LECTURE 1: Introduction to Vegetarian Nutrition

Simply Vegan: pages 131-137, 199-204
Vegan in Volume: pages 9-19, Appendix C

E-mail the instructor at with the following info:

  1. your name, your geographical location, e-mail, physical address or phone (so the instructor can communicate with you).
  2. the reason for taking this course, for example, general nutrition interest, nutrition major, starting a food business, etc.
  3. your science background, for example, some high school bio, some college bio or nutrition, self-taught science.
  4. readings (if any) you have done/do on nutrition, such as magazines (Vegetarian Times, Prevention, columns in local food sections) or books (text books or general interest books).
  5. This will give the instructor a better idea on how to structure the class. If she doesn't hear from you, she'll do what she thinks is best! Beware!

Welcome Aboard

Welcome to your online vegetarian nutrition course. Thanks for enrolling! This promises to be an enlightening, interactive course, with up-to-date information.

Please read the course outline and introductory notes that precede this lecture. This will give you an overview of the course, what topics will be covered and all the general details. There are class projects and exams. For those students enrolled for college credit (through Los Angeles Trade Technical College), you must complete the projects and exams in order to receive a grade so you can accumulate the college credit. For those students enrolled for edification and knowledge (how refreshing!), I hope you will complete the projects and exams as well. Both are designed to further your knowledge and to get you even more in touch with your community's vegetarian services. Hey, where else can you take a college-level exam in your fuzzy slippers? You don't even have to comb your hair!

As was stated in the introductory notes, this course was originally designed for culinary students interested in learning about vegetarian nutrition and in starting a small business. We will combine both topics. We will have lectures and readings on both the "science" of vegetarian nutrition (such as, where do vegans get their B 12) and on the "business" of vegetarian nutrition (such as how to set up a vegan catering business).

Yes, There Will Be Homework

Please be sure you have your two texts (Simply Vegan and Vegan in Volume) before you begin this course. At the start of each lecture there will be a required and a recommended assignment list. The required list is what you will need to understand the lecture (for college credit people, this is an absolute must do). The recommended list is meant to enhance your understanding. Sorry, college people, if it's at all possible you also need to do the recommended. For example, if the recommended assignment is to visit a farmers' market in your area, and you haven't got one, then you're excused. However, if it's something in your power, such as a written assignment, then I'll be awaiting your e- or snail mail).

You and Me

You need to have a basic knowledge of nutrition. To follow this course, I will assume you have a basic understanding of the following: human digestion and absorption, the body's use of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, vitamins, minerals and water. You can review a basic nutrition or introductory biology text for this. If you need suggestions for a text to review, contact me. I don't expect you to be science majors, just have a basic understanding. We will treat nutrition as a science and discuss current nutritional theories in a scientific manner, using critical thinking. And still have fun!

I have included my resumé at the end of this lecture, so that you can get an idea of your instructor's background. I am a registered dietitian, a certified chef (through the American Culinary Federation), and am a professional member of the Institute of Food Technologists. I divide my time between teaching nutrition to culinary students, culinary arts to dietetic students, teaching nutrition to medical students, and teaching nutrition, restaurant management, and culinary arts to university undergrad and grad students. In my spare time, I am a food writer and a consultant to industry, including the American Cancer Society, the Westin Hotel chain, and several food corporations. If you're good, I'll tell you about working with the admiral's cooks on board some Navy ships, and teaching nutrition above the Arctic Circle, in Norway.

Tell me about yourselves. This information will help me to give you're the most meaningful class.


E-mail is the most efficient means of quick communication. I check my e-mails every two days, and should be able to respond to you within a short time. My email is Mail is slow, but sure. My mailing address is as follows:
Dr. N.D. Berkoff
PO Box 13034
Long Beach, CA 90803

If you are sending in assignments, be sure to allow ample time for me to receive them (and always make a backup copy, just in case the postal service doesn't come through). If you send assignments or projects, send them as hard copy, not disks, typed. I don't want to take the chance of not being able to access your disks, or you not being able to access my additions/corrections. The phone is the least reliable. Because of time differences (and student receptionists) I suggest you try e-mail or mail. You can leave a message at (213) 744-9480. I can access messages there Monday-Thursday, only, and I repeat, the phone system is not that reliable.

Here's Your First Lecture

This is a general overview of vegetarian nutrition, it's place with the consumer and some general hints, tips and resources for the consumer to use for personal reasons or for the foodservice person to use to implement more veggie cuisine. Portions of this lecture were published in articles in the "Journal of the American Dietetics Association" and in "National Culinary Review." This lecture is short, but gives you a good idea of what's going on in the vegetarian, food service world. It also gives you a list of vegetarian food service companies; keep these on file for later use. Don't worry, we'll be getting into some in-depth nutrition in later lectures.

Vegetarian is Hot

Vegetarian menus continue to grow in popularity for colleges and universities, cafeterias, restaurants, hospitals, soup kitchens, and other foodservice operations. A Dining Poll conducted in 1999 by The Vegetarian Resource found that about 5% of people always order a dish without meat, fish or fowl when dining out. Almost 60% of people sometimes, often, or always order a vegetarian item when dining out. Many colleges and universities have successfully incorporated vegetarian options into their meal plans. More and more colleges and universities have reported that they serve vegetarian meals every day.

As vegetarian menus continue to grow in popularity in the foodservice arena, there are many opportunities for nutrition professionals to share their expertise in the area of vegetarian foods and nutrition. This article will provide some background information on vegetarian foodservice and resources for learning more.

The Culinary View

We surveyed some chefs who were adding creative vegetarian items to their menus to learn how they went about doing this. Here's what they suggest:

1. Look at the regular menu. Some items are already vegetarian or could easily be made vegetarian. Mushrooms stuffed with breadcrumbs and sautéed vegetables were one example of this, as were sushi, spring rolls, and meatloaf. Wish, a vegetarian restaurant located in the Hotel on South Beach, Miami, FL, offers a seared yellow squash spring roll with grilled shiitake mushrooms and a chili dipping sauce. Vegetarian sushi ingredients can include cucumber, roasted or baked tofu, tempeh or seitan (wheat gluten), avocado, wasabi, ginger, and carrot. A Moveable Feast Restaurant located in Houston, TX, makes a "meatloaf" of cooked grains and vegetables topped with tomato sauce and served with mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and herbed broccoli. Pasta, soups, stir-fries, salads, and pizza are other existing menu items that can easily be made vegetarian.

2. Use "meaty" vegetables and soy for entrees. Diane McGarvey, a chef-instructor at Johnson and Wales University, Providence, RI, suggests using a thick slice of eggplant, lightly breaded and fried or baked, marinated or grilled, and paired with pasta and a spicy cooked vegetable salad. Suzanne Fain, the chef-owner of Moveable Feast, created a chicken-fried tofu steak for her customers. She uses okara (a soy product) in patty form, breads it, and fries or bakes it to create the "steak". Slices of tofu or seitan could be used as well. This item is served with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, peas, and sliced tomatoes to make a hearty meal.

3. Take advantage of grains and beans. This is what adds texture and flavor to vegetarian offerings, said the surveyed chefs. One suggestion was corn and onion pancakes with black bean stew or butternut squash. Another was dried apricot and lentil stew with couscous and polenta cakes made with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, and eggplant served with a warm baby lima bean salad with roasted red peppers.

4. Experiment with ethnic cuisines. Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican, South American, African, Indian, and Asian cuisines all offer many vegetarian options.

5. Think about presentation. Colors and textures are important for all menus. When two starches appear on the same plate, be sure they are different colors and flavors. For example, Chef Fain offers steamed brown rice with caramelized sweet potatoes.

Vegetarian cooking is exciting to many chefs. As chefs have learned, ingredients do not have to be fancy to be attractive. In many of her dishes, Chef Fain uses rice. Vegetarian fajitas are made with grilled, sliced portobello mushrooms and served with Spanish rice, tortillas, and guacamole. Broccoli tempura is served with steamed rice and Japanese eggplant stew. Buckwheat pancakes are stuffed with wild rice and ratatouille (eggplant and tomato stew) at Maison Robert, Boston, and served with a lentil salad.

"When planning a vegetarian meal," says Fain, "you need to visualize the plate. If you think various colors and textures, everything falls into place. For example, if we are serving mashed potatoes, then we need something green for color, like green beans. Then you need something yellow, so you add summer squash, and so on. Maison Robert's chef, Jacky Roberts, says he selects the starch for his vegetarian plates first, then adds two to three vegetables, and finally adds herbs, fruit, and additional vegetables for garnish.

