What to Feed a Vegan (and others)

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As the holidays roll around, friends and families gather to celebrate the season but with a new emphasis on healthy eating, you may find yourself with a table full of guests who have dietary preferences and restrictions that are incompatible.

What to do? You want to be a good hostess and ensure that everyone goes home happy, healthy, and well-fed. How can you make sure that the vegan and the no-carb dieter both enjoy their meal?

It's tricky, but not impossible. My set of friends range from omnivores to vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, no carb, no fat ,and gluten-free eaters and I usually manage to throw a decent party. The next few days will help you get a feel for who eats what, how you can plan menus around these differences, and recipes that suit a combination of eaters.

diet-chart-overview.jpg
An overview of diets and food categories

What's vegan?
A vegan is a vegetarian who eats only plant-based foods. They do not eat meat, poultry or seafood. Vegans also don't eat honey, milk, or eggs. No animal products at all.

What's lacto-ovo?
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat plant-based foods and also dairy, eggs, and other animal products that don't kill the animals, like honey. Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or seafood.

What's omnivore?
Omnivores eat just about everything: plants, animals and minerals (but only the tasty ones). Omnivores are easy to cook for but sometimes they have restrictions, too, such as the next three categories.

What's no-carb?
People on carbohydrate restricted diets avoid starchy foods like bread, pasta and potatoes, and also sugary foods including many fruits.

What's no-fat?
No- or low-fat diets exclude oils, butter, eggs, and fatty meats. How much fat is acceptable depends upon the diner's individual restrictions.

What's no-gluten?
Gluten free diets exclude wheat and all of its cousins: barley, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale. Oats don't have any gluten, but they are often contaminated with wheat, so many gluten intolerant people avoid them.

diet-chart-detail.jpg
Foods and diets in detail.

Download a printable PDF (76 KB)

A note on the foods listed. I am talking about the recipes your great-grandmother would have made, not manufactured foods that use plastics, chemicals or cheap fillers to declare themselves "X free!". In my chart, milk has fat; pasta is made of wheat; cakes and cookies are baked with butter, sugar and eggs. Of course you can find specially formulated substitutes to suit your guests' needs, but I'm not considering those in this chart.

8 Comments

Tidy and helpful charts! These would be great for people who run B&B's. I think most of them worry over vegan visitors.

RYC: 3-3.5 mph is brisk walking. I start raising my arms in that stupid "I'm speed walking!" stance at about 4 mph. 4.3 mph is a jog. 5 mph is a run. And incline changes things.

A great idea and i love your definitions.

One note though, I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian and do not eat gelatin or items containing gelatin, but your chart indicates I might. Gelatin, as rendered bone hooves and connective tissues, is pretty hard to get from a living animal, whereas milk and eggs are hard to get from a dead one.

What do you eat for breakfast? Being a Vegan must cut out a lot of confusion time when you create a grocery list.

Holly, thanks for pointing that out. I fixed my mistake and updated the charts. Let me know if you see any other points to clarify as we go along.

Mom, I'll cover breakfasts thoroughly in a couple of days, but around here they are usually muesli with soy milk and fruit. Or toast spread with marmite, avocado, red pepper spread, or peanut butter. Shopping is easy, since most of the supermarket is selling things I don't want to eat.

Jenn, thanks for the clarity on the walking/running speeds. I really through 5 mph was fast walking. I must have done the kph > mph conversion wrong. Sorry!

Thanks Kuri.

Unfortunately, marshmallows are made with gelatin. I REALLY miss marshmallows, oddly enough. I use marshmallow creme (sold in jars here - sans gelatin) on hot cocoa, but it doesn't fare too well when globbed on the end of a stick and held over a fire.

Good list. I've cooked a fair few vegan friendly dishes when I was active in the SCA a few years ago, I now cook a lot for my wife who has late onset type 1 diabetes. In both cases the secret is careful examination and understanding of the ingredients list.

I'm a little puzzled by your blanket ban of margarine, biscuits, and cakes. There used to be plenty of commercial margarines without milk solids, and even in my grandmothers time there were plenty of no egg cake and biscuit recipes. As for butter it is a total no-brainer to substitute vegetable oil. The only ones that dont work are the ones that start "Cream the butter and sugar together ...". Try looking at Anzac biscuits for starters.

Agar-agar is a fine vegan substitute for gelatine although I've never tried to make marshmallows from it.

Regards, Steveg

I've been reading labels like crazy and here in Japan, in my local markets at any rate, there is no vegan margarine. It all has milk solids in it except for one brand imported from Germany, that cost about 4x as much as the others (and is really awful, too). It's probably different elsewhere.

Of course there are plenty of vegan-friendly baking recipes, but the majority of baked goods that people trot out for the holidays (butter cookies, chocolate torte, pumpkin pie, etc) require some kind of modification. Since the intended audience of this series is folks who are unfamiliar with various dietary restrictions, I wanted to make this first post as simple as possible.

Anyone who cooks for vegans (or anyone with dietary restrictions) regularly knows how to deal with substitutions. But this series is for the cooks who only occasionally have to consider them. Better safe than sorry and that's why no cakes or cookies for the vegan crowd.

I've partially answered my own question about margarine. I examined about 20 while I was shopping today an all bar two contained milk solids. Of those two, ETA 7 Star contained lactic acid ... impossible to tell if it is animal derived or synthesized. That left one of the Weight Watchers margarines as the only fully dairy free margarine. 8-(

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Recent Comments

  • Steve Gunnell: I've partially answered my own question about margarine. I examined read more
  • Kristen: I've been reading labels like crazy and here in Japan, read more
  • Steve Gunnell: Good list. I've cooked a fair few vegan friendly dishes read more
  • holly: Thanks Kuri. Unfortunately, marshmallows are made with gelatin. I REALLY read more
  • Kristen: Holly, thanks for pointing that out. I fixed my mistake read more
  • Fran: What do you eat for breakfast? Being a Vegan must read more
  • holly: A great idea and i love your definitions. One note read more
  • Jenn: Tidy and helpful charts! These would be great for people read more

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