Beginner’s guide to vegan staples

Vegan Staples
Vegan Staples

As with most vegans (if not all), the beginning of my vegan journey was not easy hell. 

I’ve watched the 101 facebook videos on animals becoming separated from birth then provoked and tortured just for our benefit and over consumption. I’ve watched the documentaries…

In this case, knowing literally was half the battle (not that it was battle).

The other half was this struggle of trying to get my mind and body on the same page. Some days it felt like my mind needed to catch up with my body…eating a different way, acquiring a different pallet, having the discipline to turn away from animal products…then there times where it felt like it was the opposite – where the body needs to catch up with the mind, in that it felt great knowing I was standing for a bigger cause but my body didn’t feel nourished, fueled…satisfied…none of that.

And that’s an important thing to always keep in mind when practicing a vegan approach to eating, is that you’re constantly expanding your knowledge on nutrition to make sure your body is getting the right amount of vitamins from food. 

I digress! 

But, you’ll probably agree the no.1 biggest change you’ll make going vegan is carving enough time in your day to cook and meal prep, because you know what it’s like to run out of food. And that’s when it’ll get hard to stay disciplined because, well, ordering dominos pizza from downstairs is that much easier (and satisfying – but just for the moment). 

Here’s a list of staples and guilty pleasures I keep well stocked (and in some cases, an abundance of) that I just can’t live without.

Complete source of plant-based protein

Quinoa

Protein plays may roles in the body, and quinoa is an excellent source of plant-based protein – and probably my go-to because of it’s versatility. If you’re new to vegan eating or just haven’t tried this before, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a a gluten-free, whole-grain source of protein, consisting of all nine amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on its own – aka a complete protein. It may also be good to know that it’s heavy in carbs, but a good source of fiber.

1 cup of cooked quinoa provides about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

I usually boil a cup of tri-colour on nights when I’m meal prepping and store it in the fridge for buddha bowls, salads or my oatmeal in the morning. When storing, refrigerate in an air tight container (glass preferably) for no more than three days.

Brown or Wild Rice

Widely recognized as a healthier, more nutrient-rich alternative to white rice, brown rice promotes longevity and also helps with reducing insulin and stabilizing blood sugar levels. If you’re going vegan but may also be diabetic or hyperglycemic (not that I am and nor do you have to be either), this is something beneficial to keep on-hand.

Like quinoa, I’ll boil a couple cups on meal-prep nights and eat this during the week for dinner or lunch. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of quinoa for added “umph.” And though it’s gluten-free, I still prefer to eat this in small amounts and not every day, but that’s just me.

Vegan staples

Tofu

Also a complete protein, tofu is another source I tend to alternate with quinoa and brown rice. I don’t cook much with tofu but I’ll say it makes a killer substitute for scrambled eggs if you haven’t tried it. I’ve also used this in my vegan butter tofu (instead of butter chicken), which I’ll definitely get around to sharing because it’s just that good.

Tofu contains 8 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Rotini Pasta

Specifically rotini for the way it locks in all the flavour because of its screw-shape, only a real foodie would know. Either way, having a box of any pasta is good to stock especially for those nights when you’re unexpectedly working late or just feeling lazy.

President’s Choice makes a really good rotini I’ve been using for a little while now. It’s tri-colour (which I don’t know why I’m saying that, but anyways) and made from semolina wheat. I try to opt for gluten-free alternatives when I can, but couldn’t help it this time.

Also, I find it to be the perfect size and cooks well if you’re making it el dente.

Vegan staples

Mushrooms

A laborious pain in the neck the clean when it comes to prepping but definitely worth all the sweat.

This edible fungus can add a meaty texture to your plate and is a rich source of fiber, protein and antioxidants, containing over a dozen minerals and vitamins, like selenium and vitamin B. Mushrooms can also help reduce the risk of neurological illness as well.

I usually roast them in a tray with sweet potatoes, red onions and brussel sprouts for my buddha bowls or with some brown rice on the side. Sometimes I’ll dice them up with some zucchini and add them to them into my rotini (cooked well that is!).

Vegan staples

My Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Muffins

A little extra including a whole recipe as a staple, but a staple is a staple.

Even though I have the luxury of having more time in the morning, I’d still rather spend the time getting at my work or other things than deal with a sink full of dishes. So this definitely works. If you’re like me who enjoys a small, simple breakfast then you’ll definitely want to make a batch. These muffins bring together highly nutritious ingredients like, quinoa almonds, lemon and of course, blueberries, so you’re sure to feel satisfied even if it’s just a muffin.

I will say though, these muffins are my absolute favourite and I know you’re not supposed to microwave food but there’s always exceptions. Healthy or not, that blueberry gushiness makes the experience so it’s highly recommended.

Vegan Staples

Blueberries

There is always a pint of blueberries on the bottom shelf of my fridge, sometimes two if I’m planning on making muffins.

Long considered a “superfood”, blueberries are also known for its antioxidant and disease-fighting properties – not to mention, amazing for your skin. Collagen and elastin are two proteins that gives structure to our skin and poor lifestyle habits can increase the damage to these proteins, causing fine lines, wrinkles and even sagging skin. A diet rich in antioxidants, like blueberries are linked to less signs of aging and better skin.

