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10 Must Have Items for a Perfect Vegan Pantry

I agree with everything except the oils.

By Stephanie Rogers, EcoSalon

Stock up on these 10 basic essentials for your vegan pantry including beans, whole grains, non-dairy milk and a variety of seasonings.

Contrary to the assumptions of many a meat eater, vegans don’t solely subsist on lettuce and carrots. But what, exactly, should be stocked in a vegan’s pantry? Anyone looking to make healthy, nutritious meals that are free of animal products should have a few basic ingredients on hand at all times to provide protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals – and let’s not forget flavor. These 10 pantry essentials make sticking to a vegan diet easy and interesting, from beans and whole grains to truffle oils and agave nectar.

Beans, Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan

If there’s one nutrient that Americans tend to focus on when it comes to healthy diets, it’s protein. But no matter what meat-obsessed fad diets imply, it’s easy to get plenty of protein from vegan sources. Beans and tofu are two lean, cholesterol-free options for protein, and they’re incredibly versatile. Canned beans are convenient, but dried beans are cheaper and don’t come with the risk of hormone-altering BPA in the lining of the can. They simply need to be soaked overnight before cooking, or you can whip them up rapidly with a pressure cooker. Firm tofu can be marinated and tossed into just about any dish, while silken tofu is a nutritious addition to smoothies. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and has a meaty texture reminiscent of chicken, and chewy tempeh is a vegan sandwich staple.

Whole Grains & Flours

The difference between whole grains and refined grains goes beyond increased fiber and nutrients. Whole grains are packed with flavor, which translates into tastier dishes and baked goods. Brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, spelt, oats, millet, barley and wild rice are a few examples of whole grains that you can incorporate into your diet, and most of them are available in flour form, too. Flours made from quinoa and oats aren’t just for people avoiding gluten – they impart their own particular flavor and texture to recipes like chocolate amaranth quinoa cake.

Non-Dairy Milks

Who needs cow’s milk when there’s almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk and soy milk? Stock your pantry with your favorite varieties of non-dairy milks, each of which has its own particular flavor and texture. Coconut milk and soy milk tend to be richer and heavier, frothing up a little more for satisfying beverages. Rice milk and almond milk have a natural sweetness, and heart-healthy almond milk is appropriately nutty. Soy milk is the highest in protein, and hemp milk has lots of omega fatty acids. Avoid the flavored varieties to cut unnecessary sugar and calories. You can easily make your own almond milk with nothing more than raw almonds, water and a blender.

A Variety of Oils and Vinegars

No kitchen is complete without extra virgin olive oil and white vinegar, no matter what kind of foods you like to eat. Beyond those two absolute basics is a wide variety of vinegars and oils with all kinds of different uses and characteristics. Vinegars include balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider, rice and malt. Coconut oil is great for high-heat cooking and baking, sesame oil has lots of flavor for stir-fries and salads, and truffle oils are a luxurious treat. Try oils and vinegars infused with herbs, garlic, chilies and even fruit, too.

Nuts, Seeds & Butters

Head to the bulk bins at your local natural foods store to stock up on a wide variety of nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. You can actually use cashews, macadamias and other types of nuts to make your own vegan ricotta cheese. And when it comes to nut and seed butters, don’t be afraid to branch out from the standard peanut and almond varieties – try cashew, hazelnut and sesame.

Nutritional Yeast

Missing cheese? Aside from making your own nut-based ricotta, you can add a cheesy flavor to all kinds of foods using nutritional yeast. This inactive yeast is a great source of vitamin B12, which can be difficult for vegans to get from other sources. Light and flaky, it can be added to popcorn as a topping, melted into margarine and/or non-dairy milk for a cheesy sauce or just tossed into any dish you like.

Healthy Condiments

Most condiments are processed junk full of fat, sugar and sodium. But there are some healthy condiments that can add complex flavors to your vegan dishes, elevating a simple meal to the sublime. Mustard, soy sauce, miso and hot sauces add a huge punch of flavor with just a few drops. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, a great vegan source of amino acids, is a popular way to add a little bit of savory “umami” flavor to any dish. Agave nectar is a popular vegan sweetener, and fruit preserves are almost always free of animal products.

Herbs and Spices

Like condiments, oils and vinegars, herbs and spices simply make everything taste better. If you’re new to cooking and/or using spices, buy a variety and experiment to see what you like. Most herbs, including parsley and basil, are best used fresh, but some – like bay leaves and oregano – retain lots of flavor when dried. Spices, which are usually the dried seeds, bark or buds of plants, tend to stay fragrant a bit longer. Some basics include chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper. Dried mushrooms are another delicious source of umami flavor.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Canned goods generally aren’t the best when it comes to flavor and texture, with many canned veggies – like green beans – barely resembling their fresh or frozen brethren. But they do have their use, especially as emergency back-ups and for quick meals. Home-canned fruits and vegetables tend to be superior in flavor to commercially canned goods. Tomatoes are one item that change in a positive way when canned; their flavors become richer and more concentrated, making them ideal for sauces.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

While most fresh fruits and veggies need to be refrigerated, some are ideal for pantry storage. The dark, cool and dry environment of a pantry (or a shelf out of direct sunlight) can help preserve onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash. For best flavor and texture, tomatoes should also be stored at room temperature until ripe.

