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Eating a mainly vegetarian diet can be challenging if you only have a small collection of recipes. As with all vegetarian dishes, variety is the spice of life. It's well worth looking into reducing meat content to increase vegetarian meals or being more completely Vegetarian for many varied reasons. Here's how.
1Start by setting a goal and consider what criteria you wish to set yourself. It may be to be Vegetarian entirely for one day a week (or all the time) or just to reduce the meat content of your diet. Decide also what type of vegetarian you would like to be as there is quite a variety (including mainstream types such as):
- Vegan - this diet is virtually completely animal product free which is without eggs, dairy, land or sea animal products, animal fats and so on.
- Lacto Vegetarian. Can eat Dairy products, but restricts eggs and animal products.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian. This diet can include eggs and dairy, but restricts animal products.
- There are other more specialised types such as Pescetarian, which allows fish products but no land animals and may allow eggs and dairy. There are many others however.
2Consider the cuisines you currently like and look for the vegetarian recipes available, then expand international cuisines and explore different recipes. You may find that virtually every cuisine has specific vegetarian meals, or meals that can be very easily adapted. You may (for example) enjoy Italian cuisine, but you can expand to Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, French etc, in order to get as much variety as possible.
- The web is a fantastic source of information as many vegetarian societies exist over the world and feature excellent recipes on their websites.
- Involve your family too as they might love (eg) Mexican cuisine which can expand your ideas and allow everyone to get something they enjoy.
3Explore meat-protein replacements and include them in your diet. These proteins are often found in legumes, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. Quinoa for example is a great source of protein. It is important to keep a variety of things to go with the meal not just for their protein content, but they also provide carbohydrates that fill you up and make you feel satisfied.
- Rice and pasta are common substitutes, but chickpeas, lentils, beans and a wide variety of dried products exist that are very cheap to buy and be cooked in a huge range of ways.
4Stock up a Vegetarian pantry with a few "cheat" products. These are great time savers such as:
- Vegetarian stock / bouillon cubes.
- Spice mixes (such as Taco, Tuscan, Green curry etc) that can add flavour quickly to a meal.
- "Pour and serve" style sauces such as pasta sauces, curry or stir fry sauces, marinades and other products that can make a quick meal with the additional of a few good vegetables and vegetarian proteins. It is nice to make it from scratch occasionally, but if you have little time then its best to work with what you can.
- Long life Soy milk
- Canned lentils, chickpeas (etc) these are fantastic as they don't need soaking like many dried beans but can be used right from the can.
5Make bulk meals if you don't have time to cook often. This might be to freeze portions for a quick lunch to reheat which is a great time saver, particularly if you just cook for yourself.
6Plan your meals a week ahead so you can shop accordingly. Quite often the best thing is to be inventive - if you find some fantastic produce in the stores, then you can always change menu plans to include those.
- Avoid buying meat. This might sound obvious, but if you are only occasionally vegetarian, having a freezer containing some meat products means they have to be used, or thrown away if they cannot be given away. This simply means you are more inclined to cook non vegetarian meals if meat products are there. Its also common habit for many vegetarians who occasionally eat meat to occasionally buy meat when it is on special as it is cheaper, which means it is always there. This may or may not be within your planned diet guidelines, but if you don't buy it, its almost certain that you won't use it.
7Whenever you buy your meals, if you cannot find or choose a good vegetarian restaurant (such as if you have guests who enjoy meat meals, or they just aren't local to you), do a little research in advance to see if the menu offers something good for vegetarians.
- With the internet, many restaurants and hotels have their menu online which makes the job a lot easier, but you can also phone in advance to making a booking to find out what can the kitchen do for you and your guests. Vegetarians can be infamously difficult to cater for as most mainstream kitchen teams are not always trained to specialise in vegetarian cuisine. As vegetarians naturally also wish for something a little more special than they can cook at home, research is the key to an enjoyable evening at a restaurant.
8Consider vegetarian meals that are known to be enjoyed by non vegetarians as well, should you share a house with non vegetarians. Some examples might be spinach and ricotta cannelloni, hearty salads, stir-fries, pasta bakes, vegetable bakes and soups. Its always easier to prepare one menu rather than two types each time. Some TVP (textured vegetable protein) manufacturers offer very good vegetarian sausages, burgers and mince products and the quality of convenience meals or lunch bar offerings are increasingly better.
9Focus on different methods of cooking, as well as colours, fragrance, flavours, flavour boosters such as spices, herbs and sauces as well as textures to make the meal always seem satisfying and less "dull". Be inventive and have fun!Advertisement
- Vegetarian diets may exist for really a huge variety of reasons. Aside from religious or ethical purposes, many can have allergies to certain animal products, some are required to go on for weight or nutrition management, some even choose vegetarian options for financial or food availability reasons.
- Check out the Vegetarian Recipe section on wikihow for a wide range of options and ideas.
- Always discuss with a qualified health care consultant whether the diet is suitable for you and your family. There has been several cases where parents with good intentions have exposed their children to (in some cases fatal) malnutrition. Children need a healthy diet to grow healthily.