It’s good to make sure a part of your daily intake comes from raw, whole foods so I tend to eat these as-is to get the most nutritional content, which is also key.

Vegan Staples

Broccoli

Speaking of raw, whole foods, broccoli’s another staple I like to keep around (sometimes an abundance of) because I honestly enjoy it raw as I do cooked or steamed.

This nutrient-rich vegetable is said to pack the most nutritional punch of any vegetable and enhances our health in a variety of ways – like improving our blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, great building immunity and can also help with over eating.

Just keep in mind that choosing to eat raw vs. cooked will alter the nutritional composition regardless what you’re working with.

Vegan Staples

Cashews

Another staple I keep an abundance as I get better with practicing self control (real talk).

Cashews are rich in heart-healthy fats like omega-3s, which aids in increasing your metabolism and burning fat. They’re good for bone health, provides a good source of protein, and are one of the few sources that are high in copper, which also helps with the maintenance of collagen and elastin. It is said one serving contains nearly the entire daily requirement of copper if consumed in the right amounts (up to 15 to avoid weight gain and I speak from experience).

Makes a good afternoon snack with a cup of green tea or crushed in a salad or buddha bowl. I’ve even added them in some of my curries for added texture. Of course, do refrain from cashews if you have a nut allergy of any sort.

Green Tea

As you may be aware, green tea has a lot of benefits, like its fat burning properties and ability to improve brain function and fight certain cancers

However, as it’s always good to know the nutritional benefits the things we put into our system, it’s just as important to be mindful on how they’re consumed. Green tea is actually a diuretic and may cause dehydration if consumed in excess. Also be sure to avoid drinking green tea on when you’re running on E to avoid a stomach ache. Instead, it’s always best to to have a cup in between meals.

As mentioned, I like having a cup in the afternoon with a handful cashews (and yes, all 15 of them).

Almond (or some kind of nut-based) Milk

A definite staple as I often use this in teas, and baking where it calls for milk.

Unlike raw almonds that have a higher fat content, almond milk is low in calories which could support weight loss and/or management. Also, almond milk contains half the recommended daily amount of vitamin E, which is essential to your skin’s health and overall brain function.

Vegan Staples

Hemp Seeds

Really not sure what my fascination is with hemp seeds. I just throw them on everything I can.

Also referred to as hemp hearts, hemp seeds are high in protein (approximately 10 grams of every 30 grams) and have a rich nutritional profile, containing minerals such as magnesium, iron, phosphorus and zinc to name a few. Hemp seeds are also as they’re high in protein

And speaking of high, yes, hemp seeds are from the cannabis sativa plant but will not get you high. Therefore, no you will not test positive on a drug test from eating hemp seeds.

Vegan staples

Birthday Cake Oreos

If you didn’t know Oreos were vegan, then you have a lot of catching up to do which is why I used to keep abundance of these. “Used to” because I have no self control – a box will last no more than two days. My favourite thing to eat in private when company’s over (again, only things a true food would get and pre-covid of course).

Vegan Staples

Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream (vegan)

Next to eggs, having to sadly decline and deprive myself of apple pie and ice cream honestly felt like a lifetime of punishment. Now that I’ve recently discovered this, we’ll say no more! My sister in-law actually showed this to me a couple months ago and I’m honestly loving this. Only sad part is that they don’t come in the 1L tubs.

Trust me, I think I’ve tried every non-dairy alternative to ice-cream and could never find anything (good). Although I can’t say I stock this regularly, it’s definitely my new go-to when I get that craving to cut the spice after dinner.

Vegan Staples

Silk Almond Coffee Creamer (in hazelnut)

The very product that got me locked into a 100% vegan.

As a coffee addict (not a connoisseur, as I’m happy drinking instant) finding something better than a medium regular at Timmy’s wasn’t happening, and so for the longest time I’d practice vegan eating with everything except for this. Not sure how I came across this. All I know is that there are three cartons in my fridge at all times and an abundance of Tim Horton’s premium instant coffee in my pantry because everyone should have a lot of what makes them happy and that’s that.

I’ve tried the vanilla flavour but honestly wasn’t feeling it. Not that it didn’t stop me from finishing it.

Vegan Staples

Becel Vegan Margarine

It’s plant-based and a great alternative to butter. Not something I use regularly but good to stock – especially if you’re a baker.

Daiya Non-Dairy Cheddar Shreds

Throw them in your pasta, your salad, your soup – anything goes, although I will say it doesn’t really melt well or at all to be honest. I dumped two packs on some chips to make nachos this past super bowl (yes, all for myself because it’s Covid) and saw it did not melt after one whole hour. Everything else seemed to though.

Either way, it’s still something worth stocking.

Well there you have it, my friends. It’s a bit exhaustive but I also know the start of your vegan journey can have its challenges and hope this paves the way, even if it’s one item. I know I’ll continue to expand on this as I continue my vegan journey, and I’m always looking for something new. Please share your staple in the comments below so we can check them out as well.

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