Do you remember the first pair of sneakers you bought that molded to your feet and hardly felt like shoes at all? You wore them long past the time you should have thrown them away. Or maybe instead you have a favorite book, one that you return to over and over, simply because it speaks to you like no other book does.
When you find something you love, it's hard not to keep coming back to it. I hope you finally found the will to toss the sneakers, but chances are you'll never pitch the book. That's the way I feel about foods I've grown to love. Now, don't get me wrong. I'd much rather eat whole foods that I've prepared myself, but I'm also realistic. Some days I just don't have time to prepare an entire meal from scratch. Or maybe I can, but I don't want to also bake a loaf of bread from scratch every time I put together dinner. There's something to be said for the age of convenience.
That doesn't mean, though, that all convenience foods are equal (you know exactly what I mean). When I buy those types of foods today, I'm looking for products that are healthy, preferably organic, and vegan (of course!). Here is a list of some of my favorite brands:
Alvarado Street Bakery breads: Not all of their breads are vegan (some contain honey), but many are. My local grocery store right now only carries their breads, but I hope they begin carrying some of their other products soon (like bagels and tortillas). What I really like about their products is that many of their breads are made from sprouted seeds (like sprouted rye or sprouted wheat). When you eat sprouted seeds rather than flour, your body digests it more easily. They also don't use GMO (genetically modified) foods, and that is a huge plus for me. Most of their products contain no dairy or eggs, so most of their goods are vegan. YAY! If you're curious, you can check out Alvarado St. yourself!
Amy's Kitchen products: Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will find this entry as no surprise. Not all of Amy's products are vegan, but a good many are. More than that, though, Amy's prides itself for using natural and organic ingredients, and none of their ingredients are genetically modified. Amy's makes frozen foods, canned foods (like soups), and other products. Those products of Amy's that are not vegan are vegetarian. Some of my favorite Amy's products include the Bean and Rice Non-dairy Burrito (I will never grow tired of these!), the Black Bean Vegetable Enchilada entree, and the No Chicken Noodle Soup. And what would I do without their Roasted Vegetable Pizza? They label their vegan products so you can find what you need without wondering. Want to see their website yourself? Amy's Kitchen.
Kashi: Not all of their products are vegan, but like Amy's, they label the ones that are. I have to admit it: I love several of their frozen vegan entrees. On nights where I feel like I just can't do another thing, it's nice to be able to pop one of their entrees in the microwave. My faves include Black Bean Mango (so unusual but really good!), Mayan Harvest Bake (again, strange, but in a good way), and the Tuscan Veggie Bake (more traditional if your taste buds just want good old-fashioned comfort food). You can check them out here: Kashi.
Galaxy Nutritional Foods Rice Vegan American Flavor "Cheese" Slices: Most vegans I know worship at the alter of Daiya. Daiya's not bad, but it doesn't taste like cheese to me. I don't know how to describe it, but my taste buds are not fooled for one second. I still use their cheddar and mozzarella shreds, but I just can't embrace them as the vegan cheese. I've tried lots of vegan cheeses, and few have satisfied that occasional craving I get. That is, except one. When I use Galaxy's rice vegan American slices in a sandwich, I can believe I'm eating a good ol' slice of American cheese. I can't just have a grilled cheese sandwich, but if I have a veggie sandwich with a slice of rice vegan (or make a plate of nachos with refried beans, salsa, and rice vegan), I am happy! I have to go out of town to buy this cheese, so I'm glad I don't eat it a lot, but I'm looking forward to the day when my local health food store carries Galaxy products.
Boca: I'd almost bet there isn't a vegetarian out there who hasn't heard of Boca (well, American veggies, at any rate). I don't like all Boca products, but they do have a few I like. If you buy Boca, you'll notice that they package their non-GMO soy products differently, and those are the ones I buy. They are in brown packages, whereas their regular products are in red. Sometimes, dang it, I want a burger and fries, and I don't care how unhealthy they are, but my burger still has to be vegan. Some Boca products I love (all the non-GMO soy versions): Vegan Meatless Burger, Original Chik'n Patties, Original Chik'n Nuggets, Spicy Chik'n Patties, and Ground Crumbles. I don't know what I'd do if they didn't have non-GMO versions! I used to love Morningstar Veggie Patties, but they use egg products (and probably GMO products as well), so I hope someday Morningstar jumps on the vegan, non-GMO soy bandwagon...but I'm not holding my breath. Thank goodness Boca did!
505 Southwestern: I'm a sucker for a good salsa. Heck, I'm a salsa junkie. There. I admitted it, and I feel better now. 505 products aren't targeted toward vegan audiences, so I guess they're what PETA would call "accidentally vegan." My favorite products are both of their medium salsas, regular and chunky. I use them in and on so many foods. Their products are all natural, and any products that has just a few ingredients is better than a food that has dozens! For instance, that medium salsa I told you about? Seven ingredients, and one of them is water! So it's not an entire meal...but it can make any blah meal awesome! Check out 505 yourself and see what you think.
As I complete this list, I realize I've left off some products that aren't registering with me right off the bat. I think this list will give you a good idea, though, so next time you're too tired to whip up an entire meal from scratch, consider one of these products!