by Patricia R. Thomson, PhD
Eating a plant-based diet does not have to be complicated. By keeping a few ingredients stocked in your pantry and a few handy appliances ready in your kitchen, you can create simple, nutritious, plant-based meals in a pinch. Here, you’ll find a list of pantry and kitchen essentials for preparing a wide array of plant-based recipes.
Plant-based Grocery Shopping
The best way to prepare yourself for a healthy diet, be it a plant-based diet or otherwise, is to create a meal plan for the week before heading to the grocery store for your weekly shopping. This way, you’ll know exactly what ingredients you will need to prepare each meal throughout the week. When considering a plant-based diet, some people might believe that they’ll be eating nothing but raw fruits and veggies, which would be expensive and inconvenient. This is not the case. You don’t need to invest in a ton of fresh fruits and veggies at first. Frozen fruits and vegetables are convenient, keep longer than the fresh variety, and are just as nutritious. If you like, you can throw in some fresh fruit items that you already know you like, such as bananas, grapes, and apples, on your first grocery trip.
Many staples of a plant-based diet (e.g., beans, potatoes) are familiar to most people, regardless of whether you’ve ever tried eating strictly plant-based foods before, but some items might be unfamiliar to you at first. That is okay. It will get easier as you continue on your path of plant-based living and become more familiar with the variety of plant-based foods available in most grocery stores. Below is a list of ingredients that are versatile enough to be used in many plant-based meals in numerous combinations. Pick a couple from each group for your first shopping foray.
Spices—Pick a few of the basics: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, smoky paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, mild curry powder, mustard, ginger.
Flavorings—Including low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and/or pure maple syrup
Condiments—Such as ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce. It’s always important to read ingredients lists on condiments to avoid those packed with added sugar.
Fresh minced garlic—Bypass the peeling and mincing of garlic cloves by purchasing pre-minced garlic, but try to avoid garlic packed in oil.
Plant-based milk—There’s a plant-based milk for everyone. Options include soy, cashew, coconut, almond, oat, hemp, and rice milks.
Frozen veggies—Chopped broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, and onions; corn; fire-roasted corn; peas
Frozen breads—Whole wheat or other whole grain sliced breads, pitas, corn tortillas
Pasta—Whole wheat or other whole grain (e.g., spaghetti, linguine, soba, elbow)
Canned goods—Any variety. Canned beans are ready to eat in minutes…all you need is a can opener.
Dried goods—Whole wheat flour, corn meal, brown rice, quinoa
Vegetable broth—Low sodium
Baking powder—An essential in every kitchen!
Nutritional yeast—A deactivated yeast product that has a strong nutty, cheesy flavor and is used as a cheese substitute in many plant-based recipes
Potatoes—Red, Yukon, Russet, and sweet potatoes can be adapted into countless plant-based meals. Plus, they’re inexpensive, filling, and nutritious.
Cacao—One of the rawest forms of chocolate made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. Cacao has become increasingly popular in recent years and should be easy to find, but if it’s not available at your local grocery store, cocoa powder is a suitable substitute.
The Right Equipment
You don’t have to go out and buy anything right away in regard to kitchen utensils and equipment. You can make do with a sharp knife and a can opener if you want to really keep it simple. However, the following kitchen tools can broaden your horizons in terms of what you’re able to make at home:
High-speed blender—The Vitamix ® blender reigns supreme as the king of high-powered blenders, but there are others that do a very good job, like the Ninja Professional Blender®, and don’t cost a small fortune. Blenders are, of course, great for smoothies, but they also allow you to create deliciously creamy, cashew-based sauces, nut butters, soups, and more.
Food processor—My personal favorite is the Breville Sous Chef® food processor, although there are many options to choose from based on your budget.
Electric pressure cooker and/or slow cooker—I have a Fagor Pressure Cooker®, which is my all-time most used appliance and saves me hours of cooking time each week.
Paring knife and chef’s knife—Try the Westhof® for your Chef’s prep knife. I have also heard great things about the ceramic knives from Cuisinart®.
Hand-held can opener—For a basic can opener, you can try the Kuhn Rikon® Safety can opener, a handheld nonelectronic opener
Vegetable peeler—Any peeler will do.
Colander—I have six of them since I am always rinsing and draining something.
Nonstick cookware—I recommend Calphalon® nonstick pans.
Measuring cups and spoons—You can never have too many sets.
Cutting boards—It’s good to have variety of sizes.
About the Author
Patricia R. Thomson, PhD, is a certified nutritionist, earning her nutrition certification through e-Cornell Center for Nutrition Studies, her plant-based culinary certification through the Rouxbe Culinary School, and her teaching certification through the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine Food For Life program. She earned her PhD in Biological Sciences, and offers plant-based nutrition education to the community. She is also the Founder of the first-ever Food as Medicine Summit & EXPO, coming to Dallas in April of 2020. Visit www.foodasmedicinesummittx.com or www.tswellness.org to learn more.