Vegan Beginners’ Guide to Food

As many of you know, I switched to a plant-based diet well over a year ago. After doing lots of research, I decided to remove meat, eggs, milk, and cheese from my diet, giving whole-food vegan nutrition a try. And I’m thankful that I did. I’ve never felt (or looked) healthier in my entire life. Moreover, my body recovers quicker than ever before, which is important for a guy who runs 60+ mile training weeks.

But I didn’t always know what to eat. When I first started this journey, I was clueless as to what plant-based foods to buy. I started with the basics: lettuce (iceburg), broccoli, corn, green beans, potatoes, and (every so often) tofu. There wasn’t anything wrong with my original vegan grocery list but it was certainly limited. And the last thing I wanted was to feel “restricted.”

That’s why I’m sharing with you what I know now. You can get a jump start on your vegan planning. And perhaps it’ll save you some time pacing around the grocery store.

Vegan Food Groups

There are essentially six vegan food groups that I currently eat from: Vegetables, Fruits, Greens, Grains, Beans/Lentils, and Nuts/Seeds. I don’t eat a specified amount of each per day, but I do typically have all of them in a 24-hour period.

I know what you’re thinking, “What foods fit into these ‘animal-free’ food groups?” and, “What the heck are lentils?” Let me give you some examples.

Vegetables

Yes, potatoes, carrots, and broccoli are great. But you’ll soon learn that we have and abundance of veggies at our disposal. Here are a few of my favorites:

Red Cabbage

Squash

 

Brussels Sprouts

Leeks

 

Eggplant

Portobella Mushrooms

 

Fruits

You can stock up on apples, bananas, and oranges all day. And they’re perfectly healthy. But I suggest switching it up with a few of these you may have not tried.

Medjool Dates 

 

Star Fruit

 

Kiwis

 

Jack Fruit

 

Pomelo

 

GrapeFruit

 

The best purchase I’ve made since going vegan is my Vitamix Blender. I use it every day to blend veggies, greens, and fruits into delicious homemade smoothies. The best part: they’re loaded with plant-based vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Greens

You can’t forget your greens. Dark leafy greens are an extremely important part of any vegan’s diet. And should be for omnivores, too. Full of calcium and loads of phytonutrients, greens are what help my body recover most after physical activity. Here are my top picks.

Spinach

 

Kale

 

Swiss Chard

 

Romaine  Lettuce

 

Wheat Grass

 

Beans/Lentils

Another very important part of the vegan diet are Beans & Lentils. They provide us with nourishing plant-based proteins and carbohydrates to keep our bodies fueled. I keep them stocked at all times.

Beans

Garbanzos (chickpeas)


Kidney


Black


Navy


Great Northern


Cannellini

Mung

 
What are lentils?

Lentils are a small, round, lens shaped legume that come in many colors and sizes. Colors range from yellow and red to green, brown, and even black. Lentils are inexpensive, highly nutritious, and can be stored for a long time without refrigeration. One cup of cooked lentils contains more than grams of protein. – Definition courtesy: foodreference.about.com

Lentils

Brown Lentils

 
French Green Lentils

 
Red Lentils

 
Nuts/Seeds

 

 

Nuts and seeds are great for snacking, or for adding adding a nutty taste to your favorite recipes. I add them to salads, smoothies, pancakes, oatmeal cookies, and trail mixes. One of my favorite things to take with me on long runs are dates stuffed with almonds. This simple snack provides me with carbohydrates, potassium, and natural sugar, giving me a quick (and sustainable) boost.

Nuts
Pecans

 
Walnuts

 

 

Almonds

 
Pistachios

 

 

Seeds
Flax

 
Hemp

 
Sunflower

 
Pumpkin

 
Chia Seeds

 

 

One thing I like to mention to new vegans is the importance of buying these ingredients in their whole form. What do I mean buy this? When purchasing your foods, be sure that they are the only ingredient on the packaging. When I’m buying (say) black beans, I expect to only see black beans on the package. If you’re buying them canned, they may contain water; this if fine. Just be sure that they’re not loaded with salt, additives, and preservatives. When possible, I buy my foods in their freshest form (in the produce section).

Also, try to purchase your foods organic. Buying organic ensures that your food was not subjected to poisonous chemicals, and wasn’t genetically modified in any way. Here’s a list of foods that you should always buy organic.

Related Articles:

Vegan Substitute Ingredients
Vegan Diet Foods
Image courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net/mikumistock

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