• Ian Cramer

Plant-Based grocery shopping: The List.

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

I had someone ask me for food items she could buy for her pantry to make it easier for her to go plant-based and stick with it. Very good question. I know what I buy and enjoy on a regular basis, but this can be very overwhelming and intimidating at first. I'm going to take what I've learned in the past 7 years of being plant-based to give you some overarching suggestions on specific food products to buy if you're just learning or even if you've been doing this lifestyle for a while. And the suggestions below are most of my favorites. It is not, by any means, a comprehensive list.

Before we get into the list, I want to start with an explanation of how I usually portion my plate for a meal. Carry this knowledge with you and it may make shopping for groceries a bit easier.

STEP 1: The first thing I usually start with is a starch or complex carbohydrate. This is where you will get the majority of your calories for that meal. What often happens with people beginning this lifestyle is that they under-eat because they're not used to the volume of food filling up their stomach. 400 calories of plants is a much larger volume relative to what most people have been eating. So sometimes, you feel full before your body has had enough calories. Basing your plate on a complex starch like brown rice, quinoa, oats, white or sweet potatoes, will ensure you're getting ample calories that are also nutrient dense.

STEP 2: Fill in around the starch with non-starchy, colorful fruits or vegetables. This could be a salad, or squash, or some carrots. Any fruit or vegetable you enjoy eating; anything that is very nutrient dense and colorful. This will still provide some calories, and will provide many more of the micronutrients you need to nourish your body.

STEP 3: Add a fat or protein. This step isn't really necessary, but if you wanted to consciously consume a plant-based fat or protein source, you could add it here. A favorite in our household is an avocado dip. Not quite guacamole, it consists of avocados, chic peas, garlic, lemon juice and little salt to taste in a food processor. You could also add a side of beans or lentils for protein, a few whole olives or some nuts or seeds for additional fat sources. But again, like I've said many times before, if you're eating enough calories from whole plant foods, you never have to worry about consuming enough protein, or for that matter, fat. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full. Don't go overboard with fats and proteins.

Here's a list of what we buy on a regular basis and items that you should have in your pantry.

Complex Carbohydrates

  • Brown Rice, White Rice, White Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Rolled Oats, Steel Cut Oats, Rice Pasta, Whole Wheat Pasta.

Non Starchy Vegetables (prepared any way you choose):

  • Any variety of squash, carrots, greens (kale, spinach, lettuce), beets, peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower


  • Bananas, Mangoes, Apples, Oranges, Peaches, Blueberries, Cherries, Pineapple

  • Fresh fruit is best, followed by frozen (I buy my berries frozen, and canned will work in a pinch)

Protein Sources:

  • Beans & Lentils (dried or canned), Broccoli, spinach, seeds,

  • Not a concern if you're getting enough calories in a day.

Fat Sources:

  • Avocados, olives, nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts), pumpkin seeds, Flax seeds, Chia seeds.

  • Not a huge concern. Don't go overboard. A serving of nuts is a small palm-full. 1-2tbsp for seeds.

Misc. Items

  • Low sodium/low ingredient pasta sauce

  • Salsa (great plant-based, low calorie condiment /addition to rice bowls

  • Soy or Almond Milk, Unsweetened.

As you read this list or shop for groceries, remember the 3 main rules of the whole foods plant-based lifestyle:

1. If it's a plant, eat it.

2. If it's an animal product, or contains refined oil, refined sugar or refined flour, skip it.

3. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full. 4. Keep it simple. It doesn't have to be gourmet, it doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be plant.

Specific questions? Please let me know. Either comment on this blog post below or reach out to me any way that's convenient for you. The key is making small steps towards becoming healthier.

Stay Healthy,



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