Vegan Diet – Getting to Know the Grocery Store
You’ve cleaned out your cupboards, made your shopping list, and learned how to identify animal-based ingredients at a glance. It’s time to go shopping and perhaps visit aisles you’ve never ventured down before!
Habituated to choosing the same items again and again, we’re not even aware of how unconscious our choices are when we shop. But make no mistake about it. Though it appears you’re exercising personal choice and freedom when you choose one product over another, massive efforts and huge amounts of money go into influencing—that is, manipulating—your decisions. Careers are built on the study of consumer behavior, and each and every item sold in the grocery store—the average supermarket sells 40,000 edible products—is methodically shelved, priced, and advertised based on the results of these studies.
At a time when cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity are at an all-time high, food companies famously shirk responsibility and deny their own influence, claiming that individuals have the freedom to make their own personal choices and are clearly choosing the foods that they want.
CHALLENGE YOUR THINKING:
Though it appears you’re exercising personal choice and freedom when you choose one product over another, massive efforts and huge amounts of money go into influencing—that is, manipulating—your decisions.
CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR:
Make informed food choices by becoming a conscious, informed, savvy shopper. You often hear this type of reasoning in the attempt to justify people’s consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs: “If people didn’t want these things, they wouldn’t buy them. The animal products industries are just filling a consumer demand.” Never mind that the demand is created and shaped by the very companies that have the most to gain. Every day, every moment—whether it’s through radio and television commercials; magazine, newspaper, and Internet advertisements; supermarket product placement; billboards; or celebrity endorsements—we are told what to eat, especially when it comes to animal products. We’re told that “real men eat beef,” that humans are supposed to consume the milk of another animal, that chicken’s eggs are “nature’s perfect food.” Unless you live in a hole in the ground, you’re not immune to these messages, which are so powerful, so prevalent, and so effective that any recommendation against consuming meat, dairy, and eggs appears biased.
This plays out in the number of times I’ve heard people declare that vegans have an “agenda”: “It’s fine if they want to eat that way, but they shouldn’t tell other people how to eat. They shouldn’t impose their opinions on others.” Yet the companies that have the most to gain are telling us how to eat all the time. We’ve been conditioned to believe that to consume meat, dairy, and eggs is to take a neutral position but to be vegan is to have an agenda. Just one critically minded walk through a typical grocery store is enough to demonstrate that we choose—almost hypnotically—what the food companies want us to choose—primarily in the form of unhealthful animal products and processed junk.
CHALLENGE YOUR THINKING:
To eat and promote meat and other animal-derived products is to take a position; meat is not neutral.
So how do you take this inevitable weekly or biweekly trek through the supermarket and make the most healthful, conscious, compassionate choices possible? Consider the next 30 days an exercise in looking through a vegan lens. As you begin to look at the world this way, you see options you never noticed before. It’s just a matter of opening your eyes and venturing down some new aisles.
• Learn the layout: Once you begin seeking it out, you’ll find vegan food all over the place, everywhere you look. Here are some tips for finding vegan items that may be new to you. Placement may vary from store to store, but in general:
• Nondairy milks are next to dairy-based milks in the refrigerated section, but aseptically packaged milks are on the shelves where similarly packaged juice boxes are kept.
• Nondairy butters, yogurts, and cheeses are next to dairy-based butters, yogurts, and cheeses.
• Vegetarian meats, tempeh, and tofu tend to be shelved together in the dairy section. Some grocery stores shelve them in the freezer. Silken tofu, however, in cardboard aseptic packages, tends to be shelved either with baking ingredients or in the Asian section of a grocery store.
• Some brands of eggless mayonnaise are in the condiment section, but some are refrigerated in the dairy section.
• Commercial egg replacer powder tends to be with baking ingredients. Don’t be led astray by a grocery clerk who brings you to the refrigerated section to show you Egg Beaters in the little carton. They’re still eggs—they’re just egg whites.
• Nondairy ice creams are in the freezer with dairy-based ice creams.
• Veggie burgers are often in the frozen section, though tofu-based burgers tend to be in the refrigerated section next to the tofu. Burger mixes, such as those by Fantastic Foods, would most likely be in the aisle with similar types of prepared boxed foods that just call for adding hot water.
• PICK UP A NEW FOOD: The most familiar vegan foods for you will be vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, mushrooms, herbs, and spices, but just because you know what a vegetable is doesn’t mean you’ve tried them all. Pick up a new plant food today in any of the aforementioned categories and give it a try.
• GO INTERNATIONAL: Check out the shelves reserved for Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Indian food items. You’ll find sauces, condiments, prepared meals, spices—most of which happen to be vegan.
• ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT: If your store doesn’t carry a vegan item you’re looking for, ask them to stock it. If their distributors carry it, the store will more than likely be happy to sell it—especially if they know at least one person will buy it. (Most likely, more people will buy it once it’s stocked, and the store will continue selling it.)
• SHOP ON THE PERIMETER: The outside aisles are where you’ll find the fresh, whole foods, such as produce and bulk items such as grains and nuts. More processed products are in the center aisles.
• SHOP BY COLOR: This is easy to do when you’re centering your diets on whole foods (not colorfully packaged items). When in the produce section, fill your cart with as much color variety as possible.
In addition to health food stores and vegan stores, don’t forget to check out those little neighborhood markets that cater to specific cuisines. You can find an array of tantalizing plant-based condiments, spices, and herbs in Indian, Middle Eastern, Asian, or Mexican markets.
VEGAN GROCERY STORES
Although you can find almost any of the vegan food items I recommend in natural food stores, online and bricks-and-mortar vegan grocery stores are popping up all over the world. The following vegan-owned companies specialize in food but also carry an array of compassionate products such as clothing, shoes, and toiletries.
• Food Fight Vegan Grocery in Portland, Oregon. Online and retail store (foodfightgrocery.com).
• Cosmos Vegan in Marietta, Georgia. Shop via the online store, and have items shipped or pick up your order at their showroom during visiting hours (cosmosveganshoppe.com).
• Park + Vine in Cincinnati, Ohio. Retail storefront (parkandvine.com).
• Sidecar Pigs for Peace in Seattle, Washington. Shop online or in person (sidecarforpigspeace.com).
• Vegan Essentials in Wisconsin. Online shopping; no in-person shopping, but they welcome you to pick up orders that are placed online, or visit to try on footwear (veganessentials.com).
• Vegan Store in Rockville, Maryland. Online store, open for walk-in customers during select hours (veganstore.com).