Vegetarian & Vegan Food Definitions

vegetarian and vegan food definitions

For those of who who are new to cooking for a vegetarian or vegan, here are a couple of Lifestyle definitions to help you out:

What is a Vegetarian?

One who does not eat meat. Meat includes fish, chicken, beef, deer, turkeys, frogs, etc. Also, the serious vegetarian doesn’t eat anything with any of these things in there! including broths or items made out of animal products (jello, marshmallows). You can find vegetarian versions of many items.

What is a Lacto-ovo Vegetarian?

A vegetarian who also eats eggs and dairy. Lacto=dairy; ovo=egg – so there are also lacto vegetarians and ovo vegetarians as well.

Cheese note: Most cheeses use animal-based rennet (calf stomach lining) as the enzyme. There are vegetarian-based rennets as well. Look at the ingredients. Cabot is one brand that uses vegetable-based rennet.

What is a Vegan? (Vee-Gan {hard G please})

One who does not eat any animal products or meat whatsoever. No meat, no eggs, no dairy, nothing with any of these items in there! This often includes honey as well. Often a vegan will also not wear or use anything with leather or animal hides, etc. You get the picture….

Why do Vegetarians / Vegans like “fake” meat?

Well, those I know, including myself, like the texture and taste of the “fake” meat products. We can continue to use old recipes and creating new ones in the kitchen with the substitute. The textures and tastes offer lots of variety too… And they taste good. In addition, the health benefits are protein, b-vitamins, soy isoflavones, etc. The vegetarian buddhists have been using mock meat products for hundreds of years.


Agave Nectar

Both honey and agave come from plants. While honey is, of course, made by bees from the sugary liquid they gather from flowers (along with internal bee enzymes), agave comes from the agave cactus. Agave looks like honey (although slightly thinner in consistency) and tastes pretty much like honey, but it does seem quite a bit sweeter, so a little goes a long way, and doesn’t interfere with the taste of other foods as much as honey does. In short, it’s delicious – Give it a try!


Edamame are fresh soybeans. You can find edamame in the freezer section – most definitely in the healthful food areas. Edamame can be eaten plain, used in soups, stir fries or salads. They are so delicious, just boiled and lightly salted. Some packages are pre-cooked so all you have to do is let them thaw or steam them. Edamame comes in the pod or pre-shelled. The pod ones are fun to eat. After steaming, pop the beans out of the shell, right into your mouth. You will be pleasantly surprised if you’ve never tried these before. Go for it.


Fermented soybean paste – it has a salty deep flavor depending on the type. You can dissolve 1 tbsp or so in 1 cup of water. Add more miso to desired flavor. Do not overcook the miso as its flavor will diminish. Once miso is opened, store it in the refrigerator. Miso comes in many varieties. The lighter and red variety generally have less sodium than the darker and longer-fermented misos. Although you may be familiar with miso soup at Japanese restaurants, miso originated in China thousands of years ago.

Nutritional Yeast Flakes:

Delicious nutty, “cheesy” flakes which are a great source of B vitamins and proteins. It is not brewer’s yeast nor does it taste yeasty. In fact, it is delicious sprinkled on pasta, popcorn, salads, you name it. It is vegan, low-fat and is often used sort of like a vegan parmesan cheese. In fact here is a recipe for it, if you want to doctor it up. I recommend it highly. You can get this in the health food aisles or stores – sometimes it is in the refrigerated sections and sometimes with the vitamins. Just ask the clerks.

Quinoa (keen-wa):

High in protein, full of iron and B-vitamins – this grain is a winner. Be sure to rinse it well as it has a bitter coating. Cook it up like rice and you will be surprised at its crunchy goodness. It’s a great alternative to rice and is good both hot and used in cold salads such as tabouli. It is golden in color and has a cute little curly top to boot. Give it a go.


Made from wheat gluten. It is basically wheat gluten flour mixed with spices, soy sauce and water, kneaded until very thick and gummy, formed into small pieces and then simmered (cooked) in a pot of vegetable broth. It results in a chewy textured piece of food that can be used in a variety of ways – sandwiches, stir-fries, seasoned as a sort of “fillet” with a side dish or two, in stews, you name it….


Soybeans that are cooked and fermented (with a tempeh starter) to create a highly nutritious firmly texture food. It is a complete protein which means it has all 9 essential amino acids. It has a nutty flavor and a nice chewy texture. Great for stir-fries, sandwiches, soups.


High protein, cholesterol-free food made by solidifying soy milk. Tofu can be extra firm, firm, silken. Extra firm or firm tofu are good for stir-fries and for anything that you would like to maintain its shape in. Silken tofu is good for smoothies, desserts and generally turns very mushy and creamy when used. Tofu is good in salads, soups, stir-fries, sandwiches, casseroles, anything.

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