In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, a story about being raised vegetarian. Mostly, in the words of Michael Pollan, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Simple foods you can feel good about!

Growing Up Vegetarian

The “Toby’s brand” started in a mom’s kitchen. Toby was making food for a reason – her kids were hungry. It wasn’t to support her family, make profits, or capitalize on “the next big thing.” It was out of necessity – to feed her kids. It was also important to Toby that her whole family be vegetarians and follow the same diet.

These days, Toby is retired and one of her sons, Jonah, now runs the company. In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month we sat down with Jonah to talk about how growing up vegetarian affected his life and food choices.

On February 16, 2010 Toby Alves, Founder of Toby's Family Foods and her son and company CEO Jonah Alves pose for a portrait in the production plant in Springfield, Oregon.  The company is famous for their tofu pate but also produce things like salad dressing, sour cream, juice, and tofu seasonings.
Jonah and Toby, back before Toby had retired, making some of the delicious tofu spreads & dips. Vegetarian friendly, of course!

 

Why was it important to Toby for your whole family to eat vegetarian?

It was very important to my mother that we were vegetarian. My mother’s father died at age 52 of a heart attack. My mother attributed it to him eating red meat 3 meals a day.

What was a typical family meal?

A typical meal my mother would cook consisted of brown rice, cooked tofu or Tempeh steamed broccoli and a veggie platter with dip. We always had a veggie platter with dip.

How long were you a vegetarian?

I was a strict vegetarian from the day I was born to about 10 years old. My family continued to be vegetarians, but I began eating meat at friends houses starting at 10. However, 98% of my diet was vegetarian, until I was 18. From 18-30 I ate meat on a daily basis (mostly chicken and fish). From age 30 to the present I eat 80-90% vegetarian.

When you transitioned from a vegetarian to an omnivore, was it difficult?

Transitioning from vegetarian to omnivore was easy when I was young. Everything seemed to taste better with animal fat. However, as I got older, meat didn’t agree with me as much. Even though I liked the taste, the fat and heaviness I felt after eating got me back on a primarily vegetarian diet.

How do you think growing up vegetarian affect your food choices as an adult?

Being a vegetarian as a youth made me much more aware of the foods I eat as an adult. It’s not about being a vegetarian, but about being aware of how specific ingredients, processes and packaging impact a person’s body. It has made me food conscious, for better or worse.

 

And there you have it! We still practice our vegetarian roots here at Toby’s, but we accept all eaters and diets. Not everyone is a vegetarian, but we being plant-based is a huge part of who we are!

Michael Pollan sums it up best:

In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, a story about being raised vegetarian. Mostly, in the words of Michael Pollan, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Simple foods you can feel good about!

Or as we like to say, simple foods you can feel good about. Now, go celebrate the rest of Vegetarian Awareness Month and spread the word.

 

What does plant based eating really mean? This is a great infographic!

Plant Based Eating

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, and we’re celebrating all things around plant-based eating.

Did you know that we started as a vegetarian company? It’s true! So plant-based eating is a topic near and dear to our hearts. We still embrace it here at Toby’s, and we hope that our tofu spreads and dressings encourage more plant based eating. After all, they make great veggie dips.

Turns out not everyone has such a deep history of plant-based eating, so we’re here to help fill in the gaps.

As for my own story, I was a vegetarian for several years and still prefer eating that way. And while I was a vegetarian, people would often say things to me – like, “But where do you get your protein!?” or, “Well, I only used chicken broth, so it’s vegetarian. Right?” No. If you used chicken broth, made from chickens, it’s not vegetarian. But, I tried to understand that not everyone knows the ins and outs of plant-based eating and what it’s all about.

So in honor or Vegetarian Awareness Month, we wanted to put together this little infographic to tell you more about what plant based eating is, and how to get enough of the right nutrients that everyone is so concerned about. And, rightfully so, everyone should be aware of these important nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Great guide to plant based eating with 5 things to watch and what it means to follow a plant-based diet

 

Are we missing anything?

Here's the TRUTH about tofu.

The Truth about Tofu

In the last 15 or so years, tofu and other soy products and foods have plummeted in popularity. The main reason due to some questionable studies, funded by the meat and dairy industries, aimed at getting market share back from soy milk and tofu products.

There’s a lot we know for sure about tofu and soy and we took a look at a lot of the misinformation out there. So we rounded up the hard cold facts and brought them to you here.

