Vegans vs. Vegetarians: What’s the difference?

June 30th, 2011

Back in the day, there were only vegetarians and meat-eaters, the only question being whether or not you ate animal products. Today vegetarianism comes in all forms: you have pesco-vegetarians (vegetarians who eat fish), pollo-pescotarians (fish and poultry), lacto-vegetarians (dairy), and ovo-lacto-vegetarians (dairy and eggs). But no branch has sparked as much debate as the vegetarian vs. vegan movement.

Veganism, a term first coined in 1944, can be considered an extreme form of vegetarianism. While a vegetarian diet can be fairly loose–in some cultures “meat-free” dishes can include clams and fish–veganism rules out all animal products. There are two types of vegans: dietary vegans, who only avoid animal products in their diet, and ethical vegans, who avoid them altogether. Ethical vegans don’t just avoid meat and dairy; they also stay away from foods whose production involves animals in any way, and non-food products such as leather, fur, and cosmetics tested on animals.

In other words, vegetarianism is just another kind of diet, while veganism is a way of life. One can become a vegetarian for health or avoid meat on a purely gustatory level. The decision to go vegan usually runs much deeper, driven by personal and philosophical beliefs. Many vegans are against animal cruelty, and tend to have very strict ideas of what constitutes cruelty (e.g. is it still cruel if your bacon lived a good life and died painlessly?). Environmental, social, and political concerns can also come into play.

Veganism can be very limiting, especially for someone coming off a fairly unrestricted diet. It’s a well-known fact in vegan circles that gelatin contains collagen, a protein found in animal bones, and that red food dyes are made from insects called cochineals. But a closer look reveals that animals are involved in seemingly innocent products. Some sugars are whitened with bone charcoal. Wines and beers are sometimes made with animal albumin, milk proteins, and isinglass, which comes from fish bladders. That’s why many vegans start off with a vegetarian diet and go into it gradually.

So at the end of the day, the choice depends on how far you want to go. Not everyone is motivated enough to expand dietary choices to their entire lifestyle, but both are a step in the right direction when it comes to sustainable living. As long as your health and budget allow it, going vegan just as good a choice as going vegetarian.

The Lowdown on Fake Meats

June 25th, 2011

Mock meats have gone from hiding in specialty stores in hippie neighborhoods to being a staple in every grocery. They now cater to a different kind of vegan/vegetarian: the kind who have decided to cut their ties with meat but cannot seem to part with the cravings. Soy products–including the broad range of fake meats that have come into the market–constitute the biggest part of the vegan market. But are they really that good for you?

Some people have argued that on a nutritional level, mock meats leave a lot to be desired. Sure, they put protein in an otherwise protein-poor diet. But many are so full of preservatives and artificial flavorings that real meat may actually be safer. Plus, the high temperatures required for their production drain away most of the other nutrients, and they’ve been known to cause digestion issues because of their heavily processed content.

Not all fake meats are bad for you. It depends on what they’re made from, and how much processing goes into it. Tofu-based products, such as the popular Tofurkey, are heavy and filling but the synthetic content can be all over the scale. A close competitor is seitan, which is made from washing the starch off wheat flour so that only the gluten remains. It’s said to be the “meatiest” of meat substitutes, so much that even some vegetarians avoid it. The catch is that most commercially available seitan is high in sodium, so it’s best to look at the labels or have it in moderation.

Tempeh is another popular meat substitute. Originally from Indonesia, it’s made from soy beans that have been naturally fermented and molded into “cakes,” much like tofu but with a firmer texture and a flavor described by many as nutty. Its taste has been likened to tuna and it’s a popular choice for sandwiches, barbecues, and salads. Among available meat substitutes, it’s probably the least processed and comes the most highly recommended by most doctors.

Sports nutritionist Mitzi Dulan reminds vegetarians and vegans that there are other protein sources besides processed meat. Beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains are equally rich in protein, not to mention cheaper and preservative-free. Mushrooms are great at simulating the taste and texture of meat; many vegetarians consume portobello and cremini on a regular basis.

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to replacing meat in your diet. But if you’re serious about your new lifestyle, cutting the cravings is a more long-term solution. Vegetarianism may require some sacrifices on the gustatory level, but the nutritional, environmental, and economic benefits are more than worth the effort.

Two Great Vegetarian Pasta Salad Recipes

June 22nd, 2011

Looking for a great salad for that next BBQ with friends – try the two recipes below for great tasting vegetarian pasta salad.

Awesome Vegetarian Pasta Salad

This pasta  salad is easy to make and can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.  This dish is great for BBQs and can be served with or without meat.  Recipe serves 8 people.

Ingredients:

60g of Snow Peas, cut into pieces

2 Carrots, Shredded

1/2 Cup of frozen sweet corn

1/2 Cup of frozen peas

2 Broccoli cut into small floret’s

6 Green shallots, chopped

500g of penne pasta

1/2 to 1 cup of honey soy mayonnaise

3 Tbsp reduced fat sour cream

1 Tbsp mustard

1 Tbsp McCormick’s ‘Season All’ Seasoning

1 Tbsp Lemon rind

1 pinch of salt

Method:

1.  In a small sauce pan bring some water up to the boil and add the broccoli florets.  After about 4 minutes of cooking add the frozen peas, corn and then the snow peas.  Allow to boil for a further 4 minutes and then strain under cold water.

