Going Vegetarian? Here Are 10 Foods to Add to Your Grocery Cart

pantry staples
Photo Credit: Ina Peters

March 12, 2021

By Sheela Prakash

I’m not a strict vegetarian, but I do try to eat meatless as much as possible because I feel my healthiest when I do so. But even if you’re not following a vegetarian diet, it’s always a good idea to eat more vegetables. Personally, I find the easiest way to make sure vegetables are at the center of my plate is to have a well-stocked pantry (and fridge and freezer). Here are the pantry staples I always keep on hand to make eating veggies as simple as possible.

1. Hummus

Open my refrigerator at any time and it’s a guarantee you’ll find a tub of hummus tucked inside. While I love making hummus from scratch, nothing beats the convenience of the store-bought stuff. My very favorite is Cedar’s. Beyond being a healthy snack with raw veggies or whole grain crackers, I often use hummus as a base for a meal. I’ll spread a few generous spoonfuls in the bottom of a bowl then top it with roasted vegetables and  a soft-boiled egg and eat the whole thing with whole wheat pita bread.

2. Baby Greens

A box of baby spinach, kale, or arugula on hand is best — skip the mesclun which wilts too quickly. The heartier boxed greens can be transformed into an instant salad by tossing then with olive oil and lemon juice or sautéed for a quick side dish. They’re also an easy way to add green to a dish: Fold them into scrambled eggs, stir them into soup, or whirl them into smoothies.

3. Canned Beans

I am pretty sure it’s impossible for a vegetarian to survive without beans and there’s no greater convenience than the canned ones. My go-tos are chickpeas, cannellini beans, and black beans, but pick a few of your favorites. They can be tossed into soups and pastas, mashed for sandwiches, sprinkled on salads, and so much more.

4. Frozen Brown Rice

Brown rice is a hearty, wholesome foundation for so many meals and keeping a bag of frozen brown rice on hand means you’ll save time on busy weeknights.

5. Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth is a key ingredient in vegetarian soups and stews but you can also simmer grains in it to make them even more flavorful. Opt for a low-sodium variety; my favorite is Imagine Foods.

6. Sliced Whole Grain Bread

Tuck a loaf in your freezer and you’ve got endless possibilities within reach. I love to make vegetarians toasts for lunch or a light dinner. I’ll swipe a toasted piece of bread with some hummus or mash an avocado on top. Then I’ll top it with roasted or raw veggies or a handful of arugula. I’ll drizzle olive oil on top, finish it with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and dig in.

7. Frozen Cheese Tortellini

Frozen tortellini feels so much more special than regular spaghetti. Toss it with marinara sauce to start, but look beyond the usual: It can be stir-fried with vegetables, dropped into soup, turned into a pasta salad, and more.

8. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are great to have in the pantry for a healthy snack. But they’re also a useful way to add protein, healthy fat, and fiber to vegetarian meals. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on salads, walnuts into a garlicky pesto, or top your avocado toast with pistachios.

9. Frozen Vegetables

Since frozen vegetables are flash frozen at the peak of freshness, they’re just as nutrient-dense as fresh vegetables. They also tend to be a whole lot cheaper, which is a definite perk when you’re trying to eat more veggies.

10. Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are a helpful ingredient in vegetarian soups and stews and they can also be transformed into satisfying sauces for pasta. I like whole canned tomatoes, because I find they have better flavor and it’s easy enough to crush, dice, or purée them yourself as needed.