Shifting the way we eat, for whatever reason, can be intimidating. Maybe you've been thinking of ways to start eating less meat, start eating healthier, or just switch it up for the fun of it. In this post, my goal is to address those of you just at the beginning of your plant-based journey. Here below are some basic foods that you probably didn't know were vegan. You've probably been eating more plant-based food than you realize.
Chips & Salsa
Chips and Salsa, and sure- throw in that guacamole- are one of the most popular party foods. Easy to customize and find the right spice level for everyone. Not only gluten free, and cholesterol free, but a simple vegan food that almost everyone eats.
Peanut Butter & Jelly
For the kid in all of us. 100 grams of peanut butter contains 23 grams of protein and paired with homemade jam or jelly- it is incredibly satisfying for body and soul. There's a reason why it's #1 on the playground. Easy to forget that so many kids grow up eating this vegan treat (well, so many kids and also me!)
Cheerios (and many breakfast cereals)
Many breakfast cereals, like Cheerios are vegan by default. Something to watch for is honey (not considered vegan because it is an animal by-product) and some sugars (commercially produced sugar uses bone-char in it's refining process). Check ingredients and watch those sugar cereals, but otherwise, there are a wide selection of breakfast cereals that will work for you.
Spaghetti & Red Sauce
OK, I have to admit. This is the one I like to throw out whenever someone says "No way! I will never eat vegan!" I always look at them and say "you've never eaten spaghetti and red sauce?". With the exception of some gourmet artisan brands, most dry pasta you buy in the grocery store is already vegan. Most red sauce you buy in a jar (unless containing sausage or meat in some obvious way) is already vegan. You can make a vegan dinner with spaghetti and red sauce, salad, and sourdough bread. Who doesn't eat vegan??
It's probably obvious to you by now that this list can go on and on and on.... There are so many foods that we all eat every day that are vegan already. It's not hard to eat a plant based diet because we're already halfway there. What better to exemplify this than Oreo cookies.
The Trick to Reading Labels
On a final note, I wanted to list a few tricks to reading a label quickly to figure out if the item is vegan:
- Check the end of the ingredients list where it says "contains:" This is where they will list allergens, and milk/dairy products as well as eggs are always listed here if they are present. *caution: it will not list meats in this area
- Check the cholesterol on the nutrition label. Plant based food NEVER contains cholesterol. NEVER EVER. If there is cholesterol on the nutrition label, then the food is not vegan.
- In breads, check for a dough conditioner called "L-cysteine". This is made from both human and animal hair and is in a lot of commercially baked breads. Sourdough and naturally leavened breads do not contain conditioners.
- There are different beliefs about honey in the vegan community, but strictly speaking, honey is not vegan and will be listed in the main ingredient list.
With these quick check points, reading labels becomes easy and second nature. Hopefully this list of a few basic foods helps you feel more comfortable with your abilities to easily find some "starter foods" for your new journey. There's many more out there, it's just a shift of mindset. Once you're comfortable, check out some of these fan favorite recipes that are an easy transition to newbies: