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Go vegetarian or vegan

It’s good for you. It’s good for animals. And it’s good for the planet. So why not?

Get ready to feel better and experience a whole new world of eating.

If you’re new to vegetarianism there can be a lot to learn, but it’s a great adventure.

When you join the NZ Vegetarian Society, we send you comprehensive information and tips to live well on a vegetarian/vegan diet. You’ll find reasons to go veg, info on nutrition, tips on how to go veg, recipes and lots more.

What is a vegetarian?

  1. Vegan - A person who does not eat, wear or use any products derived from animals. A person who seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Vegans don’t eat any animal products (such as meat, fish, shellfish, crustacea, poultry, eggs, milk, honey) and their derivatives.
  2. Vegetarian - A person who, for whatever reason (eg moral, health, religious), does not eat meat (red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or crustacea) or by-products of slaughter.
  3. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian - Vegetarian who eats both dairy products and eggs.
  4. Lacto Vegetarian - Vegetarian who eats dairy products but avoids eggs.
  5. Ovo Vegetarian - Vegetarian who eats eggs but not dairy products.
  6. Pescetarian - Avoids red meat and poultry but eats fish. Not a vegetarian.


Many vegetarians eat only free-range eggs. This is due to welfare objections to the intensive farming of hens.

There are, of course, overlaps between these categories, and most people will be a variation of these. For example, a vegetarian may eat free range eggs but avoid leather and animal tested products.

We need definitions for clarity, but in reality, people may make equally ethically-based choices but come to different conclusions based on personal prioritisation.

As a new or experienced vegetarian or vegan, you may have come to your lifestyle choice for various reasons. We can support you with information both about the nutritional aspects of being vegetarian and about ethical aspects too. At our gatherings and in our magazine Vegetarian Living NZ, you will find articles and discussions about the impact our diet has on the environment, health and how real compassion for animals is enacted.

Reasons to be vegetarian

Vegetarians live longer and have reduced risk of lifestyle diseases, obesity and hypertension. Animal fat and meat has been linked conclusively with an increase in heart disease, stroke, colon and breast cancer, liver and kidney disease, depletion of bone mass, arthritis, and a host of other afflictions. Vital foods build vital bodies.
To stop the exploitation of animals by intensive breeding and cruelty, and needless slaughter. It has become the conviction of many of the world’s deepest thinkers that cruelty shown to animals stands as a blot upon humanity, retarding our progress. Wise sages have prescribed Ahimsa (non injury or harmlessness), as the most effective method to counteract and eradicate the brutal, cruel tendencies in people.
The knowledge that other creatures have feelings very similar to our own. The average meat-eater during their lifetime is personally responsible for the slaughter of 5 cows, 20 pigs, 30 sheep, 760 chickens, 46 turkeys, 15 ducks, 7 rabbits, 1 1/2 geese and 1/2 tonne of fish.
Animal agriculture is responsible for deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change and most importantly, the loss of biodiversity
World Hunger
There are some 800 million people in the world with barely enough to eat, yet 80% of the world’s agricultural land is used for feeding animals and only 20% for feeding humans directly. It takes approximately 80lbs of vegetable protein to produce 1lb of animal protein.
Vegetarianism is strongly linked with a number of religions that originated in ancient India – in particular Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is also the preferred diet for many following a spiritual path due to the concepts of ahimsa (non-violence), purity of the body and mind from avoiding flesh, or because the eating of animals goes against spiritual beliefs.
Humans are closer to herbivores than carnivores. Compare:


  • Sharp teeth
  • No ptyalin
  • Short intestinal tract
  • Large liver
  • Smooth colon
  • No pores


  • Grinding teeth
  • Ptyalin in saliva
  • Very long intestinal tract
  • Small liver
  • Convoluted colon
  • Millions of pores

Life stages

Learn the effects of a plant-based diet through the various life stages.

Supporting a vegetarian family member

Being the only vegetarian in a home is not always easy. Having a child become vegetarian can be challenging for non-vegetarian households. But with mutual respect and open minds, these differences can be successfully dealt with. They can even open up some exciting new food experiences for everyone. Generally, having a vegetarian family member results in better food and nutrition knowledge all round, and often improvements in everyone’s diet.

So, accept this challenge with open arms! It’s a great journey.

Tips to try:

  • Cook the meat in meals separately and add at the end, after the vegetarian’s portion has been dished.
  • Make easy vegetarian versions of meals for the whole household, eg nachos with beans, falafels, curries.
  • Replace chicken in dishes with tofu.
  • Add beans, nuts and seeds to salads for iron and protein.
  • Use vegetarian meat alternatives, eg vege sausages, bacon, mince, burger patties, pies, etc.
  • Make large vege meals and freeze in portion sizes for a quick meal for the vegetarian family member when the main meal is not easily made veg.
  • Have the whole household embrace Meatless Mondays. It’s better for your health and better for the environment.
  • Find some good vegetarian or vegan recipes everyone in the family enjoys

Frequently asked questions

Don’t vegetarian meals take a long time to prepare? And isn’t it hard to learn what to make anyway?