Vegetarian menus can be cost-effective. At Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, the food service department has made cost comparisons and found that the vegetarian items cost the same as meat items or even less. Cost-effective items on the Medical Center menu include vegetable lasagna, veggie pizzas with tomato and broccoli, lentil chili with cornbread, and an eight-foot long salad bar.

Vegetarian patrons are growing in number each day. Nutrition professionals can play an important role in accommodating their needs.

This article was adapted with permission from "Veggie Rule of Thumb" which appeared in Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update, Volume VIII, Number 1, Winter 1999/2000. Foodservice Update is published quarterly by The Vegetarian Resource Group. Subscription information can be found at Visitors to this web site can also find quantity recipes and excerpts from Foodservice Update as well as a list of over 170 companies that offer vegetarian items for schools, restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions. These businesses produce meatless foods in large serving sizes that are easy to use by food services.

Resources for Vegetarian Foodservice

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd by Moosewood Collective; New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Professional Vegetarian Cooking by Ken Bergeron; New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.

Quantity Vegetarian Recipes Pacific Health Education Center 5300 California Ave., Suite 200, Bakersfield, CA 93309-2011; 800-540-5393, 805-633-5300; Fax: 661-633-0108. 385 vegetarian, standardized, nutrient analyzed recipes

The Gold Plan, a program for institutions promoting healthy eating. From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 5100 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 404, Washington, D.C., 20015; 202-686-2011;

The Soyfoods Directory, designed to help food service professionals find and use soy products. From the Indiana Soy Board, (800) TALKSOY;

Tips for Introducing Vegetarian Food into Institutions a list of suppliers of vegetarian foods available in bulk, and more are available from Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, Maryland 21203; 410-366-8343. Website:

Vegan in Volume, by Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, Baltimore: Vegetarian Resource Group, 2000.

Sources of Vegetarian Soups and Soup Bases
Adapted from Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update Product Listing of names and addresses of over 170 companies offering vegetarian food items in institutional sizes.

Dixie USA, Inc.
7800 Amelia
Houston, TX 77055
Consumer Line: 800-347-3494, Food Production 800-233-3668, 609-692-2011
FAX: 718-387-9310
Products: Vegan broth

Eatem Foods Company
1829 Gallagher Drive
Vineland, NJ 08360
800-68-EATEM, 856-692-2011
FAX: 856-692-0847
Products: Pure vegetarian vegetable soup bases

Fantastic Foods
Small Planet Foods
1250 N. McDowell Blvd.
Petaluma, CA 94954
800-869-7105, 707-778-7801
FAX: 707-778-7607

Hain Food Group, Inc.
50 Charles Lindbergh Blvd.
Uniondale, NY 11553
800-434-4246, 516-237-6200
FAX: 516-237-6240

Heinz U.S.A.
Division of H.J. Heinz Co.
PO Box 57
Pittsburgh, PA 15230
412-237-5757 or World Headquarters: 412-456-5700
FAX: 412-237-5377 or 412-456-4230

Nestle Brands Frozen Foods
5750 Harper Road
Solan, OH 44139-2011
800-225-2011, 440-248-3600
FAX: 440-248-8677

RC Fine Foods
PO Box 236
Belle Mead, NJ 08502
800-526-3953, 908-359-5500
FAX: 908-359-6957

Scenario International Company
4092 Deervale Dr.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
800-400-7772, 818-986-3777
FAX: 818-986-3777
Products: The Organic Gourmet vegetable stock concentrates

Tabatchnicks/Paterson Soup Works
1230 Hamilton Street
Somerset, NJ 08873
FAX: 732-247-6555

Taree International Corporation
715 Temperance St.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 0M6 Canada
FAX: 306-242-4221

Quick Profile of Instructor







Periodicals (columns/features)



1996- President's Award (Chefs de Cuisine Association of CA)
1995- US Navy – Commanding Officer's Award for culinary arts training
1995- National Award, FOOD CHAIN, Community Education
1995- National Award, American Culinary Federation, culinary education
1995- California Restaurant Association, annual grant for food service writing
1995- National Award, Chef and the Child Foundation, culinary education
1995- Professional Achievement Award, American Culinary Federation
1994- Henry Award (National award for culinary writing)
1993-2011- Chef of the Year (Los Angeles)
1992- President's Award (American Culinary Federation)
1992- State of California grant (for text development)

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Last Updated
December 6, 2000

Graphic design by Leeking Ink

The contents of this web site, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

All contents of these lectures are copyright Chef Nancy Berkoff and The Vegetarian Resource Group.

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