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/07/05/10-must-have-items-for-a-perfect-vegan-pantry/

How to Meet Your Protein Needs without Meat

How to Meet Your Protein Needs without Meat

A Guide to Vegetarian Protein Sources

— By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian and Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
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Eating a vegetarian diet can be very healthful and rewarding. However, most vegetarians—including soon-to-be vegetarians and their meat-eating loved ones—are concerned about getting adequate protein. Most people are accustomed to getting protein from meat, but what else contains protein? Aren’t plant-based proteins “incomplete” or lower quality?Fortunately, with a bit of extra attention, you won’t have any trouble meeting your protein needs just because you give up meat. There are so many protein-packed vegetarian options! Did you know that most foods, including vegetables, have some of the essential muscle-building nutrient? Without looking closely, it is easy to miss some great sources. (Who knew a cup of broccoli had 3 grams!)Nuts, seeds, soy products, cereal, eggs and dairy are all good meatless protein choices. These groups of food each contain different amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and different levels of protein quality. There is no need to consume certain foods in special combinations as nutritionists once thought! When your diet includes a variety of each of these types of foods, you can rest assured that you’re consuming all the amino acids you need for muscle growth and cell repair.

Nuts
Nuts provide a good dose of protein along with some heart-healthy fatty acids and antioxidants (vitamins A and E). They are also packed full of fiber. Take your pick! Many nuts have a significant source of protein ready to work for your body. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pine nuts are among the highest in protein, while chestnuts and hazelnuts, although they do still have some protein, are the lowest. Think out of the box when you’re adding nuts to your diet. They can be grated, toasted, ground or eaten raw and are great when combined with salads, wraps, soups and stews and baked goods. But pay special attention to portion size! Nuts are a great source of many nutrients, but do come with a hefty dose of calories, thanks to the healthy fats they contain. A single serving is just 1 oz! Many nuts are best when stored in a refrigerator, which helps keep their fats from going rancid (for up to 6 months).

Nuts, 1/4 cup Protein Calories Fat
Peanuts, raw 9 g 207 18 g
Almonds, dry roasted 8 g 206 18 g
Pistachios 6 g 171 14 g
Hazelnuts 5 g 212 21 g
Pine nuts 5 g 229 23 g
Cashews, raw 5 g 197 16 g
Walnuts 4 g 164 16 g

Seeds
Seeds are another great way to grab a few grams of protein and many other nutrients. Healthful unsaturated fats, as well as phytochemicals, make seeds a powerhouse for heart disease and cancer prevention. Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) has 8.5 grams of protein. Add this amount to a salad or eat them plain for a quick snack. Sunflower seeds are easy to add to pasta or salads, or sandwich wraps, while sesame seeds are easily ground and sprinkled onto steamed veggies for a protein dusting.

Seeds (1/4 cup) Protein Calories Fat
Hemp seeds 15 g 232 18 g
Pumpkin seeds, roasted 9 g 187 16 g
Flaxseed 8 g 191 13 g
Sunflower seeds, roasted 8 g 205 18 g
Sesame seeds, roasted 6 g 206 18 g

Legumes
Dried peas, beans and lentils belong to a group of food known as “pulses” or “legumes.” Aside from soybeans, these plants have a very similar nutrient content, which includes a good dose of protein. On average, they have about 15 grams of protein per cup, and tagging along with the essentials protein are fiber and iron. Adding beans, lentils and dried peas to your meals is a great way to replace meat (a beef burrito can easily become a black bean burrito, for example) while still getting your much needed protein. Add pulses to soups, salads, omelets, burritos, casseroles, pasta dishes, and more! Make bean dips (such as hummus, which is made from garbanzo beans, or black bean dip) to spread on sandwiches and use as protein-packed dips for veggies or snack foods.

Legumes, 1 cup cooked Protein Calories Fiber
Soybeans 29 g 298 10 g
Lentils 18 g 230 16 g
Split peas 16 g 231 16 g
Navy beans 16 g 258 12 g
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 15 g 269 12 g
Black beans 15 g 227 15 g
Kidney beans 15 g 225 11 g
Lima beans 15 g 216 13 g
Pinto beans 14 g 234 15 g

Soy
Soybeans are a complete protein that is comparable in quality with animal proteins. Eating soybeans (and foods made from soybeans) has been growing trend in America for only five decades, but this protein-rich bean has been a staple in Asia for nearly 4,000 years! This plant powerhouse is used to create a variety of soy-based foods that are rich in protein: tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (TVP, a convincing replacement for ground meat in recipes), soymilk and “meat analogs,” such as vegetarian “chicken” or faux “ribs” are all becoming more popular as more Americans practice vegetarianism. To learn more about using tofu, read Tofu 101. To learn how soy may impact your health, click here.

Soy Foods Protein Calories Fat
Soybeans, 1 cup cooked 29 g 298 10 g
Tempeh, 4 oz cooked 21 g 223 13 g
Edamame, 1 cup shelled 20 g 240 10 g
TVP, 1/4 cup dry 12 g 80 0 g
Soy nuts, 1/4 cup roasted 11 g 200 1 g
Tofu, 4 oz raw 9 g 86 5 g
Soy nut butter, 2 tablespoons 7 g 170 11 g
Soymilk, 1 cup sweetened 7 g 100 0.5 g
Soymilk, 1 cup unsweetened 7 g 80 0.5 g

Grains
In a culture that focuses largely on wheat, it’s easy to overlook the many types of other grains available to us. Some of these grains are very high in protein and can be included in your diet for both whole-grain carbohydrates and muscle-building protein. Quinoa is unusually close to animal products in protein quality, making it an excellent grain to replace white rice or couscous. It can also be cooked and mixed with honey, berries and almonds in the morning for a protein-packed breakfast. Other grains high in protein include spelt, amaranth, oats and buckwheat. Choose whole-grain varieties of cereals, pastas, breads and rice for a more nutritious meal.

Grains Protein Calories Fiber
Amaranth, 1 cup cooked 9 g 238 9 g
Quinoa, 1 cup cooked 9 g 254 4 g
Whole wheat pasta, 1 cup cooked 8 g 174 6 g
Barley, 1 cup cooked 7 g 270 14 g
Spelt, 4 oz cooked 6 g 144 4 g
Oats, 1 cup cooked 6 g 147 4 g
Bulgur, 1 cup cooked 6 g 151 8 g
Buckwheat, 1 cup cooked 6 g 155 5 g
Brown rice, 1 cup cooked 5 g 216 4 g
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 4 g 128 3 g
Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice 4 g 80 3 g

Dairy
If you consume milk products, dairy is a great way to add some extra grams of protein to your day. Low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt are easily accessible, quick to pack and fun to incorporate into many meals and snacks. Whether you’re drinking a cup of skim milk with your dinner or grabbing some string cheese before you run errands, you can pack about 8 grams of protein into most servings of dairy. You’re also getting some bone-building calcium while you’re at it! Keep in mind that low-fat varieties of milk products are lower in calories and fat, but equal in calcium to the full-fat versions; low-fat varieties may also be higher in protein.

Dairy Protein Calories Fat
Fat-free cottage cheese, 1 cup 31 g 160 1 g
2% cottage cheese, 1 cup 30 g 203 4 g
1% cottage cheese, 1 cup 28 g 163 2 g
Fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup 14 g 137 0 g
Low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup 13 g 155 4 g
Parmesan cheese, 1 oz grated 12 g 129 9 g
Whole milk yogurt, 1 cup 9 g 150 8 g
Goat’s milk, 1 cup 9 g 168 10 g
1% milk, 1 cup 8 g 102 2 g
Swiss cheese, 1 oz 8 g 106 8 g
2% milk, 1 cup 8 g 121 7 g
3.25% (whole) milk, 1 cup 8 g 146 8 g
Low-fat cheddar/Colby cheese, 1 oz 7 g 49 2 g
Part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 oz 7 g 72 5 g
Provolone cheese, 1 oz 7 g 100 8 g
Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 7 g 114 9 g
Blue cheese, 1 oz 6 g 100 8 g
American cheese, 1 oz 6 g 106 9 g
Goat cheese, 1 oz 5 g 76 6 g
Feta cheese, 1 oz 4 g 75 6 g
Part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 oz 3 g 39 2 g

Eggs
Eggs contain the highest biologic value protein available. What this means is that an egg has a near perfect combination of amino acids within its shell; when assessing protein quality of all other foods (including meat), nutrition experts compare them to the egg. This doesn’t mean that all other sources of protein are less healthful or less important but does mean that an egg is an awesome way to get a few grams of protein. At 6 grams for one large egg, there are endless ways to add it to your diet. Salads, sandwiches, breakfasts or snack—an egg can fit in anytime!

Eggs Protein Calories Fat
Egg, 1 boiled 6 g 68 5 g
Egg white, 1 cooked 5 g 17 0 g
Liquid egg substitute, 1.5 fl oz 5 g 23 0 g

As you can see, protein is EVERYWHERE in our diet, and even without meat you can get enough every day; you just have to look in the right places! For more ideas for using these various plant-based proteins, check out our dailySpark series, Meat-Free Fridays for recipe and cooking ideas!

Selected Sources
Information Sheet: Protein from The Vegetarian Society (VegSoc.org)

Various nutrient profiles from The World’s Healthiest Foods (WHFoods.com)


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About The Author

Sarah HaanSarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah’s articles.

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