The initial learning stages of making changes of any sort to your lifestyle and diet can often require more time as you assimilate the necessary knowledge. A good way to stay enthusiastic is to look at the whole process with an adventure mind-set, just as you would if you were learning about the cuisine from a different country. There are also more and more convenience foods available to help both the transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet and to assist with quick meals. Look in the frozen and chilled foods section of your supermarket for ‘mock’ meats and the canned foods section for beans, chick peas and lentils.

Between the thousands of vegetarian and vegan cooking books available, and recipes on the internet, you won’t go short of ideas. Research has shown that most of us build up a repertoire of about a dozen dishes that we use most of the time. Once you have built up your basic repertoire, you are set.

Help! My teenager has stopped eating meat!

Congratulations on having raised a teenager who has sensitivity, intelligence and the backbone to make a stand for what they believe. Now all they need is your support and interaction with other vegetarians and vegans. Encourage them to join the NZ Vegetarian Society for up to date nutritional information, and access to youth activities and groups. Go to our vegetarian/vegan teenager page.

I already do my bit for the environment without being vegetarian; isn’t that enough?

Being environmentally aware is a big step in the right direction, but consider this too – changing to a meat-free diet, or reducing the amount of animal products we eat, makes the greatest positive impact on our environment.

Meat production requires a great deal of water, fuel for transport and electricity for refrigeration. Waste from excrement, slaughter and saturated fat is constantly deposited into our drainage systems. The demand for cheap meat is a major reason for the destruction of Central American rainforests. This deforestation contributes to species extinction and to carbon dioxide pollution, a significant factor in the greenhouse effect. Tropical rainforests provide a substantial part of the earth’s oxygen, house 80% of the planet’s vegetation and are home to more species of plant and animal life than the remainder of the earth. It takes five square metres of rainforest for each quarter-pound hamburger made from imported cattle.With every acre of rainforest destroyed, species become closer to extinction, the greenhouse effect increases and the atmosphere is robbed of oxygen. Also contributing to the greenhouse effect is methane, and ruminant livestock account for 15 to 20% of global methane emissions.

I love animals and do a lot for them without becoming vegetarian too – how far do I have to go if I already support charities and only buy organic meat?

You may like animals and feel good about helping them, but by eating them you may also be personally responsible for the brutal slaughter of an average of 22 warm blooded animals per year. Since you already have an awareness of animal welfare, why not take the next logical step?

If I become vegetarian, won’t I end up eating more dairy products, which are high in saturated fat?

During the transition stage you may possibly find that you use more dairy products to compensate for the exclusion of meat. As your knowledge of vegetarianism increases, however, and your recipe repertoire expands, you will find that you will rely on dairy products less and less to make tasty, interesting meals. There’s a huge range of plant foods available in the world, and so many ways to use them just waiting for discovery.

Is it safe to raise babies and children on a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Absolutely! We now have fourth generation vegetarians in New Zealand, having been raised as vegetarians from birth. Support and helpful hints about raising vegetarian/vegan babies and children are in our family series brochures.  We have many families who have raised healthy children from birth as vegetarian or vegan. Further information can be found here.

What about fish?

Fish are also sentient beings. Recent research has discovered that fish are much more sensitive and cognitive than we have ever given them credit for. Fish talk to each other, enjoy physical contact, and in some species form permanent monogamous bonds.

As well as this, fish and shellfish carry more environmental pollutants than land animals, particularly ‘persistent organic pollutants’ (POPs) – synthetic compounds created as industrial chemicals or pesticides. In addition to chemical pollutants, fish can contain heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead.

We have a series of nutritional leaflets available, along with additional reading material in our library. Feel free to email us to request further information.

Where do vegetarians and vegans get Vitamin B12 from?

Vitamin B12 is available in fortified foods such as fortified soya or rice milks, as well as marmite as well as in eggs and dairy. To find out about vitamin B12, go to our B12 information page or if you would like an information leaflet about B12 sent to you, email us.

Where do vegetarians and vegans get iron from?

Iron is readily available from most plant foods in sufficient quantities to supply us with all that we require. Despite what’s said in common advertising in red meat commercials, animal sources are not necessary. While haem iron (from animal sources) is more readily absorbed than non-haem iron (from plant-based sources, eg dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, dried fruit), it is easily possible to get all your iron needs met without animal products or iron supplementation. Remember too, that vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron. To find out more about iron, go to our Iron page.

Where do you get your protein from, if not from animal sources?

Most plant foods contain protein. It would actually be very difficult to suffer from protein deficiency on the average vegetarian or vegan diet. Combining all amino acids at each meal is not necessary as a variety of plant foods over the course of a week will supply all that is required, particularly if you are utilising all four food groups, ie grains and legumes, as well as fruits and vegetables. If you would like an information leaflet sent to you about protein, email us at the address below.

Become a member

We’ll send you more comprehensive information and tips to live well on a vegetarian/vegan diet, plus reasons to go veg, tips on how to go veg, recipes and lots more!

Join us