- Adapt familiar dishes, but don’t be put off by unfamiliar foods and new recipes.
- Treat yourself to a vegetarian cookbook for inspiration and advice. There are a wide range covering recipes for beginners, advanced cooks, slimmers, etc. Contact the NZ Vegetarian Society for a list.
- Start gradually. Adapt familiar meals such as lasagne and shepherds pie by using textured vegetable protein (TVP). TVP absorbs water to have the look, taste and texture of mince or meat chunks, according to which variety you buy. It is available from health food stores. If you don’t buy the flavoured variety, be aware that you need to add seasoning of some kind or it will remain bland and uninteresting.
- Buy vegetarian cheese. It’s not an unfamiliar product as cheese is probably already on your shopping list. But whereas some cheeses are made with an ingredient from the stomachs of slaughtered calves, vegetarian cheese uses vegetable-derived rennet. Almost every supermarket now stocks at least one kind of vegetarian cheese, such as the Mainland Vegetarian cheese range.
- Buy free-range eggs. Again, eggs are another staple ingredient in many people’s diets so it won’t take much effort to pick up the Free-Range variety instead of the Battery Produced.
- Read the labels. You may be suprised that some foods contain gelatine or animal fat.
- Look for the Vegetarian Society’s ‘V’ trademark on food products. It tells you at a glance that the product is suitable for vegetarians.
- Legumes: forget the dried variety if you find them difficult to prepare – go for the tinned kidney beans, chick peas, etc.
- Adapt familiar dishes. If you’re the only vegetarian in your family and it’s too difficult or expensive to cook totally separate meals, adapt a meat dish. A casserole, for instance, can be made with beans and vegetables in one pan. Then the meat can be cooked separately and given just to the meat eaters. Or use TVP and see if anyone notices the difference.
- Don’t be put off by unfamiliar foods. Tofu, for instance, is a boon to vegetarians, especially new ones. This by-product of soya beans is a complete protein, incredibly versatile and easy to use. It absorbs the flavour of other ingredients, so use with strong flavours (or use a recipe).
- Explore health food stores. They’ll have vegetarian products you haven’t seen before, and the assistants will be able to answer your questions about products suitable for your new lifestyle.