Are you new to this lifestyle? overwhelmed or confused on where or how to start? let me help you navigate by starting with your vegan pantry essentials. But first, let me quickly pat your shoulder (albeit virtually), you just made a great decision in bettering your overall health, preserving our planet, and saving a precious animal’s life (read my vegan journey). Let me tell you too that becoming vegan now is a lot easier more than ever. Anywhere you go you’ll find vegan alternatives or in our lingo, “veganized” so it will be easy peasy for you to adjust (also read how to beat fatigue as vegan)!
Which leads me to my next point. Being vegan does not necessarily mean healthy because there are vegan junk food, no thanks to opportunistic companies who see this growing demographics the new pot of gold; so please, I highly encourage you to be mindful of what you buy, what you eat. Don’t like reading labels or ingredients? go straight to the produce section. A stem of broccoli does not need any fancy name, it is what it is. A beautiful veggie packed with protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Missing the meaty texture? there’s seitan, tempeh, soy curls, young jackfruit. Missing tuna? there’s fishless tuna made from soy flour, packed the same. Missing cheese? there are tons of dairy-free brands! I remember when my husband first became vegan (he celebrates one year this month), he was astounded with all the selections out there and like every meat-eating turned vegan say “why didn’t I do it sooner”? So don’t doubt yourself, you will ace this lifestyle like a pro!
I’m a 60/40 vegan. Meaning, I eat 60% raw and unprocessed (vegetables and fruits) and 40% cooked. I’ve learned how to portioned my intake depending on where I am and what I do. I know some who are 100% raw, and while I admire them for their tenacity, I don’t think I can cross over to that point yet because I love cooking. I enjoy eating greatly prepared cooked food. Hence, you will always find these pantry essentials 24/7, 365d, especially since my husband is my number one fan when it comes to preparing homecooked meals. So without further ado, here they are:
Grains. White and brown rice, quinoa (great for salad, my favorite way to season it is with a dash of curry powder; this grain is abundant in complete protein), bulgur (wheat kernels, great for pilafs or salads like Mediterranean style, abundant in fiber), steel cut oats (chewier texture, I also use it when I make cookies, rich in beta glucans than can help reduce cholesterol levels), wheat (in form of pasta or bread).
Nuts and seeds. Cashew, almond, walnut, pistachio, macadamia, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, peanuts are rich in either monounsaturared or polyunsaturated fat (both good kind of fat) which helps in lowering LDL cholesterol (culprit to clogged arteries) and other heart health benefits. I make sour cream, cream of mushroom, cheesecake, alfredo sauce made from cashews; I make cookies with almond, walnut, chia seeds; I sprinkle chia and hemp seeds on my cereal or granola; I snack on pistachio; I love almond butter spread and use it too when I make cookies.
Legumes and beans. Black beans, red beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, and lentils are all rich in protein and other vital nutrients. The question is whether to use canned or do your own soaking and boiling. If you are a beginner and/or pressed for time, you can try canned and eventually graduate to DIY, reason being, you want to avoid processed. There are hundred and one ways to cook beans but my mainstays are the following: chili, nachos, bean burger, lentil faux meatballs, chickpeas hummus or tuna. Practically anything I can grind and blend, I turn it to something palatable.
Herbs and spices. Cilantro, basil, oregano, paprika, curry, kennel, turmeric, rosemary, dill, etc take your dishes to a whole new level. Come to think of it, without seasonings, any meal would taste bland. So if you’re a new vegan, cook the same way, season the same way, but omit meat obviously, and your vegan dish will taste just as good!
Coffee and tea. Vegan they are. While I prefer my coffee black, feel free to add almond/soy/cashew/coconut as you please.
Accidentally vegan. Yay Tabasco, Sriracha, tomato sauce. More on this post.
Miscellaneous. Nutritional yeast extract flakes (as “parmesan” replacement, tastes nutty, rich in vitamin B12) vegan butter, vegenaise.
Of course you are not limited with what I have identified here, explore the aisle, ask questions and enjoy your new lifestyle!
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