Vegan diet for beginners, a How-To Guide, and a Vegan Food List

vegan food list

Beginning a vegan diet and wondering what can vegans eat?

Starting a vegan diet and don’t know where to start? Maybe you’ve tried a few days to not eat meat or dairy and then couldn’t figure out what to make, so you go back to your old habits. Here is a comprehensive how to guide with a vegan food list of great items to add to your pantry!

Having a complete list of all the available vegan foods available and what foods to substitute for meats are dairy is always helpful and would be the first place to start.

What is “vegan” anyway?

Being vegan is the practice or lifestyle of abstaining from anything that has an animal by-product. For instance this involves everything from not wearing leather, to not eating anything that comes from an animal source. For example, animal milk, meat, and eggs.

Many people have been adapting to various aspects of veganism for ethical, health, and/or environment reasons.

Personally I started my vegan journey for health reasons, but the ethical and environmental reasons are at the top of my list as well. The longer I practice, the more confident I’ve been in my decision.

My health has improved significantly. For instance, my cholesterol levels are at normal levels, my skin doesn’t break out nearly as much, and even my joints feel better!

farmland for livestock

800 million acres are used to feed livestock in the USA

We know that a ridiculous amount of land we have is for the sole purpose of growing food to feed the animals that get eaten by humans. Consequently, these animals emit dangerous greenhouse gases that are a huge factor in climate change.

Most importantly, think about what we could do with that land to actually grow food to feed the people!

A vegan diet, unlike a vegetarian diet, excludes everything that comes from animals. Vegetarians may eat dairy, cheeses, eggs, butter, etc. A true vegan will never. Weening off dairy is the first thing to do to start a vegan diet for beginners.

But where to start?

Must have Vegan Food list

“If you cant eat meat or dairy, what is even left?”

– everyone.

This is such a ridiculous question but I get asked this constantly. Let’s start with the obvious. For example, every fruit and vegetable that exists!

beginners vegan diet

Every fruit, vegetable, nut, legume, bread, rice, some pastas, vegetables oils, grains, and seeds.

No, vegan’s don’t just eat salads or carrot sticks. hah! But you can still eat really unhealthily as a vegan if you choose. For instance fried foods, over-processed foods, chips, pop, and even fast food (yes fast vegan food does exist).

My personal vegan junk food fav: Pizza.

And if you’re ever around the Detroit area, the best vegan fast food there is, Streetbeet, which features the best fake chicken sandwiches, vegan crunch-wraps, and a scrumptious vegan fake chicken Caesar wrap!

Streetbeet also has nut free, gluten free, and soy free options. To sum up, go check it out! One doesn’t need to be starting a vegan diet to enjoy their food.

Vegan Pastas

Side note on pasta : a LOT of pasta has eggs in it but not all. For example, anything made with rice has a good chance of being vegan.

One of my favorite pastas to get are made with chickpeas, which is an excellent source of protein! In addition, it taste just as wonderful as a normal pasta, it’s gluten-free, and you don’t need to worry about animal by-products! Win Win!

Banza pasta is what I would recommend. It has a firm but chewy texture and a great flavor. Toss it with some pasta sauce, fresh basil, and vegan parmesan and you have a really quick and easy meal.

There is also lentil based pastas and noodles too! Likewise lentil based pastas are delicious, gluten-free, and vegan!

What do vegans eat instead of dairy?

plant-based diet for beginners

Cheeses

Cheese was seriously the most difficult thing for me to break free of. We now know that dairy, especially cheese, can be as addictive as cigarettes.

Cheese would make me itch, I’d get hives, and the worst stomach pain and bloating.

But I’d still eat it.

Every week would be the same thing, “I’m quitting cheese this week. never again” but I kept coming back.

I think one of the reasons it was so hard to quit dairy, besides the addiction to cheese, firstly, it appears everywhere. I mean everywhere! If you start reading the ingredients of some things, randomly it will include milk and dairy in it.

nutrition label

check your nutrition labels

hidden dairies and proteins like casein, which is found in animal milk, is not vegan

Look for the little “V” symbol, or a green leaf, which indicates it is vegan.

