Vegetarian Shopping List For Beginners

If you’re just starting on the vegetarian diet then you should know some basics like what items to add to your vegetarian shopping list. This should include items like plant-based foods, eggs, and dairy.

Vegetarian Shopping List

Are you going to vegetarian? Fun Fact: About 8% of the world is either vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian (semi-vegetarian). People often misuse the terms vegan and vegetarian, although they have different meanings. For example, vegetarians don’t eat meat but usually consume eggs and/or dairy. Meanwhile, vegans don’t consume or use any animal products. That includes ditching meat, eggs, and dairy from their diet. If you’re a vegetarian newbie you’ll want to know some basics like what to include on your vegetarian shopping list. This can help you get everything you need at your local supermarket and farmers market.

While vegetarians often eat eggs and dairy, it can always be challenging to ditch an entire food group. It’s also true when people follow grain-free diets like Keto, Paleo, and Plant Paradox. There’s also the Carnivore Diet that drops all plant-based food including grains, fruits, and veggies. When you take this step like going vegetarian it’s important to get the lost nutrients from other foods. In the case of meat, you’re losing stuff like protein, saturated fat, Vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. While some vegetarians get some of these nutrients from supplements you can still get them from food. For example, avoiding all animal flesh became well-known through the ancient Greek Pythagoras.

What Exactly Is Vegetarianism?

This is the first main issue to consider. It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians. Vegans avoid all animal products while flexitarians consume some meat but mostly a plant-based diet.

On the other hand, vegetarians avoid meat products but might consume eggs and/or dairy. The history of this diet dates back to 700 BC. There are various reasons people go vegetarian just like going vegan. They include health, environmental, ethical, and religious regions.

Some people might find ethical issues related to eating animal flesh. However, they might not have the same issues about consuming products like milk, cheese, or eggs. Veganism has been trending more in recent decades. However, vegetarianism has existed longer.

Vegetarians are generally defined as people who don’t eat:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Animal meat byproducts

The diet is mostly plant-based, including grains, beans, fruits, veggies, and nuts/seeds. There’s some leeway about the consumption of eggs and dairy. The amount that’s eaten is based on the particular vegetarian diet you follow.  

In most cases, vegetarians don’t eat any meat including pork, beef, chicken, fish, and shellfish. However, in some cases fish is allowed. The fancy name for these dieters is “pescatarians.” They also might eat shellfish.

There are also “flexitarians” who eat meat sometimes but most of their diet is plant-based. This diet is usually followed for reasons like health and the environment.

Another area where vegetarians’ diets differ is on the consumption of eggs and dairy. Some vegetarians eat one or the other, and others eat both.

The vegan diet is similar to vegetarianism. However, the main difference is all animal products are swapped out from the diet. That includes meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. One of the main challenges of this diet is you’re ditching two whole food groups instead of one.

Vegetarian Shopping List: Basics

Here are some staples to include on your shopping list if you’re a vegetarian beginner:


This superfood has been trending in recent years for good reason. It’s high in water, healthy fat, fiber, and lots of other nutrients. You can also use avocados for smoothies, guacamole, salads, sauces, and other recipe ideas. One of the top benefits of avocados is they’re high in healthy fat, which is good for heart health, healthy skin/hair, etc.

Canned Coconut Milk

If you don’t consume dairy milk then this is a good substitute. Either way, it’s a good vegetarian staple. You can use it for a wide range of recipes including soups, curries, smoothies, and chia pudding. It’s also helpful when you want to add flavor and texture to brown rice.


These include options like:

  • Wheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Buckwheat
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley

Make sure to go with whole grains when possible since you’ll get more nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Quinoa is considered a complete protein so you’ll get all the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) humans must get from food.

In recent years grain-free diets have been trending. However, if you have a gluten intolerance or wheat allergy you probably won’t have problems digesting non-gluten grains. Another issue is people have been consuming grains for several thousands of years. The main issues in terms of nutritional value are whether they’re organic and whole grains.

Canned Beans/Tomatoes

Fresh is always the best option. However, when it’s not practical due to the time of year and other factors, it’s practical to go with canned tomatoes and beans. You get many of the same nutritional benefits with lots of convenience from the canned versions. For example, canned beans are perfect for soups and salads, while canned tomatoes can be used for tomato sauce and other dishes.

More Vegetarian Staples for Shopping Lists


Soybeans are one of the healthiest and most flexible means you can add to your diet. You can also buy several different forms like tofu. There are several ways you can use the versatile bean product. They include cutting it into cubes then adding it to soups, stir-fries, or even making baked croutons.


These two items should have an asterisk. Some vegetarian diets swap out one or the other. However, if they’re part of your diet then consider adding one or both to your shopping list.

Eggs are one of the most versatile animal products you can add to your diet. You can eat them fried, boiled, poached, baked, scrambled, and so on. They’re a good meat substitute when you want to add some extra protein to vegetarian dishes, for example.

Dairy can also provide similar benefits. There are so many options like milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. These are good sources of nutrients like protein, healthy fat, and calcium. Dairy products are “complete proteins” so you get a wide range of essential amino acids (EAAS) from them.


This is one of the best options in part because there are so many options. Some staples to add to your list include leafy greens, bean sprouts, cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli), root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips), and so on. Research what’s in season then tries to add those veggies to your meal planning.


The “fresh is best” rule applies. However, if you want to go with an alternative then pick dried versus canned. One reason is you can cook them faster and you won’t have to soak them. They’re a great option when you want to prepare curry, soups, and salads. Lentils are also an excellent source of protein, vitamins/minerals, and fiber for your vegetarian shopping list.

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