How is being a smart-girl vegetarian a lot like being a Boy Scout? Each knows it’s always best to "Be Prepared"*.
*That’s the official Boy Scouts of America motto, in case you’re wondering what the heck we’re talking about.
Stocking your pantry with plant-strong foods that will help keep you satisfied is one of the keys to your success as a vegetarian, vegan, or part-time veg. Why pantry and not fridge? Well, there are loads of great vegetarian foods you can keep chilled, and we’ll get to those later. But a well-stocked pantry is the backbone of any healthy vegetarian diet (and any healthy diet, for that matter)—and without that backbone, your food goals will have a pretty hard time holding up.
Having a wide selection of shelf-stable, plant-based foods means you’ll always have ingredients on hand to create satisfying meals—or to supplement meals your family or friends may be eating once you’ve removed the meat (in other words, on spaghetti and meatball night you won’t be left with a plate of spaghetti and spaghetti for dinner).
Here are the key foods to keep on hand for your plant-powered pantry:
Canned beans: A great source of protein, fiber, iron, and folate. We love chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and white cannellini beans—but any bean is a nutritious choice! Use in soups, pasta dishes, salads, and more.
Dried beans: Good for all of the same reasons as canned beans; a little harder to prepare but some believe the flavor and texture are superior.
Dried or canned lentils: Also a terrific source of folate, iron, protein, and fiber (as well as many other minerals), these tiny little pulses cook up a lot faster than other beans and are especially good in hearty soups, Indian dishes, and salads.
Nuts: While the specific nutrition profiles of different nuts vary, in general they’re all good sources of fiber, healthy fats, minerals like copper and manganese, and some protein. Try keeping bags of walnuts, cashews, almonds, and peanuts on hand—a handful on top of a salad or in a smoothie can turn them from light snacks into satisfying meals.
Seeds: With nuts getting so much attention, it’s easy to forget their petite cousins. But seeds like sesame, sunflower, hemp, and chia are teensy nutrition powerhouses! SGV author Rachel even wrote about some of the benefits in a recent issue of Women’s Health magazine. The mild flavor in hemp seeds make a no-brainer protein-packing addition to almost anything, and chia seeds can be turned into a delicious pudding.
Nut/seed butters: Great for you for the same reasons as their non-pulverized counterparts, nut and seed butters are not just for sandwiches anymore (although it’s always a good time for peanut butter and banana at our house…just saying). We love using peanut butter or almond butter in a dipping sauce for tofu and/or veggies; another favorite around here is our cashew apricot ginger breakfast cookie, starring cashew butter.
Whole grains: Surprise! Whole grains like quinoa, farro, amaranth, spelt, kamut, teff, and sorghum can give you a decent hit of protein. They're also great sources of filling fiber and minerals like metabolism boosting manganese. Look for these grains in their whole versions (think of them as you would an alternative to rice with the exception of teff, which cooks up more like a porridge; try a veggie grain bowl for dinner); you can also look for packaged foods like cereals and whole grain pastas that are made with these power-packing. And while you’re at it, look for pastas with bonus ingredients—we’ve got a major crush on this chickpea-based pasta made by Banza.
Healthy oils: It’s always wise to have good-for-you oils on hand for cooking and for dressing up salads. We always keep a stash of extra virgin olive, organic expeller-pressed canola, and sunflower seed, as well as coconut (it works especially well as a butter substitute in vegan and non-dairy baking).
Smart snacks: It’s pretty unlikely that all of your meals will be at home. Stock up on some good-for-you snacks that you can toss in your bag to supplement meals (be mindful that you may need to add some substance to restaurant orders like “Grilled Chicken Caesar-Hold The Chicken”) and keep you satisfied. Some of our favorites: KIND bars (the nuts and spice varieties that have 5 grams of sugar or fewer); 100-calorie snack packs of nuts like Emerald Nuts; Chia Warrior super snacks chia bars; Nourish Snacks (especially Honey Bee Good, the honey roasted chickpeas ones); The Good Bean chickpea snacks; Gorilly Goods snacks; Wild Friends single serving packets of almond, peanut, and sunflower butter (perfect paired with an apple or banana!).
And there you have it: Your plant-powered pantry! What are the must-haves in your kitchen closet? Don't forget to join us tomorrow for day 3 of 7 Days To Veg!
Note: Post a comment below (along with your email address) OR a photo of your plant-powered pantry on our Facebook page and we'll enter you in a contest to win a copy of The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian OR our signature KALE tee shirt. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.