If you’re thinking of making the switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are several affordable and easily accessible foods that will make your transition easier.
While pre-prepared, packaged foods can be pricey, many plant-based whole foods are packed with nutrients and are pretty easy on your wallet, particularly if you know where to look.
Check out these easy plant-based foods below, so you can get your kitchen stocked and ready for your new culinary adventures.
Quinoa should be readily available at your local grocery store, but buying in bulk is going to be the most economical (and eco-friendly) option to add this ancient Inca grain to your pantry.
It’s slightly more pricey than a conventional pasta (a box of lentil and chickpea spaghetti sells for $5.99 on well.ca), but worth the extra cost based on its nutritional value.
Protein-rich pasta made from quinoa, chickpeas, beans, or lentils ensures that even an easy mac ’n cheese covers several nutritional bases (aforementioned pasta has 23 grams of protein and 11 grams of fibre per serving).
Simply boil, strain, and serve with your favourite sauce for a plant-based take on a conventionally comforting dish.
We’re big fans of fermented foods (hello, happy gut!), and tempeh (fermented soy beans) tops our list of favourite veg-friendly foods for its versatility, nutrient content (high in protein and moderate in calcium), and its prebiotic punch.
Usually sold in slim blocks, tempeh is easily marinated (try it with tamari) and tastes great grilled as a burger, sliced thinly and fried as bacon, or cubed and baked, making it a perfectly palatable meat replacement.
Seed and nut butters
Nut and seed butters are an easy way to add protein and several other nutrients to your vegan diet — almond butter is notoriously pricey, but pumpkin seed butter is a more affordable alternative and boasts up to 10 grams of protein per serving.
Try a spoonful or two in your smoothie, on toast or waffles, or stirred into oatmeal for a warm and flavourful start to your day. Bring your own container and buy your butters at your local bulk shop or use a high speed blender to make your own.
Chia seeds are another superfood that help vegans answer, “How do you get your protein?” Easily added to smoothies, granola, muffins, and cookies, chia is high in fibre and protein and expands in liquid, helping to keep you full longer.
Try chia lemonade (mix water, lemon juice, chia seeds, and sweetener together), or chia pudding, a simple breakfast or dessert made from stirring coconut milk, chia seeds, and a natural sweetener like maple syrup, and left to sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Chia seeds are a great item to buy in bulk, or stock up on when the packaged variety go on sale.
Incorporating regular servings of greens into your vegetarian or vegan diet is a great way to ensure you’re getting many important nutrients.
Spinach and kale contain calcium and iron, and can be easily blended into the ubiquitous green smoothie. Sauté collard greens and toss with pasta, or make a grain bowl or mixed salad with an assortment of sprouts, arugula, dandelion, and rainbow chard.
Buying greens in season at your local farmer’s market or grocery store can be affordable, and keeping some frozen organic varieties on hand can be especially economically viable, as well as making dinner prep efficient.
Roasted chickpeas (a little pricier pre-packaged or cut costs and make your own) make a tasty snack or topping for salads and are fun and kid-friendly too.
It seems simple enough, but apples lend themselves to a variety of vegan dishes.
Try applesauce in baking instead of butter, or stuff and bake the apples for a dairy-free dessert. Include the peel in your juicing to ensure you get the fibre and vitamin C.
Flax seeds, like chia seeds, are full of nutrients including fibre and protein, and are a simple substitute in vegan baking (add ground flax to water to make a “vegan egg”).
Flax is virtually undetectable in baked goods, but adds extra nutrients, making it a great way to ensure picky kids or adults are getting additional health benefits from their morning muffin.
Lovingly referred to as nooch by those in the vegan community, this cheese substitute works in everything from nacho sauce and mac ’n cheese to popcorn toppings, and is one of the few sources of plant-based B vitamins (grab the fortified kind for extra nutrients).
Grab a shaker of nutritional yeast flakes at your grocery store or buy in bulk and sprinkle on veggies, pastas, and salads.
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