Nutrition

The Ultimate Vegan Food List for Beginners

Whilst some people may like to group fruit and veg in one vast category of food that is “too healthy” and probably won’t taste good, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are thousands of different types of fruit and vegetables, all with extremely different tastes, textures and nutritional profiles.

Anyone who wonders “what do vegans eat anyway?”, the answer is “almost everything”! As well as nutritious plant-based ingredients, the rise in popularity of vegan diets has meant that there are now vegan substitutes for almost every meat and dairy product out there – from plant-based milks and yoghurt, to burgers and even gooey salted caramel chocolate cookies.

With such a wide range of ingredients, it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to creating your own vegan meals from scratch. We have compiled the ultimate vegan food list to help you on your next shopping trip. There are lots of great vegan recipes in cookbooks and online which provide great inspiration for meals.

Find the vegan foods you need from the list below. You can select a few from each category and change it up the following week – the combinations of delicious plant-based meals are endless!

Vegan Food List for Beginners | Top Vegan Substitutes

banana and berries in bowl

1. Fruits

Fruits are the base of many vegan sweet smoothies, juices and desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you can curb those cravings by snacking on berries or citrus fruits. Dried fruit is high in fibre and is great used as a topping, in baking, and as a snack.

Try to shop based on what is in season to find the freshest and most sustainably sourced fruit. Shopping in season also means fruit and vegetables will likely be cheaper, although many such as carrots, potatoes, apples, and bananas, make great affordable staples most of the year. Freezing fruit is a great way to preserve fresh produce until you need it plus it can be added straight into smoothies for an ice-cold refreshing drink.

  • Citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, nectarines, grapefruit, lemons, limes)
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Kiwis
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Mangoes
  • Melon (e.g. watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe)
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Berries (e.g. strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • Dried fruits (e.g. raisins, currents, cranberries, dates, and figs)

vegan fruit smoothie bowl

2. Vegetables

Along with fruit, vegetables are an important part of a balanced, healthy diet as they provide essential vitamins and minerals which the body requires to carry out it’s normal physiological function. For example, spinach is a source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Vitamin K plays a role in the body’s ability to regulate calcium levels which in turn can have an effect on bone and cardiovascular health.1

Also, like fruit, it is good to shop in season where possible to ensure you have the freshest, most affordable and most sustainable foods. Many vegetables can be eaten raw in salads, or can be cooked in a variety of meals including soups, stews, curries, and stir-frys.

  • Avocado
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Snap peas
  • Courgette
  • Butternut squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Salad/lettuce

3. Grains and starchy foods

Wholegrain products and other starchy foods such as potatoes and bread are a great source of carbohydrates and tend to be high in fibre. They are mixed and matched with vegetables, beans and soy products to create complete meals. Oatmeal is an easy way to have a nutritious and easy breakfast although aim to buy rolled or steel-cut oats and avoid instant oatmeal packets which tend to have added sugars and sweeteners. Always have at least one type of wholegrain or wheat product in the cupboard to act as a base for meals. Some examples include:

  • Bread
  • Wraps
  • Pittas
  • Bagels
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal (quick, rolled, or steel-cut)
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Seitan (wheat gluten)

4. Healthy Fats

vegan omega-3 supplement

Healthy fats are a very important part of any diet, including a vegan one. Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) play important roles in the normal function of the heart. DHA also supports the maintenance of normal function in the braind as well as normal vision. Whilst omegas have traditionally been associated with fish and fish oils, the body can convert alpha-linolenic acid (AHA), an omega-3 fatty acid into DHA and EPA. This can be found in many plant-based foods such as flaxseed and walnuts. An even easier way to ensure you have enough omega fatty acids in your diet is to take a vegan omega supplement made from microalgae.

Include a wide variety of foods high in healthy fats to have a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Foods such as avocado, olives, dark chocolate, and seeds and nuts make fantastic snacks, whilst nut butters such as peanut butter are a cupboard staple that can be used in cooking, smoothies and as a topping.

  • Avocado
  • Edamame beans
  • Olives
  • Coconut milk
  • Dark chocolate
  • Hummus
  • Plant-based oils (e.g. coconut oil, olive oil, flax seed oil, sesame oil, canola oil)
  • Vegan margarine
  • Nut butters (e.g. cashew, peanut, almond butter)
  • Nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans
  • Seeds (e.g. sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax, sesame seeds)

5. Plant-based milk alternatives

pouring nut milk

It is now easy to find a range of different plant-based dairy alternatives to use in cooking and baking. Plant-based milks are made from a variety of sources creating a variety of different tastes to suit different preferences. For example, cashew milk tends to be creamier than soy milk, and coconut milk has a different taste to almond milk. Many plant-based milks come sweetened or unsweetened which also helps when it comes to finding the right milk for

Choose 1 unsweetened non-dairy milk for all-purpose use in savoury cooking, baking, and smoothies. Choose 1 great tasting non-dairy milk to add to tea, coffee, or for enjoying straight. Choose whichever plant-based milk you enjoy the flavour of most. Soy milk is great because it’s high in protein and mimics the nutritional profile of cow’s milk. Vanilla, chocolate or other flavours are great for sweetening and flavouring coffee.

You can even make your own plant-based milk using simply nut butter such as peanut butter using this nut milk recipe.

  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk
  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Rice milk
  • Flax milk

  1. Maresz K. Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015;14(1):34–39.


Arabella Ogilvie

Arabella Ogilvie

Writer and expert

Arabella has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology from the University of Glasgow where she covered health topics ranging from the physiological effects of exercise and nutrition, to psychology and neuroscience.

She has a lifelong interest in sport and fitness, including running, swimming, hockey, and especially rowing. At university, Arabella was a keen rower and competed in the first boat at events such as the prestigious Henley Women’s Regatta, The Scottish Boat Race, and British University Championships, and won Novice Rower of the year in her first year.

In her spare time, Arabella loves to train in the gym and practice yoga and meditation. She is passionate about the natural world and will take any opportunity to be outdoors.

Find out more about Arabella’s experience here.