If you’re transitioning to a plant-based diet, it’s important to stock up on some of the staples that are essential to a meat and dairy-free lifestyle. Below, we’ve compiled a list of key food ingredients and products that will help anyone going veg. It’s by no means exhaustive and we encourage you to explore the many sources of information on plant-based eating available online. (At the bottom of this page we list some of our favourite sites.)
Alternative milks Almond, soy, rice, cashew are the most common. A new product is Veggemo, which claims to be “the first non-dairy beverage originating from veggies.”
Buttery spread (homemade): Store-bought, non-hydrogenated Earth Balance is popular. There have been concerns about its use of palm oil, which is destructive to wildlife habitat. However, the company has said it will use only sustainably produced palm oil by the end of 2015.
Dairy-free cheese: Vancouver-based Daiya melts like the real thing. Chao Slices are getting good reviews.
Cream cheese (homemade): Store-bought products include: Tofutti, Daiya, Go Veggie and Follow Your Heart all offer vegan cream cheese.
Sour cream (homemade): Ready-made brands include Tofutti, Follow Your Heart
Dairy-free yogurt (product reviews)
MEAT ALTERNATIVES AND PROTEINS
Gardein does a range of healthy meat replacement products including veggie burgers, “chick’n scallopini”, holiday roasts and even “fishless filets.”
Tofurkey is famous for its holiday roasts but also does a range of meatless products
Field Roast is probably best known for its amazing meatless sausages but also makes roasts, slices and other products.
Yves does a range of meat substitutes, including burgers, sausages and bacon.
Veggie burgers (homemade) Store-bought (frozen and refrigerated) includes Gardein; Yves and Sol, which are some of the main Canadian brands.
While ready-made meat substitutes can be quick and convenient, many people prefer less processed and more natural sources of plant-based protein.
Tofu: A long-time staple of meat free eating.
Tempeh: Soybean-based meat substitute.
Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan is high in protein and has a meaty texture
Edamame (recipes): These young, green soy beans make a great high-protein snack.
Pulses (beans, dried peas, chickpeas, lentils): Dried and home-cooked are cheap and the healthiest but canned are convenient.
Nuts and seeds: High in protein and healthy fats. Cashews are especially useful as they can be soaked and used in a variety of ways.
Nut butters: Peanut butter is the best known but almond butter, cashew butter and others are increasingly popular.
Egg alternatives (for baking): Follow Your Heart has developed the VeganEgg, which can be scrambled and used in omelettes.
Mayonnaise alternatives (homemade): Store-bought brands include Vegenaise, Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo. The latest (and best, according to some) is Just Mayo, although it is not yet widely available in Canada (Costco has had it in stock).
Brown rice: More nutritious than white.
Quinoa: A great plant-based complete protein.
Steel-cut oats: Good for breakfast.
Whole-wheat couscous: More nutritious than regular.
ONLINE RESOURCES (Plant-based recipes, nutrition advice):
Vegan Health: http://www.veganhealth.org/
Minimalist Baker: http://minimalistbaker.com/
Vegan Richa: http://www.veganricha.com/
LOWER MAINLAND GROCERS (Stocking many plant-based staples)
Vegan Essentials (online store)
Looking for more plant-based inspiration? Whether you’re going meatless on Mondays or every day, take our Meatless Monday pledge to receive a weekly plant-based recipe via email.