Many of the products we typically keep in our pantries can be replaced with healthier plant-based options. As you compose new meals, feel free to refer to Dr. Low Dog’s “Nutrition Prescription” as a visual guide to balanced eating. Here are some of my favorite go-to’s along with some essentials for cooking without animal products. NOTE : I buy organic products whenever possible. If the availability or price point of organic products are a challenge, refer to EWG’s website and apps for guidance. Check out the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” in EWG’s 2016 Produce Guide to make informed choices about the produce you buy. Download EWG’s Food Scores app to scan products at the grocery store to check for nutritional, ingredient, and processing concerns.
MILK | There are many plant-based milk options including soy, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and cashew milk. I prefer shelf stable milks so that I always have an extra cartoon on hand. WHAT TO LOOK FOR : Look for milks that are unsweetened, containing no added sugar or sweetener. Avoid purchasing milk containing carrageenan, a stabilizing additive in many plant based milk products that is a known to cause inflammation in the body causing digestive issues as well as being a cancer causing agent.
Try : Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk
BUTTER | Depending on recipe, Virgin Coconut Oil can be a great substitute for butter. However, there are plant-based butters that contain that same buttery taste. I prefer to buy butter sticks because there is often less packaging (which can also be recycled) and the extra sticks can be thrown into the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
Try : Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
EGGS | For cooking and baking, a flax egg, 1 Tablespoon of ground golden flax seeds mixed with 2 Tablespoons of water, is often a great cruelty free substitution. More delicate cake and pastry recipes may require the stronger binding properties of an “egg replacer” product.
Try : Ener G Egg Replacer
MEAT | Faux meat options are widely available in most grocery stores and cooperative markets. It has become easier than ever to swap burgers, hot dogs, sausage, and deli meats made from animals for plant alternatives. When first making the switch to an animal free diet, utilizing these products can be helpful way to compose meals. I relied on them a lot when I first made the switch, but have fazed them out of my diet opting instead for beans, nuts, quinoa, tofu, tempeh and seitan in place of meat. Here are some of my favorite faux meat products to help you along your plant-based diet journey…
Try : Amy’s Sonoma Burgers (frozen)
Try : Tofurky Deli Slices (refrigerated)
Try : Gardein Crispy Tenders (frozen)
Try : Field Roast Breakfast Sausage (frozen)
CHEESE | There are a variety of vegetable based cheeses available on the market. I typically do not buy plant based cheese products, but instead try to substitute a homemade cashew cheese or a creamy element like avocado for cheese ingredient in a dish. If life seems bleak without cheese, try these products out when making your plant based transition to satisfy those cheesy cravings…
Try : Daiya Mozzarella Shreds – great for pizzas and melty sandwiches
Try : Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese
MAYONNAISE | Eggless and non-dairy mayonnaise can be found made from all different plant derived sources. Just Mayo is a widely available canola oil mayonnaise that is low-priced and shelf stable until open. After trying many options, I prefer the flavor of grapeseed oil mayo in dressings and on sandwiches.
Try : Follow Your Heart Grapeseed Vegenaise
NUTRITIONAL YEAST | This low sodium savory ingredient adds a cheesy flavor to everything from popcorn to ranch dressings. WHAT TO LOOK FOR Some brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with vitamin B12, which is naturally obtained through consuming animal products, making it a healthy staple ingredient in a plant based pantry.
Try : Bob’s Red Mill Large Flake Nutritional Yeast
BOUILLON | Swap out aluminum cans of chicken and beef stock for a jar of vegetable based bouillon.
Try : Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base
MISO | From stir fries to cashew nacho “cheese,” miso is a versatile ingredient which appears in many plant based recipes. I always keep a container of white miso in the fridge, as it is less pungent and more pungent than other varieties of miso and can be used in many dishes and dressings.
Try : Westbrae Natural Organic White Miso
BEANS | A go to fibrous protein source in a plant based diet, beans are a necessity in your pantry. Although buying dried beans to soak and cook yourself is the most affordable and less wasteful option, having canned beans on hand is always a good idea. WHAT TO LOOK FOR Look for beans with the least about of sodium. If buying aluminum cans, look for products labeled as “BPA free.”
Try : Simply Balanced Beans from Target (they are soaked boxed beans – no aluminum cans)
QUINOA | This complete super protein is great on salads and as a substitute for rice in many dishes. I always keep it on hand as it is easy to prepare and has endless uses. WHAT TO LOOK FOR Before cooking, quinoa has to be washed. Look for brands that are “pre washed,” saving you the step of rinsing this tiny super grain. If you eat as much of it as I do, buying it in 5lb bags can be the most cost effective.
Try : Roland’s Pre Washed Tri Colored Quinoa
TAMARI | The Japanese version of soy sauce, Tamari, is made from the byproduct of miso and is typically gluten free. It is darker in color and richer in flavor than the Chinese soy sauce we are more familiar with. WHAT TO LOOK FOR Try to buy reduced or less sodium tamari. If you are avoiding gluten, look for products labeled specifically as “gluten free.”
Try: Wan Ja Shan Organic Low Sodium Tamari
TOFU | Everytime I walk into a grocery store, I buy tofu. It lasts a while in the fridge and is a verstile ingredient to base a meal around. Tofu itslef is pretty flavorless, so it relies on spices and marinades to really make it tasty. Silken tofu can be used in smoothies and blended as a ricotta cheese subsitute. Extra firm tofu is great fried, baked, or raw cubed in things like sweet and sour soup. I haven’t noticed a huge different in brands of tofu, so I usually buy the cheapest organic option.
Try : Wegmans Extra Firm Organic Tofu
OTHER PANTRY MUST HAVES | Raw cashews, raw walnuts, dried beans, red lentils, green lentils, nut butters, agave, refined coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, chickpea flour, sourdough bread from your local bakery, golden flax seed, chia seeds
WHERE TO BUY | You should be able to find all of these products at your local grocery store & cooperative markets. Places I like to shop include : Wegman’s – Multiple Locations, FeelRite – Multiple Locations, Lexington Co Op – Downtown Buffalo, Thorpe’s Organic Farm – East Aurora, Elm Street Bakery – East Aurora, Orchard Fresh – Orchard Park, Target – Multiple Locations