Tips for Being a Vegetarian
Recently I read that because of a sustained interest in a meat-free diet, 1 in 4 evening meals in the UK now contain no meat or fish. I find this astonishing - in a good way. Before I started cutting out meat, I was a huge meat eater and nearly every meal would contain meat. And I certainly wasn't the only one, it seems like a lot of people are of the opinion that a meal is not a meal without meat. But this new research shows that this is perhaps changing as more and more people are becoming aware of the implications of eating meat, whether it’s on the health, the environment or the animals themselves. I think the awareness is the most important part. I will always maintain that people are free to eat what they want, but also that they should be making a conscious decision of what they’re putting into their body.
This blog post is by no means intended to be preachy, I definitely don’t want to encourage a vegetarian diet on someone who doesn’t want to eat one - in the same way that I appreciate when people don’t try to encourage me to eat meat.
This blog post is more intended for those who are either interested in trying vegetarianism or aren’t having an easy time swerving meat and are looking for a bit of help. Because I’ve been there. I know it’s not the easiest and I was always trying to gather tips and advice, I’m sure I must have annoyed my vegan friends by my constant questioning but I feel like I’ve learned so much about food since doing this.
Here are some of the best tips that helped me when I turned veggie:
Find vegetarian alternatives for your favourite things
I was actually surprised by how little I missed meat when I cut it out of my diet, but there’s always going to be the odd day you crave a certain type of food. But there’s some damn good alternatives for when you wish you could tuck into something in particular. Here’s some of my favourites:
- Chicken nuggets = Quorn Chicken Nuggets (they taste better than actual chicken nuggets and I’m not even lying, and almost identical to McDonalds nuggets)
- Mince = Quorn/soya mince is fantastic for texture but it’s better in meals with lots of other flavour like spag bol or chilli
- Pulled pork/hoisin duck = Jackfruit has an almost identical texture and tastes incredible with BBQ sauce or hoisin.
- Marshmallows = Holland & Barrett sell these non-gelatine marshmallows that are perfect for a hot chocolate
- Sweets = A lot of gummy sweets use pork or beef gelatine, but there are some that don’t. Marks & Spencers and the Co Op sell vegetarian sweets. Skittles and Jelly Tots are also vegan.
Try new recipes rather than relying on meat replacements
This is something I’m still working on, but I find it helps the transition a lot. Don’t see vegetarianism as giving up types of food, see it as an opportunity to try so much more.
Finding new recipes is fun, there’s so many new foods I eat now that I would never have tried had I stuck with my meat-eating diet. Things such as jackfruit, spinach, lentils, beetroot, nuts and seeds, okra, a lot of green vegetables - things I never ate before.
Browse pinterest, google, and recipe books to find inspiration. Most meat recipes can be adapted and made vegetarian but you'll also find a wealth of veggie recipes you perhaps hadn't thought of trying before! Bookmark them, print them, copy them out of books and build up your own personal recipe book!
Be aware of foods that might catch you out
I still get caught out occasionally - that’s ok, it’s ok to make mistakes - but there is a lot to learn. You never realise how much meat is in things until you decide to cut it out.
Gelatine is perhaps the most obvious, but also something that is very likely to catch you out. Mousse, trifles, marshmallow teacakes - all a no-go.
- Parmesan isn’t vegetarian (it’s made using animal rennet) and is often a key ingredient in pesto, so check for that
- Sauces such as thai green may have crustacean in
- Caesar salad
- Chips cooked in beef dripping
- Goose fat roast potatoes
- Meaty flavoured crisps (some are OK)
- Gravy that uses meat stock
- Worcestershire sauce (and burger sauce I believe) have anchovies in
- Some wine (eek)
In fact, if you look into it, there’s so many sneaky ingredients that contain animals or fish or insects that sneak into everyday foods it’s almost impossible to be strictly vegetarian. However, any changes you do make are still going to make a difference so try not to be too disheartened.
Look up restaurant menus/choices in advance
I always did this anyway because I like to be prepared haha! But if you're planning on going to a restaurant and you're worried about the menu, have a look in advance, you can almost always find menus online. If there's nothing you'd want, perhaps call the restaurant to see how they could cater for you or opt for somewhere else.
Again, I don't want this to be preachy, it's just advice I've picked up over the last year and a bit since cutting meat out that I wanted to share. It's not the easiest choice to make, but adapting your diet is not as hard as you'd initially think!
Are you vegetarian? Did you find the transition easy or not?