We may as well call 2020 the year of the plant-based diet: Meat eaters, flexitarians and vegetarians around the country are embracing more than one Meatless Monday meal a week. Plant-based newbie or not, you may need food-shopping inspiration when it comes to healthy vegetarian grocery picks. And even better when those plant-centric eats are sold at bargain prices at ALDI. We tapped plant-based dietitians who happen to be ALDI regulars for the items they can’t leave the store without.
1. Red Grapes
As a plant-forward registered dietitian nutritionist, I can’t go to ALDI without grabbing a bag of grapes. To me, they’re one of nature’s sweetest treats, whether I eat them straight from the bag or frozen. And they’re super hydrating, with a water content over 80 percent. But they often end up being an investment, with prices as high as $3.99 per pound at the typical grocery store. At my local ALDI in Union City, NJ, I can score them for just a little over $1 a pound.
While you're in the produce aisle, take advantage of the affordable avocados at ALDI. “Avocados are my favorite source of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats,” says Erin Hendrickson, RDN, a Nashville-based dietitian specializing in reduced food waste. “This healthy fat helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K from other veggies — so avocado and a vegetable-packed salad are the perfect pair!” Janeiro notes that an avocado costs as little $.39 cents at her local store.
Here’s a veggie that’s an excellent source of immunity-helping vitamin C. “The vegetable is versatile for grilling, casseroles, stir-fries and stuffing,” says Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Jamison, PA. “Zucchini is a really inexpensive vegetable at ALDI for those times of the year when local gardens aren’t bursting with them.” To be exact, you can get a 20-ounce bag of the veggie for less than $2 in Union City, NJ.
4. Simple Nature Organic Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce
A benefit of shopping at ALDI: You get organic offerings for lower prices. This pasta sauce is a favorite of Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, a dietitian in Jackson, TN. “Not only does it taste delicious, it has really simple ingredients with no added sugar or oil,” she says. “Plus, a half cup has a full serving of vegetables in it!” Janeiro isn’t the only nutritionist who’s a fan: The sauce wears a “Good Housekeeping” Nutritionist-Approved seal.
5. Dakota's Pride Black Beans
Go ahead and pick up this BPA-free can next time you’re at ALDI. “The ingredients are minimal: just beans, water and salt,” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, a dietitian in Cincinnati, OH, who notes the canned food is a staple in her house. “Nutritionally speaking, you can't beat beans,” she adds. “They're an inexpensive form of protein.” They’re also an excellent source of filling fiber. Andrews enjoys them with salsa, cumin and garlic for a quick side dish or filling for tacos.
6. Barissimo Single Origin Colombia 100% Arabica Ground Coffee
Surprised that ALDI sells premium, fair-trade-certified coffee? “The fair-trade certified seal ensures fair wages and safer working conditions for coffee producers, as well as environmental protections where the coffee is grown,” says Hendrickson. “At ALDI, I can buy an entire bag of this coffee for the same price as just one cup in a coffee shop.” And nope, coffee isn’t just liquid energy. “It contains B vitamins, which can provide a mood boost when absorbed into the bloodstream,” adds Hendrickson.
7. Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
“Olive oil is my preferred oil to use, due to its high amounts of healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants,” says Janeiro. This pick boasts a North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) Quality Seal. “That means it has met the purity and authenticity standards set by the International Olive Council, so you know you're getting the best,” says Janeiro. And you can’t beat the price: a 16.9-ounce bottle is less than $4 at the ALDI in Union City, NJ.
8. Millville Traditional Steel Cut Oats
“When I’m hungry for a bowl of warm oats in the morning, this is what I turn to,” says Marie Dittmer, MA, RDN, a dietitian in Pewaukee, WI. “The steel-cut oats I get from ALDI have only one ingredient: whole-grain oats. They provide fiber and make for a filling breakfast.” Plus, Dittmer says, they cost less than steel-cut oats in most other grocery stores.
9. Simply Nature Organic Strawberries
Don’t pass by the freezer aisles at ALDI because that’s where you’ll score some major finds. “I always keep a bag of frozen strawberries in my freezer, as they make a great vehicle for smoothies,” says Dixya Bhattarai, RD, a culinary nutritionist in Fort Worth, TX. The berries are an excellent source of vitamin C, and Bhattarai suggests blending them with non-dairy milk, baby spinach and nut butter. Frozen strawberries also work great in high-protein overnight oats. This product wears the “Good Housekeeping” Nutritionist-Approved seal.
