Vegetarian variety


The reasons so many people attended a recent class on vegetarian cooking varied, but they all left with new ideas about meatless meals.

Staff from the Real Food Store gave a vegetarian cooking demonstration last week in the second of a four-part series about vegetarianism at St. Peter’s Hospital.

Adelle Klungland, with the Real Food Store, said although the Helena health food store carries a wide variety of meat, the store caters to people who chose a vegetarian diet.

“It’s a myth that it’s bad for young people or pregnant women, you just have to know a lot and eat broad varieties of food,” Klungland said.

Opinions on other health benefits vary depending on who you talk to.

Klungland says a vegetarian friend once told her that meat eaters have an odor those with a plant based diet don’t have.

She prepared a frozen bag of Seapoint Farms veggie blends. The colorful dish included pea pods, edamame (soybeans), baby corn, carrots, mushrooms, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. This particular selection was the “Oriental Blend,” which costs about $3.20 a bag at the Real Food Store.

Liz Knatterud, 19, enjoyed a sample of the dish and said she’ll try it at home sometime in the near future. She is familiar with foods containing unhealthy amounts sugar and saturated fats and attended the demonstration to get new cooking ideas.

“(The demonstration) was interesting and the food was really yummy,” she said.
Knatterud recently converted to vegetarianism.

“I was sick of an animal having to sacrifice its life for me to get a hamburger,” she said.
Her family still serves meat at the dinner table, but she just skips that part.

“It takes some getting use to,” Knatterud said.

There were nearly three dozen people at the community education class, but that’s no surprise to Peggy Stebbins, spokesperson for St. Peter’s.

“We came up with the series because people are interested in diet and fitness,” she said.
Stebbins was pleased with the turnout and says it was well attended in part because people have recently made New Year’s resolutions and because vegetarian eating has become more popular in recent years.

Deb Kirley came to the class to get new meal ideas for her clients. Kirley is a health coach for diabetics who works for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Kirley takes vegetarian to another level, eating a raw food diet.

The raw food diet is based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruit or seaweed. Those who following the lifestyle typically believe that heating food above 116 degrees destroys enzymes in that can assist in the digestion and absorption.

Vegans abstain from eating or using all animal products including milk, cheese, eggs, wool, silk and leather.

Kirley doesn’t eat or use those products, but she says her reasoning is more about her general sense of health than a philosophical one.

“It came about because the more fresh food I ate, the better I felt,” she said.

Kirley struggled with health issues since she was a teenager, and now at 50, she feels better than ever.

“I feel like I have a second life,” she said.

The more you process and cook food the more nutrients are lost, Kirley said.

Many nights she eats a huge salad that includes nuts and avocados.

The process didn’t happen overnight for Kirley.

“I grew up in Alberta eating meat and potatoes, so it was a long process,” she said. “You have to set up your kitchen (a certain way) when you don’t eat cooked food.”

There’s an oven in Kirley’s kitchen, but it’s been a couple years since she used it, and she doesn’t own a microwave.

“We really don’t cook, but we have delicious foods,” she said.

During the presentation Klungland also spoke about ways to eat healthier overall. One suggestion included using agave nectar to replace sugar.

“It’s a substitute with sugar and you need a quarter less,” she said.

“The Real Food Store doesn’t carry anything with corn syrup,” she added.

Jennifer Colegrove, registered dietician with the hospital, said all nutritional needs can be met with a vegetarian diet.

“You still need to have some protein but it can be vegetarian sources such as beans, nuts, eggs and dairy products or soy,” Colegrove said.

“It can actually be healthier because it’s plant based.”

Generally speaking, nonvegetarian eaters have a base meal of meats and starches, she said. But, she notes, both can be unhealthy.

“A Mountain Dew and French fries is vegetarian but not healthy,” Colegrove said.

The key, she went on to say, is balance and getting all the food groups daily.

Colegrove said the average adult should get five cups of fruits or vegetables, six ounces of grains, five to six ounces of protein and three cups of dairy.

“Portion control always remains a key factor,” she added.

Beginning a vegetarian lifestyle takes planning.

The Mayo Clinic suggests starting with what you know and making a list of meatless meals you already prepare regularly. Then, select meals that could easily become meat-free. For example, vegetarian chili can be made by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans or soy crumbles. And finally, experiment by borrowing or buying vegetarian cookbooks.
Food professionals can argue about the philosophical, ethical and nutritional pros and cons of not eating meat, but they all agree that, no matter what your diet, the more variety the better chance you have of meeting your nutritional needs.

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or

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