If you’re a vegetarian — or someone who’s trying to curb their meat consumption a bit — the grocery store can feel like an overwhelming, fluorescent-lit maze. Which products will provide the protein you need? What about other nutrients? What the heck is turmeric again?
Lucky for you, Aylorien is here to get you from confused to confident. We’ve worked up a no-BS vegetarian grocery list, to make eating for your health and ethics as convenient as pulling up to a drive-thru.
(And turmeric is a great spice with tons of health benefits. Grab some.)
Setting the table — why shop veg?
If you ask any doctor for tips on improving your health, chances are they’ll suggest shifting your diet toward plants. Studies have found that a plant-based diet can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, keep blood pressure in check, and even improve mental health.
Eating plants is also (much, much) better for the environment than eating animal products. According to the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat industry guzzles natural resources, contributes to global warming, and is linked to the extinction of plants and animals. Reducing your personal consumption can help minimize those harms.
As an organic, seasonal cherry on top, plants are easier on your bank account. Meat is generally one of the priciest parts of the grocery store, and the revenue from those prices tends to go to huge processing companies, not the ranchers who raise the livestock.
So we at Aylorien believe a vegetarian diet is the way to go. We define “vegetarian” as a diet excluding all foods composed of the flesh of anything that has a face, including fish and sea creatures. Because fish are friends too! And more importantly, fishing practices are destroying our ocean ecosystems and are by far the largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution.
A few rules of thumb
Before we get to the vegetarian grocery list, it’s important to establish some vegetarian grocery ground rules.
First and foremost is to buy seasonal products. Why? For one thing, they're often fresher, since they’re less likely to have been transported over long distances. Also, they’re tastier and more nutritious, since they are harvested right when they’re at their ripest.
Second, eat the rainbow. No, we don’t mean sour candies, but to consume a colorful mix of fruits and veggies. For your vegetarian grocery list to be truly healthful, it’s gotta be hue-ful, too. That’s because the pigments that give different plants their unique shades also give them a unique nutritional profile. So a more colorful group of plants = more diverse nutrients.
Next, buy organic. Organically grown produce has less residue from pesticides. Need we say more?
Also, know your enemy. There are a few ingredients you should keep far away from your vegetarian grocery list, because while they aren’t meat, they also aren’t vegetarian…or they’re just not very good for you. Keep reading, it’ll make sense.
Rennet is a substance used in cheese-making to separate milk particles from water to form a solid. It’s made from the stomach lining of young ruminant animals like goats, calves, and lambs—those animals need it in their digestive systems while they’re only eating their mamas’ milk. Once they start eating grass, it goes away. Point is, if the rennet in your cheese comes from a baby goat’s stomach, your cheese ain’t vegetarian. Here’s a helpful list of cheeses and brands that do not contain animal-derived rennet, so you can add a bit of cheddar to a broccoli dish without hearing a lamb’s mournful bleating in the back of your mind. You can also just look out for it when browsing the cheese section, and look for “vegetarian” on cheese labels.
Gelatin is a thickener that forms the base of sweets like gummies and marshmallows. It’s made by extracting collagen from animal parts, so…sorry, (most) s’mores aren’t veg! Fortunately, some brands make delish alternatives. We especially endorse Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers for a tasty veg snack.
Carrageenan is a substance that’s also commonly used as a thickener, and comes from a red seaweed native to the British Isles. While that may sound like a natural fit for a vegetarian grocery list, carrageenan has actually been linked to inflammation and other harms to the digestive tract. Blimey! You can find a list of brands that contain carrageenan here, to help you steer clear.
Now let’s get to the grocery store game plan
To give you a sense of why you’re buying the items on our list, here’s the five-day meal plan we planned out for you. We came up with this to give you some direction once you’ve got your vegetarian groceries, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it exactly — we absolutely encourage creativity, improvisation, and experimentation. We know about getting a healthy vegetarian diet, but only you know your taste buds.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh berries, chia seeds, and Ezekiel 4:9 cereal
Lunch: Ezekiel bread peanut butter and date sandwich with a side of fruit
Snack: chopped carrots with pink beet hummus
Dinner: Baked tofu nuggets, sauteed broccoli with romano cheese, and brown rice
Breakfast: Egg whites with nutritional yeast, Ezekiel toast, and avocado and fresh fruit on the side
Lunch: Watermelon feta salad
Snack: Sliced cucumber with feta cheese
Dinner: Spanish beans and rice
Breakfast: Oatmeal with ground flax seeds, chopped apple, cinnamon, and a splash of milk
Lunch Baby kale Caesar salad with a side of fruit
Snack: Celery sticks and pink beet hummus
Dinner: Warm French lentils
Breakfast: Superfood smoothie with frozen berries, kefir, milk, cacao, spinach, and spirulina
Lunch: Veggie sandwich with goat cheese, spinach, sliced tomato, sprouts, avocado, sliced tempeh, and Ezekiel bread
Snack: Fresh, seasonal fruit
Dinner: Kale salad with avocado, chickpeas, pomegranates, pepitas, olive oil, and lemon
Breakfast: Easy chia pudding with berries and cacao
Lunch: Spinach salad with beets, goat cheese, walnuts, olive oil, lemon, and a drizzle of honey
Snack: Apple and peanut butter
Dinner: Lentil pasta with mushrooms, onions, spinach, romano cheese, oregano, and red pepper flakes
Alright, on to the main event — your vegetarian grocery list, broken down into grocery store sections.
