Vegetarian Lunch is basically a combination of strictly vegetarian food preparations included as part of the lunch meal. Vegetarians enjoy a large variety in spite of the notion that they are not exposed to as much choice as their non-vegetarian counterparts. Again, vegetarians are of different types-
• In the strict sense, those who do not consume any meat or animal products including milk – they are called vegans.
• Those who consume no meats but fish and dairy products
• Those who do not consume meat or fish but only eggs.
Some of the advantages of vegetarian foods include –
• Vegetarian foods are usually high in fibre value and facilitate ease of digestion.
• Vegetarian foods do not contain as much fat and almost zero cholesterol when compared to non-vegetarian foods.
Cultural or dietary habits of the individual, as well as personal preference and taste. Avoidance of cruelty to animals or eliminating certain foods for health or religious reasons are usually some of the factors that influence an individual to adopt the vegetarian approach. In any case, what is crucial is a well-balanced diet that supplies sufficient macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and micronutrients - vitamins and minerals.
Vegetarian Lunches from across the World
A vegetarian lunch is quite different across the globe and main course dishes may vary from –
• A simple Japanese vegetarian sushi lunch along with a vegetable tempura - batter-fried veggies and the vegetarian Okonomiyaki – a special Japanese pancake.
• Close by is Korea, a not too high vegetarian population notwithstanding, has certain interesting vegetarian lunch options such as the kimchi (pickled and spiced shredded cabbage), pajon – a variety of pancake, bibimbap (rice prepared in a special stone bowl).
• Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Turkey offer Halloumi (a Cypriot origin, semi-hard, mixed cheese variety) based Falafel balls in gravy sauce, winter-veggie stew with couscous or loubbieh a traditional Arabic- Lebanese Green bean stew.
• The English Vegetarian cottage pie with a blend of many veggies put together with a cheese topping and or Baked mushroom, corn and peas, as also the traditional Vegetable Au Gratin.
• Welsh Lunch consisting of Cauliflower / Macaroni Cheese or Leek Welsh rarebit - a savoury cheese sauce with different vegetable additions as per choice.
• French vegetable based stews with shallots, red wine and button mushrooms.
• Spanish Lunch consisting of fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce along with tortillas stuffed with beans, the traditional Spanish vegetable casserole served with warm crusty bread slices or the ever popular black beans and brown rice combination. The vegetarian version of paella is extremely popular as well.
• Mexican lunch consisting of corn Enchiladas, Burritos, Fajitas, Quesadillas, and the famous Mexican chilli.
• Traditional American Boston Baked Beans in its meatless form is a classic favourite among vegetarians.
• Greek Vegetable Moussaka that is essentially zucchini, eggplant, potatoes and onion layered with tomatoes and cooked lentils, and baked along with a thick béchamel white sauce.
• Hungarian Vegetable Goulash, a typically comforting grilled vegetable and mushroom stew presented alongside warm fresh rye or other seeded bread.
According to the latest developments in medicine, a vegetarian diet has proven to be more useful and suited to the human body composition. As a result a large number of people are gradually making a conscious shift to vegetarianism. Additionally, the incidence of lifestyle diseases such as Obesity, Diabetes, Hypertension, coronary artery disease, cancer may all be associated in some way or the other to excessive intake of saturated fats and cholesterol through non-vegetarian diet intake.
In order to make the vegetarian lunch nutritionally balanced and at par with a non-vegetarian meal, certain amount of planning and special focus on nutrient considerations is required –
• Omega-3 fatty acids
The essential omega-3 fatty acids, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have demonstrated reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, slowing down the progression of Atherosclerosis. Another essential fatty acid (from which EPA may be derived) ALA is found in non-meat sources like flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, and even tofu. Research has also revealed that microalgae oil can serve as a source of omega-3 fatty acids for both vegans and vegetarians. Microalgae oil is an excellent source of DHA like fatty fish and simultaneously supplies an adequate amount of EPA.
• Omega-6 fatty acids
These are found in abundance as part of the diet and maybe obtained from vegetable oils like corn oil, sunflower oil, soyabean, peanut and most vegetable oils. Hence minimal amounts of any of these oils may be used in cooking the vegetarian lunch.
• Vitamin B-12 is usually attached to animal proteins. To acquire sufficient Vitamin B-12, vegetarians and especially vegans need to consume fortified foods or perhaps include B-12 dietary supplements.
• Calcium is a nutrient that needs consideration especially for vegans – since vegetarians rely mainly on dairy foods too. Non-dairy sources that provide calcium include calcium-fortified tofu, certain roots and legumes, as well as fortified soy milk. Approximately 500 mg of calcium would need to be consumed as part of the lunch meal. Hence, calcium fortified orange juice or soy milkshake can be added to the lunch meal.
• Protein intake needs to be substantiated through the use of foods like Tofu, Tempeh, Quinoa apart from regular intake of beans, legumes and dairy (if non-vegan).
Best places to buy a Vegetarian Lunch
‘Greens’ in Fort Mason, ‘Millennium’ and ‘Golden Era’ are some of the best places in San Francisco city that offer a great variety in the Vegetarian and Vegan Lunch segment.