Hello everyone, it’s been awhile!
I wanted to make a plant based meal for dinner and as I was walking through the grocery store, placing vegetables in my cart and I asked myself “Where’s the protein?” So I got some tofu. Given that I usually use tofu, I was thinking about how difficult it is to find good protein options as a vegetarian/vegan. That’s why I wanted to create this post- to help people wanting to grocery shop for a plant based diet.
Grocery shopping can be tough when eating plant-based, especially trying to find the right sources of protein. I want to give some helpful tips for grocery shopping on a plant based diet. I do not totally eat plant based (my boyfriend lives off all animal meat lol), but I try to incorporate a plant based diet into our lives to give us a balance. Click here to read in depth about the benefits and nutritional considerations of a plant based (vegetarian) diet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Of course as a dietitian, I believe a plate should be balanced–fruits and veggies, protein, carb and fat. However, when it comes to eating a plant- based diet, it’s hard to get enough protein. The the first question vegetarians are asked is “how do you get enough protein?” but the real question is “how do you get enough B12 and Iron?” because animal protein is a very rich source of both. These tips will give some suggestions on how to get more B12 and iron following a plant-based diet.
#1: Make a List
This helps to save money, because it prevents you from buying food you don’t want/need. It also saves time. We are all busy, so make that list to help get what you need and get out.
#2: Fresh Produce First
Spend most of your time focusing on fresh produce. Add the ones you regularly enjoy and cook with to the list. Enjoy a variety of fruits and veggies as your main source of carbohydrates. TIP: If you’re on a budget, go for the frozen fruits and veggies- they have the same nutritional value as fresh!
#3: Read Labels
Especially if you’re buying boxed or canned items. You want to look out for the sneaky sugar and salt added to canned fruits, vegetables and soups. It’s insane!! So, make sure you look. TIP: if you buy canned foods, rinse them off in a strainer before eating them to rid all the sugar and salt that may have been added during processing.
Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are my go- to plant based protein recommendation. They also make many different meat and cheese substitutes that are sold at most specialty grocery stores. Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter_ are all great options too. Nut butters tend to have a higher caloric content so keep that in mind when buying them. Tofu! Yes, it can be used in place of eggs if you are vegan but you can also bake it and fry it as a meat substitute, Tofu is a MUST when shopping for a plant-based diet.
#5: Vitamin B12 Sources
One option would be to take a B12 vitamin supplement (I think every vegan/vegetarian should invest in a good B12 Vitamin). Adding Nutritional Yeast to salads, pasta, tofu, soup, eggs or popcorn. Here are some other options of foods options fortified with B12:
- fortified non-dairy milk (almond, cashew, soy)
- meat substitutes
- breakfast cereals
- vegan spreads
#6: Iron Sources
Yes, you can take an iron supplement, but that might cause side effects if you take too much. It’s always better to get iron through food. Here are some plant-based iron sources
- Dried fruit
- Flax seed
- Nutritional yeast