Us vegetarians tend to do our heavy lifting in this section, gathering lots of fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens:
- 2 bunches curly kale
- 1 pomegranate
- 1 watermelon
- 1 package/box of dates
- 2–4 of your favorite apple variety
- 1–2 cartons of your favorite berries
- 2–4+ pears, peaches, melons, grapefruits, grapes, kiwis — any seasonal fruit that looks tasty
- 2 avocados
- 1 bag lemons
- 2 limes
- 2 packages pre-cooked unflavored beets
- 1 box white mushrooms
- 2–3 green or yellow squash
- 2 yellow onions
- 1 leek
- 1 heirloom tomato
- 1 turnip
- 1 red onion
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1 bunch fresh garlic
- 1 large bag of whole carrots
- 1 head of celery
- 1 cucumber
- 1 big box spinach
Keep in mind everything you learned above about rennet and carrageenan—i.e., look for the “vegetarian” label on products in this part of the store.
- 1 block feta cheese
- 1 block Romano cheese
- 1 round goat cheese
- 1 carton skim milk or milk substitute
- 1 large carton nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 carton egg whites
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 bottle low-fat unflavored kefir
Grab your grains (and beans and oils)!
- 1 bottle ghee
- 1 bottle coconut oil
- 1 bottle good olive oil
- 1 box lentil pasta
- 1 can low-sodium black beans
- 2 cans low-sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- 1 package unsalted raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 package raw walnuts
- 1 bottle tahini
- 1 package quick-cooking oatmeal
- 1 package green French lentils
- 1 package brown rice
- 1 bottle real maple syrup
- 1 bottle raw honey
- 1 jar raw unsalted peanut butter
- 1 loaf Ezekiel 4:9 bread
- 1 box Ezekiel 4:9 cereal
- Spices: oregano, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cloves, salt, pepper
- 1 bottle red wine vinegar
- 1 bottle Dijon mustard
This one’s simple, just get several packages of your favorite frozen berries and other fruits.
Superfood & Supplements
These are great add-ins for oatmeal, smoothies, soups, anywhere you want to pack in an extra nutritional punch.
- 1 package Spirulina
- 1 package nutritional yeast
- 1 package chia seeds
- 1 package ground flax seed
- 1 package raw cacao
- Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, DHA Omega 3s, and other key vitamins and minerals for a vegetarian diet (or order Aylorien right here!)
For a little extra guidance, here are a few brands Aylorien knows and trusts. None of these companies are sponsors or advertisers in any way, we’re just big fans!
- Food for Life, Ezekial 4:9 products: We love their breads and cereals because they’re sprouted to make a complete protein source.
- Bob’s Red Mill: These folks are committed to sustainability and offer lots of organic grain, legume, and oat products.
- Organic Valley: As this brand’s name suggests, their products are organic and 100% grass-fed and they don’t use carrageenan in their milk offerings.
- Bragg’s: We swear by this brand’s olive oil and nutritional yeast.
- RX Bar: These are great snacks made of real food that can help you fend off that 3:30pm blood sugar crash.
Once you’ve hauled your veggie groceries into the kitchen and you’re ready to make your meals, there are a few things you should know about healthy cooking:
- Measure your oils. You only need a few tablespoons per day, and they add up quickly.
- For sautéeing or baking, use ghee or coconut oil. Use olive oil in salad dressings, or after any baking has happened.
- Use salt sparingly. The upper limit for sodium is around 1 teaspoon of salt per day, which you’ll find you reach quickly!
- Raw nuts, fruit, and raw veggies make great snacks.
How to get all your nutrients with no animal products
Any vegetarian knows getting enough protein has to be a primary concern. At Aylorien, we urge you to be careful about meat substitutes in your vegetarian grocery list, because they can be loaded with sodium and other questionable ingredients, so we feel it’s better to stick with plants.
That said, vegetarians do have to be sure we’re not just eating protein, but that we’re getting complete protein. That means foods containing all nine amino acids your body can’t create on its own and thus needs to get from your dietary intake.
Not all plants provide all nine, but some do, including quinoa, tofu, tempeh, edamame, amaranth, buckwheat, and Ezekiel bread. We recommend getting to know all of these superstars and adding them to your culinary repertoire. Many of them can play all kinds of roles — quinoa can form the base of a protein-rich soup, salad, or even risotto. Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat and can make an easy weeknight dish or ramen-esque brothy soup. Tofu pretty much tastes like whatever you cook it in, so drench a block of it in your favorite sauce and spices and see what happens!
Even once you’re armed with all this info, it can be a little tricky to ensure you’re checking all your nutritional boxes…which is where Aylorien comes in. When you buy Aylorien, you get everything you need in one supplement. The nine ingredients in our products are selected to address the nine most common nutritional deficiencies in vegetarians, including vitamins you can’t get from plants, and others that are available in plants, but in measly amounts that won’t give you what your body needs. There are also nutrients that plants contain, but don’t get absorbed because of mischievous little substances called “anti-nutrients.”
The most important thing is to have fun! Shopping for your health can feel like serious business, but keep in mind that eating and even getting groceries should be a delightful, creative part of your life. Brainstorm future dishes as you wander the grocery store, let unfamiliar products spark your curiosity, and get to know your favorite foods and how they affect your body. You’re at the beginning of a wonderful, rewarding journey, we promise.