Well, it all depends on how important the taste of meat actually is to you as to whether or not you might consider becoming a full or even part time vegetarian. So what does that entail I hear you ask. To hold the title of vegetarian, you must not eat red meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea and to become a vegan you must also not indulge in any animal by-products such as gelatine found in sweets or milk from an animal source etc.
This all sounds quite a big ask to those of us who enjoy wolfing down a juicy steak and chips on a Friday night following a busy week. But in actual fact, it is quite easy and can be totally delicious. Long gone are the days of a dried out nut roast - now we can be tempted by an entire range of continental styles and flavours, as indulgent and rich as we want them to be or equally as delicious in a slim line style.
There are four categories of vegetarianism. The first is described above but others include:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians - who eat both dairy and eggs and this is the most popular form.
Lacto-vegetarians - who eat dairy products but not eggs
Ovo-vegetarians - who eat eggs but not dairy products
Vegans - who do not eat eggs , dairy or any other food of animal origin.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
There are various considerations when it comes to analysing the benefits of becoming a vegetarian either on a full time basis or indeed a part time one.
As with all healthy diets, you should make sure to include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, the brighter and more varied in colour the better and not always repeating the same 5 types. Lots of crunchy, fresh salads and lightly steamed and dressed vegetables are vital plus a good selection of fresh fruit. It goes without saying, that if you buy in season and locally sourced produce, it will not only be fresher but it will also be significantly better for the environment as well as supporting the local economy.
There are some serious health benefits supporting vegetarianism.
It has been shown to be good for heart health as the suggested food ideas include whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruit and vegetables and other low glycemic foods - the whole concept of eating more soluble fibre should help stabilise blood sugar levels which in turn should help to reduce cholesterol levels, so helping to protect against risk of heart attack.
Many health studies claim that this type of high level fruit and vegetable intake may be the key to protecting against certain types of cancer and being a vegetarian probably makes it easier to ensure you achieve the recommended intake of five potions daily. Low glycemic food choices such as whole grains, legumes and nuts all assist in maintaining blood sugar levels which in turn helps to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and subsequent complications.
It goes without saying that plant based foods tend to be lower in fat, sodium and cholesterol by nature of their constitution. This is a positive for maintaining blood pressure and helping to protect against stroke and heart attack.
Are there any negatives? As with all dietary choices, it is important to maintain a balance of nutrients to ensure our body is receiving the vitamins it needs to sustain good health and wellbeing and avoid deficiencies which will impact negatively on you. If you’re looking to make changes to your diet it is always worth consulting a medical and nutritional advisor to ensure that you’re still getting everything you need within your diet.
Understanding your food is a good idea as this way you make sure you cover all the necessary nutrients. Followers of a vegetarian diet need to make sure they cover their intake of Vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids which are found in abundant sources within meats and fish. This can be covered by eating products such as marmite or yeast spreads and fortified soy and almond milks plus fortified cereals. For those following a lacto-ovo diet, cheese and eggs would be a great choice too.
It is essential to ensure a regular intake of Vitamin B-12 as it is used to produce healthy red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body ensuring we maintain energy and focus. Alternative omega 3 sources would be walnuts, hemp seeds, kidney beans and many more. Iron is most important when considering a vegetarian diet as it is primary in meat. Iron can be found vegetarian sources such as pulses, dried fruit, dark green vegetables and wholemeal bread.
Whilst supplements are never recommended as a substitute for a varied and well balanced diet, they can help to ‘top up’ those nutrients in your diet and are a cheap and easy option.
To date, there are approximately 3.1 million people in the UK who follow a vegetarian diet, with veganism seeing a huge rise in popularity - increasing by 40 percent in 2020 alone. Reasons for following a particular diet are varied. For some, it is as simple as following suit with friends and family or just not being that in to meat. But for others it may be cultural, religious or environmental.
According to the Vegetarian Society eating a veggie diet results in 2.5 times less carbon emissions than a meat diet. It is said that to produce a chicken breast takes over 500 litres of water and that eating a vegetarian diet for a year would save emissions equivalent to taking a small family car off the road for 6 months!
Becoming a vegetarian most people would see as a massive decision in their life. Yet it isn’t. Just go with the flow - try something new and see it as a new interest, an opportunity to discover something new. I defy anyone to not find one or two delicious meals they can include in their diet even if meat, poultry and fish still make up most of their menu choices.
If you don’t feel you can go whole hog (pardon the expression!) on the concept then try cutting down on the portion size of meat and fill up on side dishes made out of veggies. Being vegetarian doesn’t have to be boring - it isn’t only steamed broccoli, carrots and peas on a plate! To tickle your taste buds we’ve included a few of our favourite vegetarian recipes - give them a try and let us know what you think.
Halloumi, potato and pepper skewers.- The Vegetarian Society
A great kids, main or party food.
250g Halloumi - bite sized pieces
500g New potatoes, boiled until tender
1 red pepper, cut into small pieces
Seasoning to taste.
For the dressing:-
3tbsp olive oil
1tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp green olives, finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tbsp fresh coriander leaves, torn
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tsp wholegrain mustard
50g fresh herb salad
- Thread cheese, pepper and potato alternatively onto skewers. Lightly brush with oil and season.
- BBQ or grill until the kebabs are heated through.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake thoroughly to mix.
- Serve the kebabs on top of the salad leaves and pour over the dressing.
Spanish Tortilla - Classic Mary Berry
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
225g peeled potatoes, cut into 1cm slices
4 large free-range eggs
1tbsp finely chopper parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a small heavy-based frying pan that’s about 20cm diameter. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the pepper and potatoes and season. Cover with a lid and gently cook over a low heat for about 15-20 mins or until the vegetables are soft and the potatoes are cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the pan clean.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl and season. Pour into the cooked mixture.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan. Carefully pour in the egg mixture and sprinkle with parsley. Cook on a medium heat until the sides and the top are just set and the base is slightly golden. When the middle is set, carefully slide onto a plate.
- Put the pan on top of the omelette and flip over to cook the other side for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown all over and just cooked through. Slide onto a plate and serve with a large crisp salad.
Quick peach Melba crumbles. (BBC good food)
410g can sliced peached in syrup
100ml whipping cream
1/2 tbsp icing sugar
- Pour the peaches with the syrup into a pan and heat over a medium heat. Add the butter and heat until hot. One simmering, add the raspberries and cook for 1-2 mins.
- 2. Meanwhile, put the cream into a large bowl with the icing sugar and lightly whip.
- 3. Using a slotted spoon, put the peach Melba mixture into four serving dishes and top each with a sprinkling of granola and a dollop of cream.