from cashews / Source
If you can’t imagine how vegans live without eating cheese, I have a secret for you.
But instead of dairy-based cheese, vegans choose cheese made from things like nuts, nut milk, seeds, or even beans. And with so many different types available, you’re sure to find one that you love.
There are a variety of options
Are you looking for melty cheeses perfect for nachos or pizza? Find bags of shredded plant cheeses by companies like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, or So Delicious.
Or, maybe you’re searching for spreadable cheeses like cream cheese? You’ll find delicious options from brands like Daiya, Kite Hill, Treeline, Tofutti, or Violife.
If you’re looking for sliceable blocks of cheese, look no further than Daiya, Follow Your Heart, or Violife. Miyoko’s Kitchen makes a full line of cheeses from shreds to blocks to artisanal wheels.
It might seem strange to see sweeteners on the list; however, there are two considerations for vegans when it comes to them. First, liquid sweeteners like honey come from bees which prevents it from being part of a vegan diet.
And secondly, bone char sugar. Basically, bone char is bone meal turned into an activated charcoal that the food industry uses to purify sugar.
But like other non-vegan ingredients, finding an alternative is simple.
Here are a few:
- Agave Nectar – Produced from several species of the agave plant, sweeter than honey and tends to be less dense. It comes in various styles that range from dark amber to light, each with its distinct flavor.
- Coconut Nectar – Made from the reduced sap of coconut palms, coconut nectar has a sweet, tangy taste with no discernable coconut flavor.
- Maple Syrup – Yes, the same stuff that goes so great on waffles.
- Barley Malt Syrup – Comes from sprouted barley, roasted and cooked down to a syrup with a malt-like flavor.
- Brown Rice Syrup – Brown rice syrup is a thick sweetener that exposes cooked rice to enzymes that break down starches and turn them into sugars. Once complete, all the “impurities” are filtered out, and all that is left is a thick dark syrup with a caramel-type flavor.
- Molasses – This thick, sweet syrup comes from refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. Like agave, molasses has several varieties and flavors.
You can also find honey alternatives at health food stores and well-stocked markets.
Look for the following brands: