Vegan For Beginners – The 10 Vegan Essentials We Love

by | Apr 16, 2021 | 0 comments

So, you’re interested in becoming vegan? Hopefully, I can help shed some light on everything vegan-related – think of this article as “vegan for beginners tips.”

I’ve been vegetarian for over 6 years now and vegan for about 2 years. 

So I definitely know how it feels when you are first exploring the overwhelming world of veganism. Let’s start off with some of the best vegan essentials out there, and then look at a few more specific questions regarding the vegan diet.

This post is written especially for us by Anna over at Pandaboss.co.uk

10 Best Vegan Essentials 

Here are my absolute staples as a vegan. All these items are available from The Store HK or Amazon if you aren’t in Hong Kong.  

1. Vegan Essentials: Oatly Oat Milk Why we chose it:

It wouldn’t be a vegan essentials list without Oatly oat milk.

This is one of the most popular vegan milk brands. 

What we like:

  • This is the closest to “real” milk you’ll get. The texture, color, and creaminess are lovely. 
  • It’s enriched with calcium and other vitamins. 
  • There is also a Barista edition, which froths up really nicely in coffee machines.
  • Simple ingredients

What we don’t like:

  • The price! It’s also one of the most expensive vegan milks out there. 

Summary:

  • Despite the hefty price tag, Oatly milk is definitely a must-have – perhaps in moderation if you’re on a budget, but if you enjoy a luxury coffee or two, this is definitely the one. 
  • Not in Hong Kong? Buy Oatly milk from Amazon.

2. Vegan Essentials: Omega 3 Supplement

Another vegan essential is omega 3 oil

Why we chose it:

  • Omega 3 is needed in all diets, but once you stop eating things like fish, it’s easy to forget.
  • Yes, you can use foods such as chia seeds, but it can be difficult to use enough to fit in your daily recommended intakes, so a supplement is definitely a vegan essential! 

What we like:

  • Sustainably grown 
  • More bioavailable since it comes from the source rather than the secondary agent (i.e., the fish eats this, we eat the fish, so we get secondary omega 3). 

What we don’t like:

  • Capsule form – omega 3 is an oil, so technically, the capsule is unnecessary. 

Summary:

3. Vegan Essentials: Sunwarrior Vegan Protein Powder 

A great vegan staple to have in is vegan protein powder

Why we chose it:

  • There will be times when you want an extra protein boost.
  • Having vegan protein powder in your vegan essentials is a great idea. 

What we like:

  • No soy (this can be an irritant for some people and an allergen for others). 
  • No GMO
  • The full amino acid profile 

What we don’t like:

  • The taste can be slightly more chalky than non-vegan powders you might be used to

Summary:

4. Vegan Essentials: Organic Peanut Butter

Organic peanut butter is a staple for vegans. Read our review of Marantha's

Why we chose it:

  • Peanut butter is an absolute vegan essential.
  • You will want to put it on everything! A great source of healthy fats as well as protein! 

What we like:

  • No additives – pure peanut butter and salt. 
  • Great taste
  • Available in crunchy and smooth

What we don’t like:

  • Much pricier than supermarket peanut butters

Summary:

5. Vegan Essentials: Jackfruit 

Organic Young Jackfruit is great as a pulled pork alternative

Why we chose it:

  • Jackfruit is a great meat alternative for pulled pork.
  • You’ll need to get the savory variety, like this one. 

What we like:

  • Highly nutritious contains almost all vitamins & minerals.
  • Organic and Soy free (good for those with allergies)
  • Perfect pulled pork alternative

What we don’t like:

  • It can be hard to season Jack Fruit correctly to get the full “pulled pork” effect.

Summary:

  • Jack Fruit is a great addition to your vegan essentials cupboard, especially if you have previously been a fan of pulled pork.
  • It takes time to get it just right, but practice makes perfect, and you’ll be glad you practiced! 
  • In the USA or other parts of the world? Buy Jackfruit from Amazon

6. Vegan Essentials: B12 vitamin supplement 

A vegan supplement of b1 is absolutely essential for good nutrition

Why we chose it:

  • A B12 vitamin supplement is a must for any vegan diet.
  • B12 is made from dirt, which means animals get it from eating from the ground, and we then get it from eating the animals.
  • However, everything is so sanitized in this day and age, and most animals are corn-fed anyway – so even meat-eaters should be supplementing! 

What we like:

  • Chewable tablets
  • Mild, pleasant flavor 
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Made without the major allergens: without gluten or eggs, tree nuts, peanuts.
  • This product also contains no dairy, soy, yeast, fish, or shellfish.

