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Has the horsemeat scandal turned you veggie? Here’s what you need to know about a meat-free diet

Image by Martin Cathrae

Horsemeat labelled as beef: It started out as an unpleasant surprise in the frozen burgers section of Tesco but has developed into a Europe-wide scandal that has touched big-name brands, supermarket chains, catering firms, pubs and restaurants, school dinners, hospital food and of course, the general public at large. Just how many people have unwittingly eaten horse will never be known.

It’s a strange thing but I reckon this horsemeat scandal will actually be responsible for a renewed enthusiasm for a vegetarian diet. There’s nothing like a bit of horse to separate the carnivores from the herbivores…

Article by Jessica B.

The argument from a true carnivore will be ‘it is wrong because you can’t label it as beef if it’s actually horse, it is a labelling issue’. Whereas someone likely to be tempted into a life of vegetables would also add, ‘it is disgusting to eat horse – and now you mention it, it’s also disgusting to eat cows – I want to be sick!’

If you fall in the latter category then read on!

I have spent 13 happy years being a vegetarian, a lifestyle choice made as a fussy child, which then developed into a real enthusiasm as an adult. I am not one of these vegetarians who take things very seriously and eats very little. I love food and would consider myself something of a foodie.

I realise vegetarianism isn’t for everyone, but there are genuine health benefits and the range of food available is delicious. This post aims to tackle the everyday dietary problems of eating in and the complexities of enjoying a meal out.

I love tofu

Image by Paul Holloway 

vegetarianism at home

It’s Friday night and you fancy a delicious home cooked veggie meal. Well, the world is your oyster (or your tofu, as the case may be). As vegetarianism has increased in popularity, veggie cookbooks and blogs have been popping up in increasing numbers. It really isn’t tricky to discover new ideas. Fill your cupboard to bursting point with vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, spices and herbs, then fill your fridge full of different cheeses, eggs and hummus, then get yourself online.

Check out Oh My Veggies or Veggie Belly for just a few ideas. My personal favourite recipe at the moment is Spiced Stuffed Mushroom Burgers.

Without meat on your plate, there is a risk that you’ll lose out on important vitamins and minerals, most commonly iron and vitamin B12. This isn’t too much of a problem, as long as you stick to a balanced diet.

Iron

Contrary to popular belief, (a belief mainly due to the bulging arms of Popeye) spinach is not actually a good source of iron. It contains iron but also contains a substance that makes it hard for your body to absorb iron. It’s the equivalent of making yourself a nice burger, which is then too big to fit in your mouth.

Good sources of iron include; pulses, dried fruit, watercress, broccoli, wholemeal bread and cereals that have been fortified with iron.

broccoli

Image by scarygami 

Vitamin B12

This is a tricky vitamin as it is only found naturally in foods from animal sources. If you eat dairy products such as eggs and milk you should be okay. If you opt for veganism, you’ll need to look for cereals or soya products that have been fortified with B12, or try a yeast extract such as Marmite.

Protein

Vegetables are not exactly famous for their protein but sources of protein are available naturally in foods like nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, soya products, eggs, cereals and dairy foods. Plenty to choose from there!

dining out as vegetarian

I love cooking but I also enjoy letting other people cook for me. I’ve had many delicious vegetarian meals out but the one thing that can often go wrong is choice, or rather lack of.

In the UK

Very rarely have I been in a pub or restaurant in the UK to discover that there is no vegetarian option; probably never in last five years. The only problem is that there will often be no selection for vegetarians. You scan the menu for a little ‘V’ sign, and then scan it again before you realize that you will be eating the vegetable lasagne whether you like it or not.

And I’m quite partial to vegetable lasagne; in fact I will sometimes choose it, even if there is a wider choice. What’s more of a problem is that some very traditional country pubs will often display their disregard for veggie food with a particularly bland option like a cheese sandwich.

However, there are lots of vegetarian restaurants springing up where you will be spoiled for choice. I would also recommend Indian restaurants as they often have a healthy-sized veggie selection.

Govindas

Image by Mark Hillary

On Holiday

Depending on the country you visit, things can get a little trickier abroad. Vegetarianism hasn’t quite caught on in the same way in many other countries, especially in the West.

You’ll often find that eight different animals are being served but if you are looking for something which did not previously have four legs or fins, you might be trouble.

I remember visiting a rural part of France as a child, where we ate at a café without any vegetarian options. After much confusion and hand gestures, I was presented with a cheese salad; a plate splattered with gooey cheese, garnished with a single lettuce leaf.

I also recall struggling in northern Finland to find anything that did not contain reindeer. It was a lost cause and I spent the entire holiday eating bread with cheese and chips, which I had a faint suspicion had been cooked in reindeer fat.

There are highs and lows to a life of vegetables but I hope you find this guide useful if you are new to vegetarianism. I have found that you can still love your food, cook and eat a great variety of flavours, as well as stay healthy.

How did the horsemeat story affect your view on vegetarianism? And do you have any tips for a happy and healthy veggie life?

Jessica is a blogger who writes about lifestyle and culture.

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