This plant-based shopping list will help you know which whole foods and other grocery store products are acceptable on a whole food, plant-based diet. Don’t miss these beginner tips, especially if you need some ideas to help with meal planning! Also, don’t forget to download the free printable at the end of the post!
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Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. You can read about our personal experience with a plant-based diet, but please know that your experience may be different from ours. You should do your own research before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle especially if you have a health condition.
When you’re just starting out on a whole food, plant-based diet, it can be hard to know what kind of food to buy at the grocery store. Even though it’s easy to say that a plant-based diet consists of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, it’s much more helpful to have a list of items you can choose from in each category.
Side note: The China Study is my all-time favorite resource if you want to know more about a whole food, plant-based diet!
Let me share with you some acceptable foods that fit the plant-based bill so you know which foods you should buy and which ones you should leave on the grocery store shelf. And as an added bonus, you can download my free printable plant-based shopping list so you always have it handy! You can get it at the end of this post.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before we get started, there are a few things I want you to keep in mind:
1. The staples of a whole food, plant-based diet include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in their whole or minimally processed forms. When buying minimally processed foods (think salsa, hummus, applesauce, and other things you buy already prepared) always read the ingredient list. Food companies are notorious for sticking unhealthy ingredients in otherwise healthy food, so make sure you know what really went into that salsa before you buy it.
Specifically, you want to avoid and/or minimize
- High fructose corn syrup
- Refined ingredients such as bleached and unbleached white flour
- Added sugars (turbinado sugar, invert sugar, dextrose, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, fructose, corn syrup solids, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, sucrose, etc.)
- Ingredients you can’t pronounce
- Excess salt (look for low sodium versions if possible)
- Animal ingredients (milk, butter, yogurt, heavy cream, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, lard, beef, poultry, pork, seafood, etc.)
- Unhealthy oils (canola, vegetable, peanut, corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, shortening)
2. There is some degree of variation within the plant-based community concerning oil. Some plant-based eaters avoid all oils because oils are highly processed. Others consume oils in small quantities. I still use oil, so I’ll share with you the ones that I believe are the healthiest.
3. You’ll also see some variation within the plant-based community concerning sweeteners, specifically honey. For plant-based eaters who consider themselves vegan, honey is a no-go. For plant-based eaters who don’t identify as vegan, honey is generally accepted as an okay sweetener. I still eat honey, so you’ll see it listed below.
Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get started!
Try to buy most of your food from the produce section. This will ensure that you get plenty of fresh produce in your diet and all the vitamins and minerals that come along with fresh fruit and vegetables!
- Bell peppers (all colors, but the red ones have more nutrients)
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Leaf lettuce
- Mixed greens and lettuces
- Onions (red, sweet, white)
- Potatoes (red, golden, russet)
- Romaine lettuce
- Scallions (also called green onions)
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
- Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, chives, etc.)
Get picky when you’re shopping for shelf items. Read those ingredient labels and choose items that align as closely as possible to the guidelines I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
- Brown rice
- Sprouted grain bread
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole wheat
Legumes (dried or canned)
- Black beans
- Black eyed peas
- Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
- Field peas
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Red beans
- Snow peas
- Sugar snap peas
- White beans
Nuts and seeds and their minimally processed forms
- Almonds and almond butter
- Cashews and cashew butter
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseed and ground flaxseed
- Hemp seeds
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds and sunflower butter
- Blackstrap molasses
- Coconut sugar
- Maple syrup
- Stevia (make sure you buy pure stevia instead of stevia combined with filler sugars)
Note: You can also sweeten your recipes with fruit such as dates and apples!
Seasonings, Flavorings, and Condiments
- Black pepper
- Bragg Liquid Aminos (this is a healthy version of soy sauce)
- Cocoa powder
- Himalayan pink salt
- Individual spices in their whole forms (cinnamon, ginger, basil, parsley, garlic powder, etc.)
- Nutritional yeast (this has a cheesy flavor and is fantastic on popcorn!)
- Pure vanilla extract
- Sea salt
- Tahini (ground sesame seeds)
- Vinegar (Bragg apple cider vinegar with the mother, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar)
- Yellow mustard
- Coconut oil
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Miscellaneous Shelf Items
- Canned soups, but be extra picky! Choose ones with a short list of whole or minimally processed plant ingredients. Amy’s Organic Soups is a good brand.
- Popcorn kernels (Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn kernels are Non-GMO!)
- Vegetable broth
- Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
- Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (I prefer the grapeseed variety)
- Unsweetened almond milk (original or vanilla)
- Unsweetened cashew milk
- Unsweetened coconut milk
- Frozen fruit and vegetables in their whole or minimally processed forms (i.e. frozen peas, not frozen tater tots)
Free Printable Plant-Based Shopping List
And now for the freebie I promised you! You can grab my free printable plant-based shopping list below.
Wrapping It Up
Whew! So now you know how to grocery shop when you follow a plant-based diet. It all comes down to choosing fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in their whole or minimally processed forms when making your plant-based shopping list.
And if you need some plant-based recipe ideas to try, be sure to head over to my post 15 Plant-based Recipes You Need to Try. You won’t be disappointed!
Other Posts You May Enjoy
- Why We Transitioned to a Plant-based Lifestyle
- How to Afford a Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget
- How to Freeze Fruit: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
- What is a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet?
- 3 Simple Ways to Live a Healthy Lifestyle
- Cheap Healthy Food: Affordable Options for the Savvy Budgeter
- 15 Must-Have Kitchen Items Every Plant-Based Kitchen Needs
- The Meal Planning Binder You Need to Make Meal Planning a Breeze
What about you? Do you have some favorite plant-based foods that I forgot to mention in this plant-based shopping list?
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