Starting on a vegan or gluten-free diet, whether by choice or due to dietary restrictions, may seem daunting. With endless recipes, and options out there it can be difficult to know where to begin. What people don’t realize, is that it's much easier than you think!
Growing up vegetarian, and later vegan, I am very used to cooking with all sorts of vegetables and plant-based products. For me, it is second nature to not use meat in my cooking but, the most common thing I hear amongst meat-eaters who would like to try plant-based is that they don’t know what to replace the meat with. When they cook, their meal revolves around the meat on their plate. When that’s taken away, what are you left with?
With so many meat replacement options out there nowadays; it should be easy right?
Most of the time, YES! However, when you also add in the gluten allergy, things can get tricky. Most meat substitutes out there are made from wheat gluten, there are very few brands that don’t contain it. I found out I had a gluten allergy late into my teens. My once boyfriend, now Fiance, Joel had been Celiac since he was ten years old, so I had already been cooking gluten-free for him when we ate together. Luckily that experience helped in the transition to a fully gluten-free diet.
Not only will cooking vegan and gluten-free expand your flavor palate and knowledge of foods, but you'll learn new methods of cooking. Vegan and gluten-free can taste AMAZING, as long as you keep an open mind and a willingness to learn, you'll get there. The best advice I can offer is to start with your favorite meals and figure out ways to replace the items that you can’t have. Simple is best! After you’ve got a few basic meals down, you can play around and find what you like most!
Below, you’ll find a list of my household’s basic grocery items, as well as a few shopping tips. On a weekly/bi-weekly basis, these are the most common items we use.
Fruits & Vegetables
These can vary according to your preference and allergic restrictions. For instance, we are a garlic and onion-free household so we replace those with things like green onions and garlic-infused oil. I would say that most of the time our grocery cart is 70% produce and we often get a mix of fresh and frozen to keep on hand for smoothies, baking, etc...
Squash (zucchini, kabocha, spaghetti)
Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil)
Fruits, frozen and fresh (bananas, melons, apples, berries, kiwis)
Luckily, more and more well-known brands are coming out with new lines of gluten-free pasta, crackers, and various products every day. Read the labels carefully to ensure that they are certified gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Pasta (we use the Go-Go Quinoa brand)
Oatmeal (make sure the package states gluten-free! If it does not, they are NOT gluten-free. We use the Quaker gluten-free quick oats)
Although this list may seem small, we are getting our protein from lots of other sources such as nuts, leafy greens, grains, and more! The grocery stores where I'm from don't often carry these items all in one store. In my experience, we've had to shop at multiple stores to find these, or we order them online! Did you know that you can get soy curls on Amazon?
Tofu (extra firm)
Soy curls (they have a similar texture to chicken, and go perfectly in a Caesar salad)
TVP (textured vegan protein, great option to replace ground beef)
Hemp Seeds (also known as hemp hearts)
Nuts & Seeds (salad topper or just snacks)
Avocado Oil (best neutral-tasting oil, great for cooking & baking!)
Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar (I use these mostly for marinades and salad dressings)
Beans (black and kidney, be careful of re-fried beans as they often contain lard)
Crushed tomatoes (great to have on hand for Stews and Soups!)
Organic Cane Sugar (be wary when buying sugar as it is often processed with bone char. Looks for sugars that are organic, natural, raw, or unrefined)
These items can be difficult to locate depending on what grocery store you shop at. If you're lucky, they will all be in the same place like a natural foods aisle. In a few cases, they are scattered throughout the store mixed in with other similar dairy products (see tip #2).
Oat milk (choose your favorite plant-based milk here, we love Earth's Own oat milk)
Vegan cheese (we usually get the Earth Island brand due to a coconut allergy, but any brand that you like would work here)
Coffee creamer (the silk soy coffee creamer is one of my favorites)
Sweets & Snacks
Smart Sweets candy
Chocolate oat milk
Oreos (yes there are gluten-free Oreos out there, and they are delicious)
Try shopping in the natural isles at your local grocery store, they tend to stock more allergen-friendly options in that area.
The best thing you can do is spend a little time browsing through your favorite grocery stores. Get to know the different products in the isles and familiarize yourself with both the location and the brands you can enjoy. This will make your future shopping trips much easier.
Have a few recipes in mind before you shop! Make a list to take to the store with the ingredients needed so you have everything to make your recipes.
READ THE LABELS. You will be surprised how many items may secretly contain gluten or animal products or are labeled under a different name. These can include wheat, barley, rye, oats (unless specified gluten-free), gelatin, whey, albumin, carmine, casein. These are just a few of the MANY alternative names. Do some research online before you go so you know what to look for and can identify them when they appear.
Stay away from premade items and try to find ways to make them at home! Lots of premade dressings contain animal and gluten/wheat products. Luckily, there are many quick recipes online to replace your store-bought favorites.
There you have it! A basic grocery list and a few tips to get you started.
What are your favorite go-to grocery items? Let us know in the comments!