What we don’t like:

  • Check with your medical professional before taking this if you are pregnant.

Summary:

  • Although this is a necessity, you need to read the product descriptions of b12 supplements carefully. Some are advertised as vegan but contain lactose. You can be assured that this product above does not contain lactose. 
  • In the US? Other parts of the world? Buy Vegan B12 from Amazon 

7. Vegan Essentials: Organic Chickpeas

Chickpeas are full of protein and a great vegan essential

Why we chose it:

  • An absolute vegan essential.
  • Chickpeas will go in absolutely EVERYTHING. 

What we like:

  • Organic 
  • Goes with everything – salads, curries, stews, etc.  
  • Mild taste
  • Very high in protein

What we don’t like:

  • It takes longer to cook than canned chickpeas

Summary:

8. Vegan Essentials: Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is top of the list of vegan essentials

Why we chose it:

  • I challenge you to have a conversation with a true vegan who doesn’t mention that nutritional yeast is an absolute essential of any vegan pantry. 

What we like:

  • Tastes amazing – substitute for cheese
  • High in B12 (required supplement)
  • High in protein
  • It can be sprinkled on almost anything savory! 

What we don’t like:

  • Absolutely nothing. This product is gold. 

Summary:

9. Vegan Essentials: Loving Earth Chocolate

Vegan chocolate is a vegan essential that allows you a treat in your vegan diet

Why we chose it:

What we like:

  • One of the best vegan chocolates out there
  • Many flavors available
  • Organic 
  • Fair Trade
  • Creamy, delicious texture

What we don’t like:

  • The caramel isn’t very strong.

Summary :

10. Vegan Essentials: Chickpea and Lentil Pasta

Vegan pasta is high on the vegan essentials list

Why we chose it:

  • Chickpea and lentil pasta is a great addition to any beginner’s vegan shopping list.
  • It will add additional protein to your meals without even thinking about it!  

What we like:

  • A whopping 17g protein per serving. 
  • Easy meal 
  • Gluten-free – great for those who are aiming to avoid gluten too! 

What we don’t like:

  • Not a strong taste

Summary: 

What is a Vegan Diet & why would you choose it?  

  • A vegan diet essentially means no animal products whatsoever.
  • A vegan wouldn’t consume anything that has come out of an animal, not even honey! The main confusion tends to be around vegetarian vs. vegan.
  • A vegetarian would not eat any meat or fish products but would still consume dairy/eggs. A vegan does not consume anything related to animals. 
  • There are three main reasons why someone might choose a vegan diet. 

Key reason #1 for selecting a vegan diet: Ethics

  • One of the main and original reasons for adopting a vegan diet is ethics. The Vegan Society has a superb, well-researched article for you to check out if you are considering becoming vegan. 
  • When this comes up in conversation, people’s main argument is “but surely that just applies to meat” (i.e., killing the animal). Many people don’t realize the awful, cruel practices that go on at places like dairy farms or chicken farms because they imagine nice farms outside where the animals get to graze on the grass and watch the sunset.
  • If you think about the amount of meat we consume as a society with the number of people we have in the world – do you really think that’s sustainable?
  • The answer is no – we have really overcrowded animal plants where animals are kept in absolutely horrible conditions, without having any freedom whatsoever. 
  • This article isn’t the place to discuss this, but if you are interested in knowing more, you can watch plenty of documentaries (I suggest Earthlings as a start). 

Key reason #2 for selecting a vegan diet: Environment

  • Secondly, we have the environment.
  • Did you know that every kilogram of beef produced requires around 15,400 liters of water?
  • Or that pulses (i.e., beans, peas, and lentils) produce just 0.58g of CO2e per gram of protein, which is just 0.26 percent of beef’s greenhouse gas output.
  • The sheer volume of meat we produce has a huge impact on our environment.
  • Going vegan is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Key reason #3 for selecting a vegan diet: Health 

coconut milk is a must have vegan essential
Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash
  • Finally, we have the health element. More and more evidence suggests that eating a vegan diet is beneficial to your health.
  • Without getting too scientific, as long as you are following a healthy vegan diet, you will be eating lots more fiber, greens, and things that are good for you and less of the foods that cause health problems – e.g., saturated fats within meat, hormones within dairy products, etc.
  • Some studies show that red meat is possibly linked to cancer, and dairy is a known inflammatory (the most common inflammation being acne, and the less common being cancer again). 

Different Types of Vegan Diets 

  • Although you may see many fads online, there are only a few main distinctions of a vegan diet – everything else is just a preference of what you enjoy eating or variations on the below.
  • I will explain what each of these consists of.
  • It’s worth remembering that you don’t have to abide by the strict rules – if you think you could be vegan except for ONE item in the diet, then do it!
  • Every little helps, as they say! 

