A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the first assignment (Bento101)

I’ve seen some discussion in the comments and elsewhere about whether the bento-friendly foods form posted with the first lesson can be used by vegans or vegetarians. I’m not a vegetarian myself, but I eat like one about 70% of the time, and I certainly think that the form is usable for listing up foods that don’t contain the obvious proteins like meat, eggs and seafood.

For lacto- or lacto-ovo vegetarians it’s pretty straightforward. You’d put things like cheese and other dairy products in the Protein column (and eggs too of course). Vegetable based protein sources that are eaten by both vegans and vegetarians are a little bit more tricky. Many such foods are a combination of protein and carbohydrate, so I’d write them into the form spanning both Protein and Carb columns. Here are some vegetable based protein foods:

  • Soy beans are a lot richer in protein than other beans, so I’d put soy beans and soybean products such as tofu in the Protein column. Tempeh and natto are made from soy beans.
  • The same goes for vegetable protein products that are sold as meat substitutes, such as Quorn, TVP, and so on. Wheat gluten based protein products like seitan and fu would also go in the protein column.
  • Nutritional yeast or ‘nooch’ (see the Fat Free Vegan blog for a great description) is also a good source of protein, although I think it’s used in small amounts to add a cheesy flavor. (If anyone can chime in on nutritional yeast use, please do - I’ve never used it myself.)
  • Nuts (e.g. almond, cashew, peanut) and seeds (e.g. sesame seeds) and their ground up or ‘butter’ forms (tahini is ground up sesame, and there’s always peanut butter) are made up of protein, fat and fiber basically. I’d count them as proteins, keeping in mind that they are high in fat and should be eaten in moderation if you’re watching your weight.
  • Most other beans are a combination of proteins and carbs (and are often eaten in conjunction with carbs) so I’d put them as foods spanning the Protein and Carb columns.
  • With grains it’s a bit trickier. Quinoa (which is actually a seed) for instance is fairly rich in protein (about 14% in volume), but it’s also a carb, so I’d make it a protein and carb column-spanning food. Most other grains like rice, oats, wheat, barley, and products made from their flours are in the carb category, even if they do have some protein content.

If you’re not sure about other beans or grains, look them up on nutrition breakdown charts. Do remember though that the main objective of listing your favorite foods is to just have an idea of what you think would be good to pack for lunch. Don’t get too hung up on the nutritional classifications, just aim for a good balance.

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Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

Nutritional yeast is used primarily for it's cheesy-ish, nutty flavor with vegans and non-lacto vegetarians - at least as far as my experience goes (3 years vegan). It is a great source of B vitamins, especially B12, which can be hard to get without eating animal products, and that is what I knew it for more than for its protein content. I would use it as an ingredient in soup broth, a replacement for cheese sauces with things like au-gratin potatoes, and blended with cashews, bell peppers, and some spices for a cheeze-like spread. It isn't a whole lot like cheese though, so be prepared. Also, my husband and I found that we have a hard time digesting it at times, so some people may be sensitive. Hope that helps, it can be a great culinary tool for vegan/vegetarian dishes :)

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

Thanks - that's really helpful! Speaking of cashew nuts, I once tried a 'cheese sauce' proposed by a Japanese vegan blog, which combined cashews and creamed corn in a food processor. It wasn't too bad, although it didn't taste cheesy in the slightest. It worked pretty well as a pasta sauce though.

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

I love "nooch!" My wife and I use it on our stir fry and sprinkle it on salads. Another tip is to mix it into plain hummus. If it resembles any cheese flavor, it would be a more sharp dry cheese (think Parmesean or Romano) and not like a typical sandwich cheese.
Another great protein tip we use are liquid aminos. There are several brands out there that replicate soy sauce or other sauces.

Thanks for looking after your vegetarian friends!

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

I'm not vegan or veg, but I absolutely love nutritional yeast on popcorn. And by "love" I mean obsessed - I bring a jar of yeast to the movies to pour on my popcorn. My favorite afternoon snack is popcorn, and whether pre-packaged or fresh popped, I almost always have it with a little butter and yeast. Yeast is also great on eggs, and rice. One of my favorite condiments! Adding a little shiso powder can be great, too :)

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

I made my whole form vegan and didn't have trouble with any category. I love the form! I've been a vegetarian (mostly vegan) for over a decade, and I've learned that you don't need to worry all that much about protein. Like you mentioned, a lot of whole grains have protein. So do a lot of veggies (and fruits, even!). Here's a great resource about protein - http://www.pcrm.org/search/?cid=251

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

Thanks for the link, I found it very helpful.

I'm not vegan, i love honey too much, but I'm allergic to milk and eggs, as well as whole grains and brown rice. Reading this, I'm probably doing okay for protein, it's my omnivore husband who is so hung up on the supposed lack of protein dishes.

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

I've been vegetarian nearly my whole life, I never had a problem with proteins. Honestly, I only heard of nutritional yeast a couple of years ago, but I'm not a fan of the taste myself. Plenty of grains and beans have protein in them. Lentils are another really good source of protein, just to throw that one out there. That form is really helpful when it comes to organizing, I love it.

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...


Protein is not the problem. I'm not a vegetarian. But I started on the very first day of this year an atttempt to lost a little bit of my overload (7 kilo so far) with the bento box concept. Meat based protein vanished naturally, replaced by eggs, cheese, tofu, beans, chickpeas, milk products. Additionally for example dried tomatos (boiled in stock and red wine, then potted in olive oil), caramel onions turned into covering for the bread. Supplementary value of the protein is also useful. If you add a little bit protein with a high supplementary value to other proteins, the body is able to generate more body protein out of the nutrition.
Btw. here is a photo ( http://db.tt/ssYu0x1A ) of a food rest, transformed. Oriental style sugo (with a little mincemeat, but it is not necessary) with bulgur. The bulgur transformed in a sushi form. Sushi without nori, fish, rice. Bulgur and cheese mixed, tofu strings fried with teriyaki in the middle, one minute in the microwave, and then for the next day stored in the bento/refrigerator. For the most of men's history meat based protein was rare. If you look closer, it is in our blood.

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

Thank you for looking out for those of us who are living a veg lifestyle :)

Re: A quick note for vegetarians and vegans regarding the ...

Quorn usually contains egg white, so it's not really a vegetable protein (only) product. Although a visit to their US site shows they do a vegan burger since mid 2012. Personally I give such processed junk a wide berth :)

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