Vegetarian Primer

I am considering walking on the Vegetarian side. Now this is a pretty big step so I need knowledge and guidence. Does anyone know a good cookbook? I do not want to short my growing kids on their protein needs. So where does one start? The brothers are not picky eaters so new stuff is not an issue but this will be a significant change. I don’t want to waste my money on books that don’t contain the info I need. Anyone…Anyone???

Why do you want to be a vegetarian?

Sorry if that sounds a little pointed and personal a question, but speaking from experience, if you don’t want to do it (you merely feel you ought to), it will make you miserable.

Anyway; are you planning to go strict vegan (no animal products at all) or conventional ovo-lacto-vegetarian (allowing yourself to eat dairy products and eggs)? Will you be foregoing fish or not?

  • These are important questions as a vegan diet that excludes all of those things is something that you will need to be quite careful about.

Anyway, you’ll probably find yourself eating a lot of beans, soya and wheat products (pasta, bread etc) - do you like/dislike these things?

There must be hundreds of websites out there with veggie-specific info; I’ll see what I can trawl up in the way of links.

Back later.

I really like the Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook . There are a lot of good recipes, with fiarly easy-to-find ingredients. I found that a lot of the veggie cookbooks I got used some off the wall ingredients, that were either hard to find, or too pricy to make one dish from.

It’s really not hard at all to get the amount of protein that you need with a non-meat diet. IIRC, that cookbook has a list of foods and what they contain as far as nutrition goes. I don’t know where mine is right now, so I can’t look it up, but it really is a good book.

OK im not one for following a recipe but there are a few web sites I have used to get some ideas.
Here are a few links.

Also if you are into packaged foods there are a lot of soy based products that are very good matches for the real thing (at least as far as taste goes, IMO).
One of the neatest things I have found about not eating meat is when I go to a resturant I find I often have limmited choices (duh) and order stuff I would have never thought of getting back when I was less choosy about my foods. More often than not it is a meal I really enjoy. So in some ways by removing meat, I have actually expanded the list of foods I enjoy.
Good luck, hope it works out for ya.

One of my kids wants to try giving up meat for Lent. So I thought it would be an interesting experiment. I am not thinking of going so far as vegan and we will still eat fish and eggs just not every day. I also want to see just how much we rely on meat in our daily lives. I have found that abstaining from something causes you to focus no how much you rely on that thing. Also I figured I could just give up all my vices at once. Just to see. Strange? Maybe but I never claimed to be normal. That being said I do not want to screw with my kids health so I have to do this the right way.

I think the only way that someone could have an unhealthy vegetarian diet is if they cut out meat, and then do nothing to replace it. I went to school with a girl who was vegetarian. While I was eating a baked potato with broccoli and cheese at lunch, she was eating chips and cookies and stuff. She cut out meat, and decided that she could subsist on a diet of french fries and chips and other junk food, and in return she was unhealthy and sick all of the time.

And yeah, it is a little harder to find food when you go out (especially fast food) if you don’t eat meat, but a lot of places do offer veggie dishes and meatless burgers, and you can even find things at fast food places if you “have” to eat there for some reason.
Of course, one of the best things that I found was that by not eating meat, I also drastically reduced the meals that I ate out of my house, which was not only healthier but also less expensive.

When I went veggie (ahem, fish-e-tarian to be precise), I went slowly and gradually. Gave up one thing at a time. First to go was beef – being the most expensive thing on my budget, I found I really didn’t eat all that much beef to begin with. Every now and then I’d get a craving and go get a steak. Did not beat myself up for “cheating”. Then I gave up pork… and ate only chicken, fish and seafood. Now I’m down to fish and seafood. Never gave up dairy.

One of the main reasons for these choices, in my case, was that my cholesterol was through the roof. Eliminating mammal and bird fats from my diet was the easiest way to get it under control, without meds and without giving up my favorite foods. Also not eating anything deep fried helped considerably. I now cannot eat anything deep fried.