10. Little Salad Bar Asian Chopped Salad Kit
This blend of green and red cabbage, romaine lettuce, kale and other veggies provides the perfect base for a plant-based meal. “This salad kit is a must for an easy weeknight dinner loaded with flavor,” says Colleen Christensen, RD, a nutritionist in Grand Rapids, MI, who prefers the salad served warm. “It's a great way to get loads of veggies that also taste great — with little work on your part.” Top the salad with a scoop of rinsed canned chickpeas or a slab of grilled tofu.
11. Park Street Deli Red Pepper Hummus Mini Cups
Let’s be real: Hummus is one of the best plant-based snacks of all time. And even better if you can get it in a single-serve cup to make it easy on the go. This red pepper hummus is made with whole foods, and steamed chickpeas and roasted red pepper are the first two ingredients. The fan favorite is also a top pick for Dittmer. “Hummus is always a nutritious choice for dipping with vegetables for a snack,” she says.
12. Simply Nature Organic Original Soymilk
In each cup of this soy milk, you get 7 grams of plant protein. “Soy milk provides a nearly equivalent protein amount as dairy milk,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, a dietitian in Frederick, MD. “Plus, you get calcium, vitamin D and other micronutrients. I use it for smoothies, cereal and oatmeal — and in baking.”
13. Cook House Tikka Masala Sauce
Who says all your sauces have to be homemade? ALDI makes it easy to take healthy shortcuts, such as with this simmer sauce. “The tomato-based sauce is a staple in my household,” says Hendrickson. “It’s packed with spices like garlic, ginger and turmeric to reduce inflammation. And lycopene, a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, helps protect the body’s tissues from free-radical damage.” Hendrickson enjoys the sauce on top of spaghetti squash and garbanzo beans — a meal that she says costs her family less than $2 a serving.
14. Stonemill Black Peppercorn Grinder
Talk about lots of flavor for just a couple of bucks. This grinder is a staple for Bhattarai. “Spices are a must in my kitchen, as they enhance dishes to a whole other level,” she says. Plus, when you pair black pepper with a turmeric-containing product — such as the simmer sauce that Hendrickson loves — the combo allows your body to better absorb the benefits of turmeric. And spices generally provide lots of flavor for very little calories and sodium. “Having a well-stocked spice cabinet allows you to create delicious meals without having to depend on pre-packaged seasonings, which are often loaded with sodium,” says Bhattarai.
15. Specially Selected Garlic Naan Bread
Fresh, delicious bread? Yep, you can get that at ALDI too! Schlichter is a fan of the garlic naan. “I use this for everything from sandwiches to breakfast wraps to easy mini pizzas,” says Schlichter. You can get inventive with naan pizza recipes — try a white bean pizza, for example. “The bread provides energizing carbohydrates, B vitamins and iron,” adds Schlichter.
16. Moser Roth Premium Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
When you’re filling up your shopping cart, you can’t forget about a health-boosting dessert. An ALDI-fan favorite, this German-made chocolate is fair trade. “That’s important to consider when buying chocolate,” says Altman-Traub. In addition to antioxidants, dark chocolate boasts other benefits. “It provides fiber, iron and magnesium,” she adds. Talk about a plant-based win!
17. Simply Nature Unsweetened Apple Fruit Squeezies
Have little ones at home? “Unsweetened and shelf stable, these squeezies are great to keep in my diaper bag for an emergency snack for my two small kiddos,” says Janeiro, noting they came in handy on a recent 13-hour road trip. Adults can get on board, too, with this baking tip. “I like to use applesauce when baking as a way to add natural sweetness and decrease fat content and calories,” she says. “If you only need a small amount, these pouches are a great way to only use what you need.”
18. Southern Grove Cocoa Almonds
Here’s another pick for a sweet, healthy treat. “These nuts are fairly low in sugar, with 5 grams per 1-ounce serving,” says Andrews. “Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fat and protein — and make a great treat for an RD with a sweet tooth.”