The decision to become vegetarian is always a personal one, but millions of people around the world have already happily made the same choice. Chances are you know someone who is veggie. Perhaps your cousin is vegetarian, or a friend or neighbour. In fact, there are more vegetarians in the world than there are people in the whole of the United States and UK combined – and more join them every day.
One of the most obvious reasons people become vegetarian is because it is kinder to animals. On top of that, going veggie is also kinder to the environment. By cutting out meat, alongside cutting back on the amount of dairy you eat, you will reduce your carbon footprint, while also helping to save water, land and protect the oceans. It is also the healthy option. Vegetarians are far more likely than the general population to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. A vegetarian diet is low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates and research has shown that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from a whole a host of ailments such as obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes.
Arguments about the environmental, ethical and health reasons of becoming vegetarian are sure to rage on, but one things is clear – veggie food can be deliciously tasty and good for you, as long as you plan what’s on your plate.
The Protein Switch
Calm those carvery cravings! If you have occasional cravings for meat, they’re easy to satisfy. It’s likely what you’re actually missing is a protein-rich meal with that hint of salt and fat. You can recreate the hit with a juicy Quorn burger, dusted with smoked paprika to give it that fresh-from-the-barbecue taste, served with crispy, seasoned potato wedges. Or delve into a bean chilli made more indulgent with toppings of cool avocado and crème fraîche. The key is making sure you swap meat for other ingredients which provide important nutrients such as protein and iron. Add beans, nuts, tofu or meat substitutes like soya mince to your everyday, usual recipes for a well-balanced meal. After all, nutritionists say plant protein sources are leaner and a positive choice for you and the planet.
From baked beans to chickpeas, butter beans and kidney beans, these highly nutritious and satisfying foods are a great way to add protein to any recipe. Buy them ready-cooked in tins for convenience, or dried in packets to save money (just remember to soak them properly before cooking).
Tricks with Tofu
Tofu is made from soya beans and, when chopped into bite-sized pieces, makes a great addition to a wide range of dishes such as stir fries and curries.
Nuts are a great way to add protein to a meal. Try adding cashews to a curry, or throw some flaked almonds into a salad for extra bite. Peanut butter stirred into coconut milk also makes an indulgent and nutritious sauce for a stir fry.
The simplest swap is for meat substitutes. This can be a practical way to make sure everyone’s happy – especially if you’re the only veggie in a meat-eating household. Some might not even notice the difference! Supermarkets usually stock a range of veggie mince, sausages, fillets and burgers. Versatile and convenient, they’re often lower in calories.
All of your favourite dishes can easily become veggie-friendly with a little imagination and some simple switches. By just adapting the meals you already love, you’ll end up with nutritious, new (and often improved) versions of your favourite foods. As you already know how to cook these meals, veggie versions are straightforward to prepare, and they’re just as tasty. They can be even quicker to cook too!
Visit www.nationalvegetarianweek.org to get tasty recipe inspiration from bloggers, chefs and foodies. While you are there sign up to the newsletter to discover delicious discounts and find fun fab freebies. Go on – get stuck in!
Si King and Dave Myers, aka The Hairy Bikers, were involved in National Vegetarian Week last year and they encouraged us to give it a go too.
The Hairy Bikers said: “As cooks, we’ve always appreciated our veg and they’re a hugely important part of our cooking. And lately, without really thinking about it, we’ve been eating less meat. The more we learn about cooking great food, the more we enjoy making use of all the amazing produce that’s on offer and creating dishes where vegetables, pulses and other plant foods are the stars of the show. That’s why we’re getting stuck into National Vegetarian Week this year… and we think you should too!”
The boys published a vegetarian cookbook during National Vegetarian Week last year called The Hairy Dieters Go Veggie, published by Seven Dials. It was the fifth book in the Hairy Dieters series, which has sold over 2.5 million copies.
Try these too meat-free crackers to get you started: Twice-Baked Potatoes with Leeks and Cheese
For more information visit www.vegsoc.org