National Vegetarian Week May 19th – May 25th
A long term argument over which the jury is still out is whether a vegetarian diet is healthier than the traditional meat and two veg diet.
Things have hotted up in recent years as many people feel that a vegetarian or vegan diet is part of the answer to feeding future populations and arresting global warming.
I’m not going to enter into any of those arguments here. We’re a live and let live family – I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years, Mr Green eats meat every day during the winter months, but during the summer he adopts a high raw diet, and Little miss Green has been bought up to eat meat, but the choice is hers. She has a natural tendency towards a lot of fish. A true Pisces if ever I met one! There is never a dull moment in my kitchen!
The Vegetarian Society is holding their sixteenth annual, week-long celebration of all things veggie from May 19th this year. They are encouraging people to try going vegetarian for the week. Personally, I feel that if you are a meat and two veg person, then this is asking a bit much. But I certainly think it’s possible to think about experimenting with perhaps a couple of meals during the week.
I don’t hold to the belief that vegetarians are naturally healthier because it depends on what you eat! You can be a chips and chocolate eating vegetarian, but if you eat a balanced diet, it is more likely you’ll be able to fulfil your quota of five portions a day of fruit and vegetables, purely because many vegetarian meals centre around vegetables – stir fries, vegetable casseroles and soups for example.
If you want to try a vegetarian diet the deficiencies people are most concerned about are getting enough protein and iron. Regarding protein, the thing to understand is about creating complete proteins that your body can utilise. Meat, fish, cheese, milk and eggs are a complete protein, so a carnivore doesn’t need to be aware of this.
To create a complete protein on a vegetarian diet you need to combine beans or legumes with a grain. (Relying on cheese, milk and eggs for your protein needs isn’t particularly healthy in the long term) This is not nearly as daunting as it sounds and you’re probably doing it already! Think baked beans on wholemeal toast, rice and dahl, humus and pitta bread or tofu stir fry with noodles.
Quinoa is a wonderfood, perfect for vegetarians that is a complete protein, so have a good at adding this to your diet in place or rice or pasta.
Vegetarian sources of iron include seeds such as sesame seeds (hummous is good for this, or ryvita with sesame seeds or a handful of mixed seeds stirred into your breakfast), pulses; especially lentils and soya beans (think lentil soup, dahl and tofu), dark leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli, molasses and dried fruit – especially apricots. Having a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice, such as orange which is high in vitamin C with your meals will help your body to absorb the iron. Unfortunately, tea and coffee hinder the absorption of iron, so give those a miss with meals and drink them in between instead.
The Vegetarian society website has a wonderful recipes section and details of any events taking place near you. So check them out and consider taking the plunge with a couple of home cooked vegetarian meals based on local produce during National Vegetarian week. If you are already vegetarian, how about throwing a dinner party for your hardened meat eating friends to see what they think of your culinary skills?
Are you vegetarian? Do you have any favourite recipes to share?