Pantry Essentials for a Plant-Based Diet
Switching to a plant-based lifestyle may seem like quite the daunting task. The truth is, as long as you have all of your basic pantry essentials, the rest is easy. Here we will outline what we recommend you keep in your kitchen at all times!
The difference between whole grains and refined grains is simple. Whole grains contain the entire kernel of the grain (with the bran and germ still intact), whereas refined grains are stripped of both the bran and germ. Unfortunately, this leaves little nutritional value.
Some of our favorite whole grains include:
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Steel-Cut Oats
Almost all plant-based recipes we can think of incorporate at least one type of whole grain. Have these in your pantry at all times, and you'll never have to worry about not being able to try out an awesome new recipe!
Typically, when people think of whole grains, they think of bread. If you are obsessed with bread, then we highly recommend Ezekial Bread. There are multiple varieties, and they are all made from sprouted grains! Our favorite is Ezekial Flax Sprouted Grain Bread.
If you think about it, seeds are pretty amazing. They are tiny reproduction units of a flowering plant that have the ability to transform themselves into a whole new plant, no matter how complex that plant may be! Eating seeds gives your body so many nutritional benefits. We find ourselves putting seeds on absolutely anything we can. We recommend putting them on top of avocado toast, in smoothies, on oatmeal, and in salads.
These are our favorite seeds that we enjoy eating the most:
- Flax Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seeds (our favorite)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
If we had to choose a favorite seed, it would definitely be hemp seeds—also known as hemp hearts. One of the best benefits of hemp seeds is that they contain all of the essential amino acids that the human body requires, both the ones our bodies can produce on its own, and the ones our bodies cannot produce on its own. The amino acid profile that hemp seeds contain is unlike any other food. If you are struggling to meet your protein requirements for the day, add a couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds and you'll be all set.
Amino Acid Profile of Hemp Seeds
Aspartic Acid 5.303%
Glutamic Acid 9.257%
Nuts are also an amazing snack! They are packed with a ton of protein, heart-healthy essentials, and antioxidants. Nuts tend to be more expensive, so we make sure not to go overboard with them.
We use the following nuts on a regular basis:
- Cashews (these are actually super versatile and help make the best sauces)
- Pistachios (a favorite work snack)
Since we are on the topic of nuts, nut butters are also a fantastic addition to your diet. Nut butters are perfect to put on top of bread, in cereal, in smoothies, and honestly, sometimes we eat them right out of the jar. The only thing to keep in mind when consuming nuts and nut butter is that they contain a lot of fat, so just make sure you are eating them in moderation if one of your main goals is to lose weight.
Beans and Lentils
Did you know beans are sourced from flowering plants in the Fabaceae family and can, therefore, be defined as a seed? Beans, also known as legumes, are a phenomenal meat substitute. They can be prepared a number of different ways in order to incorporate them into your plant-based lifestyle. Not only are beans super delicious, but they are also very nutritious!
Before switching to our plant-based lifestyle, we were unaware of the many health benefits that beans provide. They are rich in protein, dietary fiber, and complex carbohydrates, while also containing low amounts of fat, zero saturated fat, and no cholesterol. While the makeup of beans consists of essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, and magnesium, they are also very rich in polyphenols (antioxidants). Antioxidants help our bodies fight off free radicals that can lead to inflammation and cancer. Our bodies slowly lose their ability to fight off free radicals as we age, so consuming high levels of polyphenols will only help!
Beans are incredibly versatile and can be used in a ton of recipes! We prepare our beans and add them to chili, on top of our plant-based nachos, in sauces, in meatless meatballs, in summer bean dips, and so much more. The possibilities with beans are endless. We bet you are wondering which types of beans you should use, so here is our list of the beans that we always keep on hand:
- Back Beans (one of our favorites)
- Black-Eyed Peas
- Cannellini Beans
- Chickpeas (we have countless cans of chickpeas on hand)
- Kidney Beans
- Great Northern Beans
- Lima Beans
- Pinto Beans
Another food we consume quite frequently from the legume family is lentils. These tiny legumes are often forgotten about yet they pack a ton of nutrition. To be completely honest, before changing our lifestyle we never even tried to eat lentils. The first time we took a trip to the grocery store to purchase some we were utterly blown away by the vast variety we had to choose from!
Lentils come in many colors such as red, brown, green, and black. Without adding any seasoning, lentils give off a wonderful, earthy flavor. We have used them in soups, crock pot meals, shepherds pie, meat substitutes, and so much more!
Flours and Other Baking Essentials
When we started this journey, we decided that we would stop using all of the chemically treated white flours and sugars, and opt for natural products. This is because bleached sugars and flours are chemically treated to extend shelf-life. Instead, we wanted a more natural, whole food option. Therefore, we are still able to make everything that we used to make, but in a healthier way. The list of flours that we have in our pantry might be a little overwhelming for some, but once you begin cooking with these specific flours, you'll start to realize which ones work better in specific recipes.
Our most frequently used flours are:
- Almond Flour
- Brown Rice Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Spelt Flour
- Buckwheat Flour
- Tapioca Flour
- Arrowroot Starch
- Whole Wheat Flour
Our "go to" flour would definitely be almond flour because you can use it in a 1:1 ratio when compared to all-purpose white flour.
Rather than using processed white sugar, we have been substituting it with pure cane sugar, coconut sugar, agave, and just plain old maple syrup (none of that fake stuff). The sweetener we use more than anything else is 100% maple syrup, which we try to buy locally. It is just so good! We add it to our coffee, smoothies, cereal, ice cream, and anything else that we want to sweeten up a little bit!
Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.— Michael Pollan
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© 2018 Britney Bernard and Cassie Midura