Vegetarian cuisine is food that meets vegetarian standards.
At its simplest, vegetarian cuisine means not eating meat from any animal. For lacto-ovo vegetarianism (perhaps the most common type of vegetarianism in the Western world), eggs, milk and cheese are permitted. At its strictest, vegetarian cuisine can be vegan, excluding all animal products, such as meat, meat broth, cheese and other dairy products, eggs, gelatin, honey, and even some sugars that are whitened with bone char (e.g. cane sugar).
Tofu and textured vegetable protein ("TVP") have often been associated with this diet, though this association is perhaps more prominent in the U.S. than worldwide; there are cultures that include soy products as a normal ingredient of all diets. In cultures that do not traditionally use soy products, tofu and TVP play a key role in many 'mock meat' dishes, but a person can be vegetarian for life and never consume them.
Ignoring the different types of vegetarians (lacto-ovo vegetarianism versus veganism, for example), one can roughly divide vegetarian cuisine into two categories:
- Meat analogues, which mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of meats, and are used in a recipe that traditionally contained meat. Meat analogues vary in quality and similarity to meats, and may be bought commercially or made at home. Many vegans also use analogues for eggs and dairy products.
- Traditional meals that have always been vegetarian. Cultures such as the US that are not traditionally vegetarian are evolving newer dishes.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), vegetarians who eat milk products and eggs enjoy excellent health. Vegetarian diets are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and can meet Recommended Dietary Allowances for nutrients. It is possible to obtain sufficient enough protein from a vegetarian diet so long as the variety and amounts of foods consumed are adequate. Meat, fish, and poultry are major contributors of iron, zinc, and B vitamins in most American diets, and vegetarians should pay special attention to these nutrients.
"Vegans eat only food of plant origin. As animal products are the main food sources of vitamin B12, vegans eat plenty of yeast extract such as Marmite or take supplements to ensure an adequate supply of this vitamin. Vegan diets, particularly those of children, require care to ensure adequacy of vitamin D and calcium."
Protein is made up of amino acids and the only vegetable sources with all nine types of essential amino acids are soy, hempseed, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. There exists a misconception that dietary protein needs to be combined in the same meal. For example, rice and beans, or pita bread and hummous create a source of complete protein. Dairy products and eggs can be part of a healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
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