Just be aware that a diet of carbs (esp. starches like potatoes, pasta and rice dishes) can actually help you gain weight, if you’re not exercising regularly. I’ve learned to avoid substituting heavy starchy dishes for protein dishes.

Things with loads of protein in them:
•_mushrooms (portobellos, made properly, can taste just like steaks)
•_tofu and other soy-based products (Morningstar Farms makes excellent meat substitute, soy-based frozen meals)
•_peanut butter
•_lentils and other types of legumes – watch out for starches!
•_dairy products – full of protein if you can handle the lactose

All of the above, coupled with many different fresh veggies and fruits, and in my case fish and seafood, round out my diet. Besides asthma from smoking… I haven’t been sick in at least three years. YMMV.

And to anyone who is not veggie and finds themselves in a position to feed a vegetarian, one word of advice (actually a sentence): salad is not an entree.

I was 15 when I became a vegetarian, but I was a very picky eater, and was frightened of eating new things. I ended up eating nothing but pasta for years! Anyhow, I’ve vastly expanded my horizons, and now eat lots of food made specifically for vegetarians. I don’t have any good recipees for you, as I don’t cook anything but frozen stuff, but I can tell you some quick, easy things to pick up that are suprisingly tasty:

Gardenburger – Original (a lot of frozen veggie burgers have a fishy taste. I think they use seaweed, and it just doesn’t taste right) I fry the Gardenburger up on my stove, slap some cheese on it, and I’ve got dinner in 10 minutes.

Boca makes some great products. Try their smoked sausage. It’s great.

Oh, and I just discovered a line of frozen burritos (they have vegan and just vegetarian stuff). It’s all organic, and is way better than anything you’ll find at Taco Bell. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the brand name off hand…

Anyhow, good luck:)

Exactly how I started, after meeting a few vegetarians and vegans. Now, and year and a half later, I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian going strong.

Some people say it’s easiest to go bit by bit, but I just did it cold turkey :wink: and, surprisingly, it wasn’t very hard. This from a guy who used to manage a steakhouse and have free steak dinner 6 nights a week.

I’d say the hardest thing is re-learning how to cook. Mom’s way of serving up mushy vegetables just won’t cut it.

Ooh. Gardenburger Fire Roasted Veggie burgers are great too.
Morningstar Farms also has great “fast food.” They’ve got black bean burgers and these breakfast “sausage” patties, that I like to cook up and crumble and put on homemade pizza. That’s especially good when I lived near my brother, and he’d come over and had dinner. He couldn’t tell the difference.

I found going vegetarian pretty easy. In general I eat the same kinds of things I ate before. You can have stir-frys, burritos, pasta dishes, soups- just without the meat. My “staple” is beans and rice, which I eat in some form almost every day (either in Mexican food, or as a soup, or just on it’s own with some kind of interesting sauce). I rarely cook tofu or any specialized vegetarian products.

My favorite cookbook is Mark Bittmen’s]How to Cook Everything. It’s not a vegetarian cookbook, but it has good solid recipes for vegetables and grains, and many of the recipes can be easily adapted to be vegetarian. I also look up a lot of recipes on the Internet- just search for “Vegetarian Borsht” or whatever it is that you want to make. I’ll looks at a few recipes and then average them out. I’ve been pretty unhappy with most of my specifically vegetarian cookbooks. I cook a lot of “ethnic food” and it seems like most veg cookbooks take a lot of liberties regarding authenticity and taste… I’d rather just adapt a real recipe.

As long as you arn’t vegan, and you eat some semblence of a varied diet, your kids will be fine. It’s hard not to get enough protein in this country, even for vegetarians.

And one more thing- eat Chik Patties! They are the best vegetarian meat-substitute product out there (and the only one I eat regularly). A Chik Patty sandwich on French bread with mustard and fried onions and lettuce and tomatoes and pepper jack cheese is as close to sublime as a sandwhich can get.

