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Vegetarian vs. Vegan: Knowing the Difference

Written by Stater Bros. Markets


Global shift toward plant-based diets.

October 1st is World Vegetarian Day – a day that brings global attention to the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism and focuses on the ethics of following a vegetarian lifestyle.

From vegetarians and vegans to carnivores who want to reduce their meat intake, there is a global shift toward plant-based diets. Plant-based eating was named the 2018 trend of the year by international food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman. If you’re interested in vegetarianism or veganism, there are more options for you than the standard veggie burger. We’ll help you learn the parameters for these eating styles, so you can enjoy thoughtfully crafted, substantial, and flavorful plant-based meals.

Defining Veganism and Vegetarianism

According to research firm GlobalData, there’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegan in the U.S. in the last three years, and there are over seven million vegetarians in the U.S. currently. Before you alter your diet, it’s important to know the specifications involved with each eating style. Knowing the difference between veganism and vegetarianism can help you create more appetizing and filling vegetable-based dishes.

Vegetarian: Someone who has forsaken meat products, from fish to fowl to beef, from their diets. To complicate matters, there are three subcategories within vegetarianism: lacto-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians, and ovo-lacto vegetarians. Lacto-vegetarians do not eat eggs but do eat other dairy products while ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but no other dairy. Ovo-lacto vegetarians don’t consume meat but do eat eggs and dairy products.
Vegan: Someone who does not consume meat products as well as any animal-based foods including all dairy products (eggs, cheese, butter, and milk), honey, and figs (wasps begin their lives in figs).

Keep it Interesting

The key to creating flavorful produce-forward dishes is to focus on pairing compatible ingredients that produce the best flavors without relying on meat. If you stick to this strategy, you can create recipes that will attract more than just vegans and vegetarians.

Instead of viewing these eating styles as a burden, look at the creation of these recipes as a way to be inventive with various sources of alternative proteins and produce. Some may think that a plain salad or a simple veggie burger will suffice for vegetarian and vegan meals. It may be tempting to prepare a dish that simply eliminates the meat components and call it vegetarian or vegan; however, vegans and vegetarians will notice the lack of substantial ingredients, effort, and inspiration. Treat vegan and vegetarian dishes the same way you’d treat a meat dish: layer the flavors, consider how they meld together, incorporate an equivalent serving of plant-based protein, and think about texture.

More Than Meat

No one wants to enjoy a meal and still feel hungry, so incorporate acceptable proteins and fiber into vegetarian or vegan recipes to increase satisfaction. Don’t just toss a plain salad — add beans/legumes, grains, seeds, and/or nuts. A key approach to keeping vegans and vegetarians feeling satiated is utilizing umami flavors (pleasant savory tastes). Vegetarian stand-ins for umami foods that appeal to a wide range of taste buds include tomatoes, sweet potatoes, jackfruit, and mushrooms. Substitute a burger patty with a Portobello mushroom, or consider marinating mushrooms in Korean sauces and seasonings for Korean-inspired mushroom tacos. Jackfruit is another trendy, savory ingredient that has found its place as a versatile, substantial meat alternative. Jackfruit can be made into barbeque pulled “pork”, jackfruit “meatballs,” or taco “meat.”

Some may struggle with incorporating protein into vegetarian and vegan meals because they don’t know what alternatives to use or they have never cooked with them before. Alternate sources of proteins include beans, quinoa, wheat berries, amaranth, farro, lentils, soybeans, nut butters, nut milks, hemp seeds, seitan (wheat gluten), tofu, and tempeh (versatile fermented soy products).

Tofu and tempeh are similar in texture and taste, providing a blank canvas for flavor innovation. Anything you can do with a chicken breast, you can do with tofu or tempeh: grill it and adorn it with barbeque sauce, create a sandwich from it, or crumble it up and add to chili. Ivan Ramen, owner of Slurp Shop in New York, serves a Tofu Coney Island dish made with fried tofu smothered in a vegetarian mushroom chili with a drizzle of mustard, chopped onions, and scallions. Tofu can also be transformed into noodles, also known as shirataki. Shirataki noodles are excellent for Asian-inspired soups, stir-fry, and curries.

Cauliflower is another trending, versatile vegetable that can take the place of meat, prepared using the same technique as you would on any steak. You can enjoy cauliflower steak with other health-conscious, plant-based items such as Portobello mushroom bacon and parsnip fries.

Whether you know vegetarians and vegans or you have interest in these eating styles, it’s wise to become educated on acceptable ingredients that will make your kitchen a welcoming place where anyone can enjoy a filling, flavorful meal.

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