Did you know Soy is heart healthy? Here are some more facts about soy and tofu you might not already know.
Did you know Soy is heart healthy? Here are some more facts about soy and tofu you might not already know.

We’ve taken a look at the research from reputable sources and all the information out there. We turned to nutritionists, our suppliers of tofu, and the history of Asian cultures who have enjoyed soy and tofu foods for thousands of years. With that, we believe that soy is a healthy, safe food you can consume just like any other ingredient out there: in moderation, and as part of a healthy diet.

Here’s the truth about tofu, broken down by some of the most common myths you might have heard about soy and tofu:

What's the real story on tofu and soy? Here are the common myths about soy - busted.

 

The bottom line: keep your eyes out for non-organic soy and heavily processed soy powders or isolates that might be hiding in some packaged foods. Most people are eating more soy than they know because it’s hiding in a lot of processed foods, in highly processed forms.

Overall, soy foods like tofu are a delicious, healthy, and vegetarian source of protein and other nutrients. Choose organic soy and enjoy in moderation, just like most other foods. Soy can and should be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Reap the benefits of this tasty bean in forms of tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, and so much more! We suggest tofu spreads and dips of course.

What's the real story on tofu and soy? Here are the common myths about soy - busted.

 

3 back to school recipes that your kids (and spouses!) will love!

Back to School Lunch Ideas

With school back in session, it’s a scramble to come up with new and exciting lunches to send with your kiddos off to school. Well, take a deep breath because we’ve got you covered! We have been in the kitchen slaving away at creating lunches that are not only delicious, but also super simple to make.

Check out our back to school lunch ideas that are sure to leave the kiddos singing your praises and begging for more!

3 easy back to school recipes your kiddos will love!

Crackers, Tofu Spread, and Fruit

We know how much kids love cheese and crackers, so we decided to create a spin-off of the classic school lunch by swapping the cheese with our Toby’s tofu spreads & dips. Pack your kids favorite crackers along with a generous amount of tofu pate. Add veggies for toppers (we did tomatoes, but cucumbers, sweet pickles, or peppers also work). Pair with a banana or bowl of fresh fruit and you have a healthy lunch that your little one is sure to love!

Pack the kids a DIY cracker lunch with veggies, Toby's spread and a piece of fruit

 

Toby’s Tofu Sandwich and Fruit

A sandwich is another lunchbox favorite, but what about a tofu pate sandwich? As crazy as it sounds, kids will love this tofu pate sandwich, and even better it’s packed with protein to keep them going throughout the day. We spread our tofu pate on top of Sourdough (but feel free to use your favorite bread) and then added lettuce and tomato. Pair with a side of fruit and you have another lunch all set to go.

This Toby's sandwich is great for kids & adults alike. Pack with fruit for a well balance lunch!

 

Chicken and Rice Bowl with Feta and Fruit

Another simple lunch option, and soon to be their new lunchbox favorite is a rice bowl (This works great for grown-ups, too!). We placed rice, chicken, and steamed broccoli into a bowl and then topped it off with Toby’s Chunky Feta Dressing – simple and absolutely delicious!

Rice bowls are perfect to pack with the kids (and spouses) for lunch!

What are your favorite lunchbox combinations? Let us know!

We’ll be pinning lots more ideas to our Pinterest, so follow along and join the back to school fun!

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

Mediterranean Tomato and Feta Salad

This recipe combines fresh Mediterranean flavors into one delicious Mediterranean Tomato and Feta Salad. When you need a refreshing salad, this is the one to try. Made with Toby’s Feta Cheese Dressing, it’s nearly impossible to resist.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

While it may not photograph as the most delicious serving, your mind will change as soon as you dive in. It’s the perfect chunky salad for summer and spring. It’s fresh, delicious and amazing in pita sandwiches. 

Serve it on its own, with chips, on a pita, or even with some Toby’s Original Tofu Spread & Dip. Make it the night before and assemble pita sandwiches for easy portable lunches. That is, of course, if you’re not serving it as an appetizer. Serve it up and watch it disappear!

Greek Salad with Feta Dressing

Feta-Tomato-Salad

Fresh tomato, feta dressing, red onion, olives, and artichokes couldn’t combine into a fresher salad. Chop, mix, enjoy. Serve immediately or make ahead. Try serving with fresh parsley, too.

Ingredients:

  • 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Feta Cheese Dressing

How-To:

  1. Combine all ingredients, toss and serve. (It’s that easy!)