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10 affordable plant-based staples everyone should buy


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Grocery shopping tends to go one of two ways: you nail it and wind up with a cornucopia of ingredients… or you panic and arrive home having only purchased bread, frozen peas, and a box of Wheat Thins. Both scenarios have happened to me many times, so to make supermarket stops a little more efficient, I asked a dietitian for help in the form of a plant-based grocery list.

Below, Malina Malkani, RDN, media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of Solve Picky Eating, shares ten items that deserve a forever-spot in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. No more wheat thin frozen pea sandwiches for you.

Bookmark this 10-item plant-based grocery list for years and years of smart shopping

1. Plain, unsweetened soy milk

Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health, and when fortified, soy milk is a good source of both,” Malkani says. You’ll also find 8 grams of protein in each cup and plenty of potassium. Pour it over your favorite healthy cereal, slice up some fruit, and breakfast is on.

The best alt-milk you can buy:

2. Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley, or quinoa

Whole grains deserve a place at every meal because of their fiber content, explains Malkani. They’re satiating and will help your blood sugar stabilize after you’ve eaten a meal. “Whole grains also offer some plant-based protein, healthy fats, and many essential micronutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper, selenium, zinc and B vitamins, as well as health-promoting antioxidants and phytochemicals,” she adds.

3. Bean-based pastas

“Pastas made from chickpeas, red lentils, and black beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber and provide a delicious, versatile, and nutrient-rich center for plant-based meals,” says Malkani.

This is how to eat pasta every single day:

4. Beans and legumes

Canned beans and legumes are one of the cheapest things you can pick up at the grocery store, and Malkani loves them for their nutritional prowess, too. “Rich in plant-based protein, fiber, and many essential vitamins and minerals, beans and legumes are affordable, convenient and versatile,” she says. Keep a combination of dry and canned on hand at all times for soups, salads, baked goods, and curries.

5. Tofu

“Tofu is a great source of plant-based protein and iron, and calcium-set versions also offer a good amount of calcium as well. Tofu can be served in a variety of ways, such as marinated and grilled, stir-fried or blended into smoothies,” says Malkani.

Everything you’ve ever wondered about soy:

6. Tomato sauce

Maybe they’re born with it, maybe it’s the antioxidants. Either way, tomato sauce can transform any dish from flavorless to flavorful. “Tomato Sauce offers a convenient way to add to flavor to plant-based protein sources like chickpea pasta. Tomato sauce is also a great source of vitamin C, which when paired with an iron-rich food like chickpea pasta, helps facilitate iron absorption,” the dietitian says.

7. Nuts and nut butters

“Nuts like peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews are brimming with plant-based proteins, healthy fats, fiber, and an array of vitamins and minerals. They make a perfect on-the-go snack, can be blended into smoothies or soups, baked into breads or muffins, or spread on to fresh fruit or bread when served as a nut butter,” Malkani says.

A dietitian’s favorite nut butter:

9. Seeds and seed butters

You’ve got your nuts. Now, Malkani says it’s time to bring on the seeds. “Seeds like chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sesame are bursting with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and iron, all of which are important, health-promoting nutrients for vegetarians and vegans,” she says. Her favorite seeds are tahini (made with sesame seeds) and sunflower seed butter.

10. Frozen, dried, and canned fruits and veggies

“The more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, the better! While fresh produce is generally best, it perishes the fastest, so keeping frozen, canned and dried produce on hand is a convenient and affordable way to incorporate more produce into meals and snacks,” says the dietitian. We all have our favorite fruits and veggies (I happen to be Team Brussels Sprouts), so stock these according to your own taste.

Now that you have the ingredients you need, here’s how to prep your most creative bowl of oatmeal. And when you’re ready to cook all those veggies, here’s how to make them crunchy without oil

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