Food & Cooking Articles   |  Healthier Eating

The Vegetarian Way

Adapting Your Recipes

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician

Prepare pasta sauces, pizza toppings, soups, stews, and other mixed dishes as you always do. However skip the meat and add more chopped vegetables. If you eat dairy products, sprinkle cheese on top for more protein and calcium.

Meat "analogs" are soy protein products that mimic different types of meat. Try vegetarian patties, bacon, and sausages at breakfast, pepperoni on pizza, burgers, "chicken" nuggets and patties—even barbecue ribs! Textured soy protein is often sold in a granular form. This works perfect in casseroles, soups, stews, lasagna, chili, enchiladas, and other mixed dishes.

Vegans take vegetarianism to the next level. They omit all animal products—including eggs, milk, and dairy products. Vegan dishes can make a healthy addition to your diet as well. Here’s how to adapt:

Eggs have many functions in a recipe. They can be used to thicken a recipe, bind ingredients together, coat breaded food items, or produce a baked product with a light tender texture. Without eggs, the quality of the food product often changes. Experiment with one of the following substitutions, but know that the results may differ.

  • 1 mashed banana in breads, muffins, or pancakes
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken a product
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu (blend tofu with the liquid ingredients until smooth, then add it to the dry ingredients)
  • Vegan egg replacement products
Try tofu, soymilk, soy cheese, and soy yogurt in recipes that call for dairy products. Crumbled tofu can take the place of ricotta cheese in lasagna. To make buttermilk, mix 1 cup soy milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Use soymilk when making puddings and mashed potatoes. Enjoy a thick, creamy fruit smoothie for breakfast or a snack. You can also blend the fruit with soft tofu, soymilk or juice.

When cooking for a vegan, read labels carefully. Not all soy-based products are devoid of milk derivatives (like casein, whey, etc). Some companies save you time by printing the word "Vegan" at the very beginning or end of the ingredients list. The same goes for vegetarians. Don’t assume the can of vegetable soup is vegetarian—many dishes like this have beef, chicken, or fish-based broths.
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