Vegetarian Nutrition 101: Don’t Mix Starches!


I am a member of the travel community Couchsurfing, so I frequently have guests from all over the world. Recently, a group of four students from Austria came to visit me, all of whom were vegan. After many nights of staying in cheap hostels, they were really excited to have access to my fully-stocked kitchen and set about making a lunch from food they had stored in their rental car. When I came back into the kitchen 30 minutes later, I was aghast.

They had made potatoes and were eating it on top of toast!!!

The first rule of cooking (never mind nutrition!) is that you don’t eat starches with other starches. Okay – maybe this isn’t the first rule of cooking, but any chef knows you don’t do things like put rice and noodles in the same soup, or eat spaghetti with potatoes.

Aside from simply looking unappetizing, there are some practical health reasons why you shouldn’t eat your carbs with carbs:

  • An overload of carbs will make your blood sugar skyrocket and then crash, leaving you feeling hungry and tired.
  • You need to eat a variety of food types in order to get complete nutrition (proteins, vegetables, etc.)



As much as I was horrified by their lunch, I can sympathize with those four Austrians. They were all on a very limited budget. They didn’t always have access to a kitchen while traveling. They also were limited to non-perishable foods which could easily travel with them.

Here are the tips I gave to the Couchsurfers about how to get better vegan nutrition while on the road:

  • First, don’t mix multiple servings of starches. Period.
  • For protein on the road, buy TVP. It is lightweight and doesn’t go bad quickly. All you need to do is add water and seasonings and, presto! You’ve got veggie protein.
  • Don’t forget about other root vegetables! Potatoes are great for traveling because they won’t go bad quickly – but other root veggies share this quality too. Stock up on turnips, carrots, and beets. You can always throw them all together to make a simple soup.
  • Buy instant soy milk (comes as a powder). It isn’t nearly as good as the boxed soymilk, but it travels well. Plus, you can easily make creamy sauces for spaghetti out of it (just add water and a bit of flour, then cook while stirring constantly).
  • Dried mushrooms are your best friend. They will give you loads of nutrients without weighing down your bag. Chinatown has them for mad cheap!
  • In bigger cities, the Hare Krishnas usually give out free veggie food (if you don’t mind chanting with them first)
  • See if there is a Food Not Bombs in the area. You will have fun cooking yummy vegan food and also meet lots of new people.
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Diane Vukovic is a vegan mom, health nut, and kitchen diva. When she's not deducing veggie nutritional facts, she's probably dancing crazily with her daughter or traveling somewhere in Europe.