Vegan Diet #1: Raw Till 4 Diet

This has been popularised by many healthy vegan food bloggers and essentially consists of eating only raw fruit and vegetables until 4 pm. This diet focuses on eating as many foods as possible in the way that “nature intended,” i.e., without cooking. 

Some people do take this further and always eat raw vegan food; however, this isn’t something that I would personally recommend. 

Read this great summary of the pros and cons by the Huffington Post.

Vegan Diet #2:Wholefoods Vegan Diet

The name sort of speaks for itself here, but this sort of vegan diet focuses on eating only healthy, plant-based whole foods – i.e., minimal processing. These sorts of foods are the most nutrient-dense, and so you end up feeling healthier, fuller, and better overall. 

Vegan Diet #3: High Carb Low Fat

With this diet, a big focus is eating the majority of your calories from healthy carbs – i.e., fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy grains.

You cannot completely cut out healthy fats and proteins, but usually, around 80% of your calories here come from carbohydrates. 

Vegan Diet #4: Mainstream Vegan Diet

And finally, the generic mainstream vegan diet – perhaps the most popular one of all. This diet essentially means eating everything without a focus on multiple rules. The only rule you need to follow is not to consume any animal products (e.g., you would eat things like processed fake meat burgers, vegan ice creams, etc.). 

Vegan essentials: What are the best pantry staples that vegans can eat?

Ask any vegan this question, and you’re almost guaranteed to get the same answer. Below are the main vegan essentials in terms of pantry staples that you’ll need – use it as a beginner vegan shopping list if you will! 

  • Beans and lentils: this is a huge protein source for most vegans and is super cheap too! Combined with rice, it actually produces a complete protein. 
  • Oats: this is a source of many nutrients and a great way to fill up at the start of the day. However, you can also use this to make things like cookies – trust me on this one! 
  • Bananas: perhaps a strange one to add to the list, but bananas are a great addition to anything from smoothies to baking – I always add a banana to my protein shakes to make them taste really nice! They are also one of the best sources of potassium. 
  • Plant Milk: there are so many different plant milks out there, such as oat, coconut, rice, soya, etc. You’ll find that each has a different flavor and consistency, and each works best for different things. I recommend oat milk or soya milk for coffee/tea and coconut milk or rice milk for oats and cereals.
  • Protein Powder: as mentioned earlier, this is one of the great vegan essentials to have on hand for days you may be low on protein or if you exercise a lot. 
  • Rice: As mentioned above, when you combine rice with beans, it becomes a complete protein in terms of amino acids. This makes it super healthy as a combination! 
  • Chickpeas: Similar to beans and lentils, this is a huge source of protein and goes in almost any dish! Think curries, salads, stews, and even baked goods! Yes, the aquafaba (chickpea water) is actually a brilliant egg replacement. 

 

Vegan Diet FAQs

Is being vegan expensive? 

Not at all! This is a really common misconception, actually. Yes, if you are constantly eating processed vegan junk food like vegan cheese, vegan fake meat, etc., then you are likely to have a huge bill at the end. But if you are sticking to a healthy, whole foods vegan diet and only supplementing the vegan essentials mentioned above, then you’ll usually find your grocery bill is cheaper, not more expensive! 

Is a Vegan Diet hard for a beginner? 

It honestly depends on your own personality, what you’re used to, and what your drive is for becoming vegan in the first place. Some people will say that the ones who find it easiest are the ones who decide to go vegan for ethical reasons. As a huge animal lover myself, I can definitely confirm that once I realized the cruelty behind all of the mass-produced animal products, it wasn’t hard for me.  However, if you are struggling – why not cut one category at a time? You could start with meat first, then milk, then cheese, then eggs. This can take away the “shock factor.” Overall, you’ll find it strange for about 2-3 weeks, and then you’ll get so used to it you’ll stop craving things like cheese (which are naturally quite addictive!)

What is not allowed in a vegan diet? 

Anything that comes from an animal. This means meat, dairy (cheese, milk) from any animal (cow, goat, sheep), and eggs are all a no-no! You’re also not allowed to eat things such as honey, which also comes from an animal. 

 

Finally

As you can see, there is a lot to take in with regards to a vegan diet. But in summary, it’s a great thing to do, and with the right vegan essentials for your shopping list, you will be a pro in no time! 

Thank you to Anna for today’s post! Want to find out more about Anna? Anna has been a vegetarian for 6 years.  For the last two years, she has been a vegan. In the UK, she runs a superb Youtube channel and a finance blog called Panda boss.

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