08 April 2011

Veggie newbie 101: Foods that are included & excluded in a plant based diet (part two)

Hot damnnnn....you're back! After yesterday's full-throttle background post on the ins and outs of a plant based lifestyle, I was wondering just how serious you were about getting this whole veggie thing straight in your head. You know what? I'm really impressed. Thanks so much for saddling up to your computer once again and willingly allowing new neural pathways to be built.

Sooo...no more dilly-dallying on my part -- it’s high time that you found out exactly what foods vegetarians and vegans exclude from their diet! The following summary of basic edibles should offer clarity, but please remember that the options expand exponentially when you include plant-based convenience foods and creative culinary endeavors.


• Fruits and Vegetables
• Peas, Lentils, Garbanzo Beans, and Other Assorted Legumes/Beans
• Nuts and Seeds Such As Walnuts, Cashews, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, etc.
• Quinoa, Rice, Wheat, Barley, Spelt and Other Types Of Whole Grains Found In Cereal, Flour, Bread, etc.
• Soy Products Such As Tofu, Tempeh, Miso, etc.
• Wheat Gluten (Seitan)
• Dairy Products Such As Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream, Milk, etc. (Only if one is a lacto, lacto-ovo, pesco, or conventional vegetarian.)
• Eggs (*Only if a one is a lacto, lacto-ovo, pesco, or conventional vegetarian.*)
• Soy or Other Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives
• Soy or Other Plant-Based Meat Alternatives


• Meat Such As Beef, Lamb, Pork, Veal, etc.
• Poultry Such As Chicken, Duck, and Turkey
• Seafood Such As Filets and Shellfish (Pescetarians are the exception.)
• Dairy Products Such As Eggs, Butter, Milk, Yogurt (Lacto, lacto-ovo, pesco and conventional vegetarians are the exception.)
• Honey (Lacto, lacto-ovo, pesco, and conventional vegetarians are the exception.)
• Gelatin (Less strict vegetarians sometimes allow this in their diets.)
• Conventionally Processed Sugar (Less strict vegetarians sometimes allow this in their diets.)

To the uninitiated, this lifestyle might sound somewhat limiting, but devout vegetarians insist that they have just as much culinary flexibility as mainstream eaters with none of the health or ethical side effects. It’s important to note that there are plant-friendly substitutes for every conceivable animal-based food, such as:


Store Bought Options:

From Earth Balance Natural Spread and Spectrum Naturals Spread to Shedd’s Willow Run Soybean Margarine and Soy Garden Soy Margarine, there are butter-like, non-hydrogenated oil alternatives to suit every taste.

DIY Options:

If your baking recipe calls for butter, use a proportionate amount of mashed banana, pumpkin or applesauce. You can also drizzle olive, flax or various types of nut oils on top of popcorn, potato dishes and any other item that traditionally calls for butter.


Store Bought Options:

If your weakness is parmesan, Galaxy Foods has you covered with their Vegan Grated Topping which boasts a taste bud-tickling blend of soy and rice flour while Eat in the Raw’s Parma! Vegan Parmesan stars finely ground walnuts and nutritional yeast. The Vegan Gourmet makes a really impressive meltable plant-based cheddar as does Vegan Rella and Lisanatti Foods. In fact, there are quite an array of interesting veggie options that do a fine job of mimicking the flavor of perennial cheese favorites by the likes of We Can’t Say It’s Cheese, Brute Island Foods, Dr. Cow, SoyCo and Follow Your Heart Natural Foods.

DIY Options:

You can certainly endeavor to make your own home-spun version, many of which rely on soaked nuts to impart their full-bodied flavor. Recipes abound on the internet as well as in vegetarian/vegan-friendly cookbooks, although the time investment is better suited to true foodies who consider the kitchen their ultimate playground.


Store Bought Options:

Prepackaged substitutes manufactured by Bob’s Red Mill and Ener-G Egg Replacer work really well when incorporated into baked goods and for a perfectly palatable alternative to scrambled eggs, it’s worth sampling Fantastic Foods Tofu Scrambler.

DIY Options:

For each egg required in a recipe for baked goods, try simmering one tablespoon of milled flax seed in three tablespoons of water, or blend one tablespoon of water with one rounded teaspoon of soy flour, or leave the water out altogether and simply just add two tablespoons of any of the following: arrowroot flour, potato starch, or cornstarch (per egg). If you’ve got scrambled animal-free eggs on your mind, blanch and then mash twelve ounces of tofu, sauté it in oil with the spices of your choice for roughly eight minutes and serve with typical breakfast accompaniments.


Store Bought Options:

Although they’re plant-based, faux meats are highly processed but they’re still a far healthier way to expand the culinary repertoire of vegetarians and vegans while keeping things cruelty-free. Among the vast offerings in this realm, fermented soybean/rice tempeh, tofu and seitan typically rise to the top of the list and yet those foods just scratch the surface of what’s available to today’s plant-based enthusiast. Everything from fake bacon, ground pseudo-beef, hot dogs and sausage to deli meats are manufactured by companies such as Lightlife, El Burrito, Field Roast, Amy’s Kitchen and Yves. Add to the list countless varieties of veggie burgers by Turtle Island, Gardenburger and Boca Burger and chicken-like offerings by Health Is Wealth, Gardein, Now & Zen, and White Wave. It all amounts to incredible meal time diversity for anyone who has a thing for their veggies.

DIY Options:

Yes, you can definitely make your own tofu using a variety of pretty simple methods, plus recipes for fresh tempeh and seitan also abound. With the right blend of ingredients and even a dose of creative inspiration, you can easily create a satisfying array of veggie burgers, loaves and other toothsome munchies, proving that where there’s a veggie-will, there’s definitely a way.


Store Bought Options:

Cows, goats, and sheep can finally get a break thanks to vegetarian-friendly alternatives derived from nuts, grain, rice, soy and coconut. While many of these plant-based beverages can be made in one’s kitchen, it’s a bit easier and more cost effective to purchase them at the grocery store. Keep an eye out for almond or hazelnut milk manufactured by Pacific Foods, casein-free rice milk by Hain Celestial, soy milk by Edensoy, coconut milk by So Delicious and/or multigrain milk by Soylutions.

DIY Options:

Are you really sure you want to go there? If so, the adventurous can enjoy free-for-all-access to a veritable cornucopia of homemade nut milk recipes on the internet, many of which come with really comprehensive tutorials and videos. YouTube, Howcast, iFoodTV and Chow are good places to launch your veggie-milk recipe search.

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/anubis-