2.  In a separate saucepan boil the pasta until cooked

3.  In a large bowl mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lemon rind, seasoning and the salt.

4.  Combine all the other ingredients and mix until combined

5.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Yummy Vegetarian Pasta Salad

This is another great dish to eat during the hot summer months and a great dish to take to a BBQ.  This recipe makes enough for 4 serves.

Ingredients:

400g of Spiral Pasta

1 corn on the cob, with husk and silk removed

250g of fresh peas, shelled

2 tsp of olive oil

250g cherry tomatoes, chopped

160g fire roasted marinated red pepper strips, drained

2 Celery sticks, sliced

1 and 1/3 cup of fresh basil leaves

Black Pepper ground

6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 tbs white wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp water

300g packet silken tofu, chopped

salt

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180° C.  In a large saucepan boil some water and add the pasta with a small pinch of salt.  Follow the packet directions for cooking the pasta.  Drain the pasta in cold running water and place in a large bowl.

2.  While cooking the pasta use this time to make the basil and garlic mayonnaise.  Make a small cut in each of the cloves of garlic and place on a baking tray.  Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes or until tender.  Remove the garlic from the oven and set aside to cool.  Peel the garlic and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the basil, vinegar, mustard, oil and water and blend until smooth.  Gradually add the chopped tofu until combined then season with salt and pepper.

3.  Use a small sharp knife to cut down the length of the corn cob and remove the kernels.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan and add corn and peas.  Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until tender.

4.  Add corn mixture to the pasta as well as the tomatoes, pepper strips, celery and basil.  Add the mayonnaise and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Delightful and Easy Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe

June 8th, 2011

For people who choose to eat a vegetarian diet it is important to have a few easy to prepare meals that taste great.  Pasta dishes especially spaghetti are great for vegetarian meals as they are generally easy to prepare and the addition of vegetables increases the health benefits of these types of meals.  The following is a great vegetarian recipe to add to your collection.

Vegetarian Spaghetti

Ingredients:

1 Brown Onion, Chopped

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 Cloves of Garlic, Crushed

2 Zucchini, chopped

1 Medium Egg Plant, chopped

2 Yellow Squash, Chopped

3/4 Cup of red lentils, drained

2 Tomatoes, chopped

800g bottle of Italian Tomato Pasta Sauce

350g of broccoli, cut into florets

1/4 Cup of Parsley

375g of dried spaghetti

Shaved Parmesan cheese

Method:

1.  In a large heavy based sauce pan heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onion and he garlic to the sauce pan and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is soft.

2.  Add the squash, zucchini and eggplant to the sauce pan and cook for 5 minutes while stirring.  Add the lentils, tomato, pasta sauce and 1/2 cup of cold water.  Bring the contents up to the boil and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook covered for approximately 20 minutes add broccoli and cook for a further 10 minutes uncovered until the lentils are tender.

3.  In a separate saucepan add enough water to cover the spaghetti, a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.  Follow the pack instructions for how long to cook the spaghetti.  Once cooked drain the pasta.

4.  Divide the cooked spaghetti into serves and top with the vegetable sauce.  Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top.

Going Vegan on a Budget

June 3rd, 2011

If there’s one thing that keeps people from going vegetarian or vegetarians from going vegan, it’s the supposed lack of options–and the prohibitive price range in the options they do have. Vegan groceries and restaurants are notorious for their overpriced tofu and thirty-dollar sandwiches. But healthy living is cheaper and more varied than most people think.

It all started with the idea that vegan food is “fancy.” It’s not–it’s just that companies tend to overvalue vegan choices knowing that their market has limited choice. A vegan sandwich may cost no more than a chicken one, maybe even less, but since it’s hard to find, vegans are willing to spend the extra $5 on it. If you shop smart, however, you can avoid these pitfalls without resorting to bland food.

Start by stocking up on filling items, such as beans. Beans can be bought by the sack for cheap, even at non-specialty stores. They’re also a good source of protein. To save even more money, buy dried beans and soak them overnight, so they’re softer by the time they’re ready to cook. Use them in salads, soups and stews, wrap sandwiches, and any dish that could use a bit more volume.

Whole grains should also be a staple in your diet. While you don’t need them in every meal, they make a nice complement to beans and other protein sources. The best prices are usually found in local markets, where they come in buckets and are sold by weight. Think beyond rice and oatmeal and try barley, millet, and quinoa–all are cheap, easy to prepare, and go with pretty much anything.

Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables–next to carbs and protein, they’re the most important part of a vegan diet. The key is to shop by region and season. Stock up on whatever’s cheap and available this time of the year. Shop at farmer’s markets to get the best deals in price and quality. Better yet, grow your own produce if you have the space or if there are community gardens in your area.

Finally, you need a source of calcium. Most vegans spend the bulk of their food budget on milk and dairy substitutes. Some experts suggest using nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute, as its cheaper than the more popular soy cheese. Vegan milk options are practically endless; besides soy, you can now find almond milk, rice milk, barley milk, and peanut milk, all of which are a great addition to your diet.