The accidental vegetarian

In the first of our three part series around alternatives to eating meat we help you get started with a vegetarian diet.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — Michael Pollan, In Defence of Food.

Whether you’re considering a vegetarian diet for health, ethical, environmental, or financial reasons — or a combination — if you’ve always eaten meat, the thought of giving it up entirely can be a little daunting. Abandoning bacon and restocking your pantry with unfamiliar grains and high-protein soy products may seem like too much all at once.

Instead, why not ease your way in by cooking and eating vegetarian just one or two days a week? This approach has plenty of advantages:

  • You don’t have to feel like you’re going cold turkey
  • You don’t have to worry about getting enough protein and other nutrients because you’re only skipping meat one or two days a week
  • You get to experiment with vegetarian food at a pace that suits you.

Including more plant-based foods in your diet is never a bad thing — unless, of course, you’re living on hot chips, which we don’t recommend. For a great summary of the benefits — to yourself and the planet — of eating less meat (plus some excellent recipes), check out Meat Free Mondays.

Eating in: the new vegetarian cooking
Anyone who explored vegetarianism in the ‘70s and ‘80s may recall cookbooks like Laurel’s Kitchen and The Moosewood Cookbook — full of earnest advice, quirky illustrations, and cheese-heavy recipes. Vegetarian cooking has come a long way since then, with a new focus on delicious, plant-based meals that make no apology for the absence of flesh.

If cooking is your thing — or you’d like it to be — invest in a couple of inspiring vegetarian cookbooks, such as Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat and The Modern Cook’s Year, Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More, Leon Fast Vegetarian by Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter, or The Vegetable by Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis.

Don’t want to spend money on books? You can find any number of fantastic vegetarian recipes online. Websites such as BBC goodfood and The Guardian have dedicated vegetarian sections, and delicious and taste make it easy to find veg recipes. There are also plenty of vegetarian food bloggers, including locals My Darling Lemon Thyme and Where’s the Beef?

For those who are used to meal planning around meat, modern meat substitutes are a revelation and can make the transition to vegetarian cooking much simpler — think seitan bolognese, vegan sausages, and even veggie bacon aka “facon" (funny how bacon is the one thing many people struggle to give up). Sydney also boasts its own vegetarian butcher, Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher, offering a range of high protein vegan products.

Eating out — and about
Don’t want to cook vegetarian? Don’t worry. There are amazing vegetarian restaurants all across Australia — a simple online search will unearth plenty — and don’t forget that some cuisines, such as Indian and Chinese, have a long tradition of vegetarianism.

Even better news is that most restaurants these days offer much more exciting vegetarian options than the ubiquitous pumpkin ravioli or mushroom risotto. Eating out according to your dietary preferences has become pretty standard, so whatever you do decide to exclude from your diet, there’s a good chance you’ll find something delicious on the menu. And it’s not just fine dining that’s got you covered — vegan/vegetarian burgers and vegan doughnuts are actually a thing.

What’s not to enjoy?

Next time we venture into the world of vegan.

Have you switched to vegetarian? What advice would you give someone thinking about the change?

Read more: