Written by Rachel

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What do you eat?

Think of diet as being a spectrum. On the one extreme there is the meat eater and on the other there is the vegan. The meat eater typically eats a lot of meat, and very little fruit, vegetables or grains.
The vegan person eats a varied plant-based diet that is exceedingly healthy and nutritious.
In-between the meat eater and the vegan are the various types of 'vegetarian'...

Meat eater

Most people are meat eaters. This isn't bad in itself, but a 10 minute search on Google will easily illustrate that many health problems arise from eating meat.
The main issue is the time it takes the intestines to digest the meat, and the salts, fats etc contained within the meat.

What is meat?

'Meat' refers to animal flesh; whether it be insect, mammal, lizard, fish or bird.

Is meat bad?

In the book,
The Okinawa Program by Dr Bradley Wilcox, Dr Craig Wilcox and Dr Makoto Suzuki, the authors discovered that Okinawan centenarians ate a mainly plant-based diet, with a small amount of meat.
They didn't eat a lot of meat, but they did eat meat.

A vegetarian is someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs (preferably free-range).
A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products such as gelatine or animal fats.

(The Vegetarian Society)


A vegetarian does not eat meat, hence the name. Please refer to The Vegetarian Society or The Vegan Society websites for more information.

Political vegetarian

Being vegetarian is not trendy or cool. It is initially inconvenient, and requires a lot of careful study and consideration.
A person should not become a vegetarian simply because they think it is the 'right thing to do'.


Many people love animals and could not imagine killing and eating them. You have no temptation to eat meat when the prospect of eating an animal makes you feel ill.
If the sight of dead flesh or the smell of cooking flesh is repellent, there is no ideation involved.


The word 'meat' distances people from the reality of eating living creatures. It reduces animals to 'livestock'.
There are many animal-related euphemisms: meat, bacon, beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork, ham... Being honest and seeing the truth is important.
Many so-called 'vegetarians' eat chicken and fish. The Vegetarian Society classifies poultry and fish as being meat; therefore not vegetarian.

Types of vegetarian

There are many different types of vegetarian diet. Some people only eat raw food, others only eat plant matter that can be obtained without harming the plant.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to the individual. You must do what works best for you and your value system.

Eggs and dairy products

Eggs, dairy products and honey are all animal by-products. Most vegetarians eat these because no animal is harmed. Seek free-range organic produce.

Meat substitutes

There are many many meat substitute food products available these days. They are targeted at people who continue to think in terms of "meat and two veg".
This way of looking at food is limiting for the vegetarian. It is better to move past the attachment to meat, and to regard food differently.
Instead of being restricted by the removal of meat, you might consider the massive range of food you can eat.


Some examples of what a vegetarian can eat:

  1. Beans & pulses
    - black-eyed pea, chickpea, kidney, lentil, mung, pea, pinto, runner, soybean

  2. Brassicas & leaves
    - broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, lettuce, pak choi, rocket, spinach, watercress

  3. Dairy produce
    - cheese, cream, milk, yoghurt

  4. Grains
    - barley, buckwheat, corn, maize, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, wheat

  5. Nuts & seeds

  6. Onion family & mushrooms
    - garlic, leeks, cultivated & wild mushrooms, onions

  7. Roots, shoots & stems
    - artichokes, asparagus, beansprouts, beetroots, carrots, fennel, potatoes, sweet potatoes

  8. Squashes & fruit
    - avocados, aubergines, butternut squash, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes
    - apple, banana, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, currants, gooseberry, grapes, kiwi fruit, lemon, lime, mango, melons, nectarine, orange, passion fruit, pawpaw, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, raspberry, strawberry

Balanced diet

A vegetarian diet is a healthy one. Without meat, the vegetarian is required to be creative; consequently they are far more experimental than meat-eaters.
A varied, balanced diet is good for your health.

Is it really vegetarian?

A lot of food that may appear suitable for vegetarians actually contains meat or was produced using animal products. It is necessary to read the label carefully.
Unless the items explicitly says "suitable for vegetarians" or carries a V symbol, avoid it.

High cultures are actually just subtle ways of concealing reality, so that pretentious people can pretend that they are above the level of the lower classes, whether animal or human.

By now we are all too good to go crudely banging a bull on the head with a mallet or sticking a knife through it and tearing it apart and eating it. All that is done for us way off in the stockyard, and the meat comes to us in the butcher shop as a completely neutral-looking thing called a steak.

But steak is something wrapped-up, packaged. Almost nobody picks up a steak and thinks "Poor cow." A plastic-wrapped steak doesn't even look like a cow, and it doesn't remind you of one in any way - that's culture.

(Alan Watts)

Fat, sugar etc

As well as avoiding meat, be careful about the sugar, fat and salt content: 10g of sugar is a lot. 20g of fat is a lot. 1.25g of salt is a lot.
If you want to lose fat, don't have any sugar at all: obvious or hidden.


Many alcoholic drinks are not suitable for vegetarians. Check the label.

Eating out

During the last decade, there has been an ever increasing number of people giving-up meat.
Vegetarian food has become more abundant in the supermarkets and restaurants are beginning to change their menus.

Eating cautiously

In terms of eating out, it is still immensely inconvenient to be a vegetarian. Many restaurants still serve meat to vegetarians.
Before committing to a meal it may be worth asking the facility about the type of food they serve.
Locally grown fresh organic food is a positive sign. If they quote fish dishes or 'vegetable' soup, be careful.

Recipe books

These books are worth reading:

  1. Vegetarian Nosh 4 Students: A Fun Student Cookbook by Joy May

  2. Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

  3. The Bean Book by Rose Elliot

  4. Classic Vegetarian Recipes by Rose Elliot

  5. Delia's Vegetarian Collection by Delia Smith and Victoria Wood

  6. For The Love of Food: Vegetarian Recipes from the Heart by Denis Cotter

  7. The Modern Vegetarian: Food Adventures for the Contemporary Palate by Maria Elia

  8. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

  9. Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian by Rose Elliot

  10. Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Meals In Minutes by Rose Elliot

  11. The Vegetarian Cookbook: From Earth to Table by Nicola Graimes & Fiona Biggs

  12. The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson

There are many, many more available.

Free from...

It would be nice if we could all eat organic, wholesome food and live without exploiting the planet. The world has been regarded as a resource since the dawn of time.
Pollution, strip mining, deforestation, environmental disasters, garbage, water shortages and livestock are all sad testimonies to our modern way of life.
Plastic is a petroleum by-product. Metal is acquired by strip mining. Stone is obtained by quarrying. Wood involves the destruction of natural forests.
Could we realistically live without any of these products? It would be nice. Sadly, there is often a need to compromise, to fall short of the ideal. But this does not mean that you should not try.

Getting started

The best way into vegetarian eating is to start with things like pasta or noodles. 
These are filling, wholesome dishes that don't necessarily require meat. Jumping straight into vegetables and fruit may be a bit daunting and unrealistic.
Most pasta dishes don't assume meat. If meat is an issue, try substitutes? In the UK there is Quorn. Some sort of protein.

Add the good stuff

A great tip with vegetarian food is to start off by adding more fruit and vegetables to your typical meal. e.g. if you ate cake, add berries...
Add salad whenever possible but make the salad varied and interesting. Once you start researching what a vegetarian diet offers you encounter all sorts of foods you simply don't eat.
I love to find new tastes and textures.


Vegans do not eat eggs, honey or dairy products.
How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger advocates a varied plant-based diet. The book says that scientific evidence has proven that this diet can significantly contribute to a longer, healthier lifespan.

Should I become vegan?

If you're a meat eater, it can be quite a step to go from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one. You need to do a lot of research, and your guts may react badly to the change.
It is far more sensible to do things slowly. Start by adding more vegetables, fruit and grains into your diet. Reduce the meat.
Then, consider moving to a vegetarian diet. 

Vegetarian food is mainstream

Once upon a time, vegetarian food was hard to find. Nowadays, the supermarkets are filled with vegetarian products, ranging from highly healthy options to most flavours of ice cream.
It is easy to become vegetarian.
If you are looking for processed food/ready meals, maybe stay clear of the cliché 'veggie burger' and consider exploring the many alternatives now available to you.
Or better still, make your food from scratch.

Worth reading

• The Okinawa Program by Dr Bradley Wilcox, Dr Craig Wilcox and Dr Makoto Suzuki
How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger
• Green Tea Living by Toshimi A. Kayaki

Courgette muffins     Nut roast

Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 28 December 2020