What to do, what to do. This is really more an IMHO thing, but the foodies live in Cafe Society.

I’m gonna go with IMHO since there are other issues here.

Go to

LOTS of information for you.

One cookbook I like is:this.

And the Vegetarian’s “Bible” :
Back to Eden
is an essential. Mostly old herbal medicine, but it has a lot of convincing information for vegetarianism. 1000+ pages. A bargain at $9.95

I eat pasta and sandwiches. There are tons and tons of recipes for both. But be careful of the packaged soy products like the sandwich “meats” (which I really love). They are usually high in sodium. Still better for you than meat, but still. Take it easy. Packy your sandwich with veggies, not fake meat.

Some other Great websites:

The Vegetarian Epicure and The Vegetarian Epicure, book two are the cookbooks that I would recommend. Also, The Classic Iatlian Cookbook isn’t entirely vegetarian but it does have some of the best recipes that I know.

My favorite cookbook is The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook It has a good bunch of solid recipes that are vegan and taste just like home-cooking. Lots of veggie versions of “normal” food. It also has several pages of vegan nutritional info (protien, calcium, B12, etc.)

The Vegetarian Epicure (linked above) is also very good.

VegSource is a good website with friendly message boards.

VegWeb has lots of recipes.

As long as you eat a varied diet, you shouldn’t have any nutrition problems, especially if you’re going to still be eating dairy and eggs. If the kids (or you!) start craving something meat-like, MorningStar products are great, especially their fake chicken stuff like patties or nuggets. Boca Burgers also rock.

Another good one is called “The Gradual Vegetarian.” She has different stages in switching to a no-meat diet, and suggests that you may shift along the continuum several times before you settle in the vegetarian section. She also talks about your motivation. Someone who is going vegetarian for health reasons will have a different approach and diet than someone who is concerned about the ethical treatment of animals. I can’t remember who wrote it, but it’s a good book. Oh, yeah, and it has a lot of recipes.

The Grit Cookbook has some really great recipes. Lovely desserts too. It’ll also tell you if something is vegan, as opposed to just vegetarian (if you’re so inclined). Give this one a try - it’ll surprise you with how good it is.

PS - ‘Grit’ is the name of the restaurant that wrote this book, not an ingredient in the book.

I just had an epiphany one day and never ate meat again. I eat lots and lots of cheese. mmmMMmmm cheese. :slight_smile:

One of my favorite cookbooks is The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

I can’t imagine that you’ll have much trouble adjusting to your new diet if you eat dairy and eggs, and fish. I had a friend who loved to eat meat, but had a bad heart attack (at age 30!) and forever on he has to control his cholesterol. He eats lots of fish and veggies—eats very healthily. Better than me, to be sure.

This is more of a diet cookbook, but I love the recipes of Mary McDougall. I love her pasta sauce (and it’s easy to make) and her chili.

Another thing I want to touch upon—Dogzilla has it right when he (she?) clarifies and makes the disctinction about being a “fish-e-tarian”. Most mainstream vegetarian organizations, cookbooks, restaurants, etc. (in the US, anyway), do not consider fish to be part of the vegetarian diet. That does not mean in any way that there’s anything wrong with fish in the diet. It just doesn’t fit the definition of “vegetarian”, at least not to many people.

Ooh, I love that one, although I’m convinced they’re leaving something out of the recipe for their “Golden Bowl” (stirfried tofu chunks - when I make it, it looks and tastes like you might expect tofu chunks to; when they make it, it’s a heavenly treat). I also like the Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest, both by Mollie Katzen, mainly because she has a refreshingly irreverent approach to the cooking process.

However, for a good basic primer on vegetarian cooking, I’d second the recommendation for the Vegetarian Times Cookbook. Not only does it have good, straightforward recipes, it includes suggestions about what staples to keep and has a handy glossary of common ingredients in veggie recipes.