Everyone wants to enjoy their food – and choosing veggie dishes or having a meat-free meal means you’re going to love what’s on your plate. The fun part is learning how to make simple switches to your favourite dishes to make them veggie-friendly – and you’ll be  impressed by how easy it is to get delicious results.

BUT WHAT ABOUT NUTRITION?

For those curious about how vegetarian nutrition works, a little bit of learning can go a long way. With this in mind we created our Going Veggie guide which is free to download at www.vegsoc.org

Knowing a little about veggie nutrition can do you the power of good. If your veggie meals are well thought out, they can be nutritious and healthy. A nutritionally balanced plate of delicious veggie food means you can get all the iron, protein and other nutrients your body needs.

Iron: The main sources of iron for vegetarians are cereals and bread, beans and lentils,  nuts, seeds and leafy green veg. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron – so drink a glass of orange juice with your meal, or add a portion of veg or a salad.

Starchy carbs: Around a third of the food you eat should be lovely, starchy carbs. Always  opt for wholegrain wherever possible – it’ll contain more fibre and nutrients than white or  refined starchy products, and will help you feel fuller for longer. Choose wholegrain bread,  pitta and chapattis; wholewheat pasta and brown rice; and wholegrain breakfast cereals and oats.

Five-a-day: Aim to eat a broad variety of fruit and veg in different colours for maximum nutritional impact – think of it as eating a rainbow! A small 150ml glass of fruit juice or  smoothie counts towards your five-a-day – and beans and lentils count too. In fact, one-third of what you eat every day should be fruit and veg. Fresh, frozen and canned all count!

Dairy: Keep your bones strong by eating a variety of dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese – all good sources of protein, vitamins and calcium. If using dairy alternatives – such as soya milk and yogurts, or almond milk – choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified options.

Fat, sugar and salt: While fat, sugar and salt can make food taste great, it’s best not to consume too much. Swap butter for a lower fat spread, and choose low salt options when  buying seasoning like stock cubes. Boiling or grilling food is healthier and just as tasty as  frying with oil. An occasional treat of ice-cream, cakes and sweets is something we all
love – but it’s worth remembering they can contain lots of sugar and fat.

The protein switch: The key is making sure you swap meat for other ingredients which provide important nutrients such as protein and iron. Add beans, nuts, tofu or meat substitutes like soya mince to your everyday, usual recipes for a well-balanced meal.

Beautiful beans: From baked beans to chickpeas, butter beans and kidney beans, these highly nutritious and satisfying foods are a great way to add protein to any recipe. Buy them ready cooked in tins for convenience, or dried in packets to save money (just remember to soak them properly before cooking).

Tricks with tofu: Tofu is made from soya beans and, when chopped into bite-sized pieces, makes a great addition to a wide range of dishes such as stir fries and curries.

Go nuts: Nuts are a great way to add protein to a meal. Try adding cashews to a curry, or throw some flaked almonds into a salad for extra bite. Peanut butter stirred into coconut  milk also makes an indulgent and nutritious sauce for a stir fry.

Mock meat: The simplest swap is for meat substitutes. This can be a practical way to make sure everyone’s happy – especially if you’re the only veggie in a meat-eating household.  some might not even notice the difference!

Supermarkets usually stock a range of meat-free mince, sausages, fillets and burgers. Versatile and convenient, they’re often lower in calories.

Tofu and products made from mycoprotein such as Quorn are also great options which can be switched into most veggie meals. And don’t forget eggs – they are convenient and versatile!

Meal inspiration: Its official – veggie food can be deliciously tasty and good for you, as long as you plan what’s on your plate. We’re here to help with a selection of mouth watering ideas based on exactly the kind of dishes you love – think comforting pasta, baked potatoes piled with fabulous fillings, satisfyingly-spicy chilli and gorgeous aromatic curries. Check out our recipes online at www.vegsoc.org