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15 Tips to Feed the Vegan or Vegetarian in Your Life

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/29/2012 2:00 PM   :  15 comments   :  10,077 Views

Vegetarian Awareness Month is wrapping up, but the meat-free mealtime fun doesn't have to end! In addition to giving away 5 copies of our e-book "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet," today I'm sharing tips for anyone who might need to cook for a vegetarian or vegan. With the holidays on the horizon, I hope you find these tips to be of use.

When I wrote "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople," I intended it to be for vegans, vegan wannabes, and those who love them. Don't worry--SparkPeople isn't taking the stance that we all need to ditch meat forever. But with at least 325,000 vegetarians and vegans on our site, we know that many of our members are interested in eating less meat and more plants. We believe there's room at the table for all of us. This book fills a niche, and I wrote it with the SparkPeople philosophy in mind--moderation, no fad diets, and taking small steps along the way to a healthier you.

That said, let's segue into tips for feeding the vegan or vegetarian in your life.
  • DO be honest. Please don't try to sneak meat, broth, or seafood into the food. If you put bacon in the broccoli salad, chicken broth in the risotto, or lard in the pie crust, tell your guests.
     
  • DO invite them. I would have invited you, but I didn't think you'd...feel comfortable, eat anything I served, enjoy yourself, etc. Even a serious lack of veggie-friendly food isn't going to stop the fun if the people and atmosphere are warm and inviting. When I became vegan, one of my closest friends stopped inviting me to dinner parties, and it stung.
  • DON'T apologize. You eat meat. Some people don't. You don't have to apologize for eating animal products in front of most vegans or vegetarians, as long as you...
     
  • DON'T make a big deal about it. Vegans and vegetarians have various reasons for not eating meat, but some of those reasons might not be ideal dinner table or cocktail party discussions. Perhaps save the discussion for another time.
     
  • DON'T be afraid to ask questions. Ask what foods your guest eats and likes. Perhaps you'll find a new family favorite or elevate a vegetable from side dish to entrée status.
     
  • DO ask your guest to bring a dish. Most vegans have plenty of experience cooking for themselves. Let them bring food to share, if they wish. Many will do it without being asked.
     
  • DON'T be offended if he brings food. Many vegans don't want to complicate your duties as host. They will often bring something they know they can eat and share with others, so don't take it personally.
     
  • DO cook enough food. Make sure there is enough of the vegan or  vegetarians dish for everyone to try (because they will) and for the vegans/vegetarians to take seconds.

Beyond Broccoli: Tips on What to Cook

If you're hosting a vegan or want to throw a plant-friendly dinner party, what do you serve? Here are some tips.
 
Consider a DIY meal. Put all the toppings or sides in separate dishes so everyone can accommodate their own lactose intolerance, aversion to spice, or vegan diet. How about a burrito bar? (Make some soy crumbles or sauté onions, peppers, and mushrooms for everyone.) What about a pasta buffet? (Serve pasta, sautéed vegetables, cooked white beans, faux Italian sausage, and marinara sauce, then let everyone build a bowl.) Or what about a pizza party? (Buy or make pizza dough, then let everyone make their own pizzas. Kids love this!)

Separate the meat and vegetables. Cook and serve meat in one dish, vegetables in another. If you had planned to roast yams with the ham, use two dishes. Making pasta? Cook sauce and set some aside before adding sausage or meat. Serve gravy on the side, and if you're adding bacon to your baked potatoes, serve it separately. When grilling, clean part of the grill thoroughly or use foil to cook vegetables or veggie patties.

Use separate serving dishes, utensils and cutlery. This is actually just a good kitchen tip in general: Never put cooked food on a plate or in a bowl that held raw meat, and use separate cutting boards and knives for vegetables, meat, and poultry.
 

More Ideas for Those Who Have a Vegan in the House

  • Learn where meat hides. Sometimes meat sneaks in to foods that you wouldn't suspect. Some common foods that contain meat or seafood: Caesar dressing (anchovies), Thai curry and many Asian dishes (fish sauce), and canned "vegetable" soups (beef or chicken broth).
     
  • Salads are great. Serve a large green salad before or with the meal, which ensures a healthful option for all. With a serving of beans or a handful of nuts, that salad can be elevated to a vegan entrée.
     
  • Where's the beef? Try to offer a balanced meal. Vegans sometimes have to be creative to get adequate protein, calcium, and nutrients. Help them out by serving a balanced meal where plant-based proteins (chickpeas, black beans, or lentils) fill in the place where meat might have been. This boosts the protein content, filling power, and helps round out a meal. Beans and legumes are a cheap and easy way to add vegan-friendly foods to a meal. Open, rinse, heat, and eat.
     
  • Go flexitarian. Once a week or more, try something new, such as tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), or tempeh (a fermented soy food). Plenty of familiar foods can be both delicious and vegan: Lasagna, almost any pasta, chili, stir-fries, and soups (use veggie broth) can all be made without meat.

Buy or preview "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet"
on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Or enter to win  one of five copies here. (The usual rules apply. We will choose winners Nov. 15.)

Want more healthy recipes from Chef Meg, me and fellow SparkPeople members? Be sure to subscribe to SparkPeople's Recipe of the Day email. Click here to sign up!
 
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