Topic 3 From the market to the plate

Planning the weekly menu before shopping helps design a balanced diet and reduces food waste. Meal planning was already presented in the first unit of this module. In this unit we will highlight ideas that should be taken into account when planning a weekly menu for a vegan/vegetarian child.


Options for vegans and vegetarians have grown exponentially, but not all vegan/vegetarian foods are equally healthy.

Let’s go step by step. Do you know how to identify vegan/vegetarian products?

The V-Label is an internationally recognized symbol for the labeling of vegan and vegetarian products and services. For consumers, it is a simple and reliable reference to help them when they are shopping. Standardized criteria ensure that the V-Label is a unique seal of quality for vegan and vegetarian products across Europe.


Myth or fact?

Labeling a product as vegan or vegetarian means it is a healthy product.


This brings us directly to talk about ultra-processed products… Do you know what the definition of ultra-processed product is?

The WHO defines ultra-processed products as industrial formulations mainly based on substances extracted or derived from food, as well as additives and cosmetics that give color, taste or texture to try to imitate food. On a practical level it is said that an ultra-processed product is as industrial formulations that has more than 5 ingredients and in which no fresh food can be identified.

Ultra-processed products have a high content of free sugars, total fat, unhealthy fats and sodium, and a low content of protein, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. From a nutritional point of view, they are very unbalanced products and their consumption has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality.

Considering all this information, it can be understood that a product can be, simultaneously, vegan and ultra-processed.

This brings us directly to talk about the importance of food labeling… What aspects of labeling are helpful in identifying a healthy food?

  • The number of ingredients: if a product has more than 5 ingredients it is very likely that it is an ultra-processed and, therefore, unhealthy.
  • The order of the ingredients: the ingredients are ordered from highest to lowest content. If sugar, refined flours, or saturated fats appear among the first ingredients, you are facing an unhealthy food.
  • The predominant type of fats: the best option is extra virgin olive oil. The second best option is olive oil, or high oleic sunflower oil. We should not choose a product that uses as the predominant fat a refined oil of seeds, coconut, or palm. We will also not choose it if it contents hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats).
  • Salt content: Foods with more than 1.24 g of salt per 100 g of product are not healthy. It is important to note that some products do not include information about salt content, but sodium. In this case, to calculate the salt content we must multiply the sodium content by 2.5.
  • High: ≥1.25 g of salt per 100 g of product.
  • Average: between 0,26 and 1,24 g of salt per 100 g of product.
  • Low: ≤0.24 g of salt per 100 g of product.
  • Low salt content: ≤0.12 g of salt per 100 g of product.
  • Very low salt content: ≤0.04 g of salt per 100 g of product.
  • Without salt: ≤0.005 g of salt per 100 g of product.

Be careful when comparing two ultraprocessed foods. We should not be fooled by phrases such as “with extra virgin olive oil” or “reduced in salt”. It is important that we look at the content of each nutrient. “With extra virgin olive oil” can mean a ridiculous content of this fat compared to others much less healthy. In the same way, a “reduced in salt” product can have a lot of salt since that phrase only means that it has 25% less salt than another similar product. This kind of phrases leads us think one ultraprocessed product is healthier than another one, when the reality is that no one is healthy.

The so-called “vegetable meats” (including “vegetable sausages”) have been promoted as a healthy alternative to meat for both omnivorous people who want to reduce meat consumption and vegans/vegetarians. A careful reading of nutrition labelling will lead us to realize that these are in fact ultra-processed and, therefore, unhealthy products.

In addition, those “vegetable meats” are usually offered as the protein serving of the meal, when, in fact, their protein content is minimal. Most of those products are made from third-generation plant proteins, which do not reach the nutritional value of tofu, tempeh, textured soy or, of course, legumes. Most of “vegetable meats” are made from refined flours, unhealthy fats and dyes. Although some of those products are made from tofu or legumes, they never represent a main ingredient. As far as burgers are concerned, the best option is still to make them at home.

In this video you will learn how to make 2 different burguers for vegetarians

Something similar happens with bakery; that it is suitable for vegans and vegetarians does not make it healthy. Most vegan desserts are made from refined flours, unhealthy fats and sugar. The advice is the same as for the general population: baking, no matter how vegan or vegetarian, should be consumed occasionally.


  • Seasonal vegetable.
  • Seasonal fruit.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Natural or roasted nuts.
  • Seeds.
  • Iodized salt.
  • Vitamin B12 supplement.
  • Whole grains.
  • Legume paste.
  • Potato or sweet potato
  • Pseudocereals: quinoa, amaranth.
  • Sugar-free soy yogurt.
  • Sugar-free vegetable drink.
  • Tofu.
  • Tempeh.
  • Seitan.
  • Textured soy.
  • Third-generation plant proteins such as quorn or heura.
  • Eggs (for ovovegetarians).
  • Whole sugar-free dairy products (for lactovegetarians).
  • Canned cooked legume.
  • Canned natural tomato.
  • Frozen vegetable.
  • Dried fruit: raisins, blueberries, dates…
  • Vinegar (different types).
  • Spices and aromatic herbs.
  • Condiments: soy sauce, mustard, tabasco…
  • Cream of nuts: peanut, almonds, tahín…
  • Cocoa 100% degreased powder.
  • Chocolate with more than 85% cocoa.

Remember that you can cook and can your preserves yourself.


Having good raw materials in the pantry will allow us to prepare a large number of quick and healthy dishes with 3-5 ingredients. Some of the videos you can see in this unit 3 (Healthy and easy recipes with 3-5 ingredients) are suitable for vegan children.

Regarding culinary techniques, the recommendations are the same as for the omnivorous population. Unit 2 (Healthy culinary techniques) of this module is dedicated to healthy culinary techniques.