It may also just say “vegan”

Dressing packets, seasonings, some breads. Why do croutons have milk, seriously? Butter is in everything.

Secondly, there weren’t many great cheese and dairy alternatives when I first started my vegan journey. Many of the cheeses just tasted off, they didn’t melt right, they tasted like plastic, or just not appetizing.

During these years though, thanks to some brilliant companies, the cheeses have become so popular and delicious!

Vegan Cheese Food List

Violife may be my favorite brand of cheeses right now! They come in slices for sandwiches, shreds for pizzas and tacos, and blocks so you can grate them over salads or slice them with crackers.

The taste is perfect in my opinion, better than real cheese, and no nasty side effects or animals harmed in the process.

I’ve noticed many restaurants in the area that are using vegan cheese have opted for the Violife cheeses too. I wish they all did, because I would venture out to try more restaurants if they did. In my opinion, every pizza place should carry it!

In addition to Violife, other great plant-based cheeses are Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Field Roast Chao, Myokos.

What is vegan cheese made from?

Vegan cheese are made from a variety of plant based foods including many nuts, fats, and proteins. They can be made with seeds, plant-based milks, coconut oil, tapioca, and other thickeners.

There are numerous different ingredients and methods of creating vegan cheese products, but the main thing is that they have absolutely no animal by products in them.

If you’re beginning a vegan diet, play around with different cheeses until you find the one’s that taste the best to you. For instance, not all cheeses are created equal.

Fun weekend project, grab a plant-based cheese cookbook and start creating some of your very own cheeses! The great part is that you know exactly how it was made, what is in it, and certainly makes enjoying it that much more satisfying!

Violife also carries a cream cheese. You really would never know the difference between regular cream cheese and this. For that extra extra, add some chives, or garlic and rosemary and make a gourmet bagel spread.

My absolute favorite butter substitute for a vegan diet would be Earth Balance. I stick to the original. It works well for melting on toast, perfect in baking, and you can even get a nice brown butter from it. Most importantly, Earth Balance is plant-based.

What do vegans eat instead of meat? Meat Alternatives:

If you are starting our a new vegan diet, you will probably wonder what to replace as a protein source or what to use as a main course.

You’re in luck! Firstly, vegetables contain the adequate amount of protein you need as long as you are eating the right amount. Broccoli for example has 2.6 G protein per cup.

Secondly, there are numerous meat replacements. Some of the most popular versions are seitan, tofu, chickpeas, soy curls, and beyond meat, all great when starting a vegan diet.

SEITAN

TOFU

CHICKPEAS

SOY CURLS

BEYOND MEAT

What can vegans eat at restaurants?

The number one thing I would say to do when starting a vegan diet is to first research the vegan restaurants around you area. They are popping up everywhere.

Most importantly, if you start supporting vegan based restaurants, you know there will be no issues with animal cross-contamination.

Start going through the vegan restaurants menu and start picking out different dishes every time you go. For beginners of a vegan diet, his will help you find out things you may love that you haven’t ever tried before!

Checkout my review on a vegan restaurant by me here!

If you’ve found yourself at a vegan friendly restaurant, they will usually have the vegan menu items clearly labeled. You can also let them know if you have any meat or dairy allergies and they will (or they should) cook on a safe grill, skillets, and use different utensils.

Lastly, if you find yourself at a typical restaurant that doesn’t cater to vegetarians or vegans, the best thing to do is to grab sides of different veggies with rice. You could always go the salad route as well, and get grilled vegetables on top.

Every restaurant should be able to accommodate this!

I hope this guide on a vegan diet for beginners can help out not only the vegans that are starting out, but those exploring vegan options as well. This is by no means a complete vegan food list, but it is a great starting point or reference to keep coming back to.

If you’d like some great step-by-step instructions and book recommendations, checkout this post on how to start a vegan diet!

There are so many options out there! Above all, have a great time creating, exploring, and experimenting.

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