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Fact File - Types of Vegetarian Diets and Recipes

Although, at present, there is no specific definition of ‘vegetarian’, most vegetarians tend not to eat meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, but there are different types of vegetarian diets. The most common types of vegetarian diets are lacto-ovo-vegetarians who eat both dairy products and eggs (usually free-range), lacto-vegetarians who eat dairy products but avoid eggs and ovo-vegetarians who eat eggs, but will exclude dairy. Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.



Is a more vegetarian based diet healthy?

Current advice for healthy eating is the same for vegetarians as non-vegetarians which includes, a diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt and high in fibre. A well planned vegetarian diet should easily be able to achieve the healthy eating guidelines as it is more plant-based and therefore can naturally be high in fibre (whole grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables), low in saturated fat (main sources of saturated fats are from animal fats).

A healthy, balanced vegetarian or more plant based diet can be cost-effective and is associated with a lower risk of some chronic diseases or conditions, such as heart disease, certain types of cancers and type 2 diabetes which is linked with eating too much processed meats and saturated fats and a diet low in fibre. However it is also important to consider other lifestyle factors, such as exercise, alcohol and smoking.


For a balanced diet, recommendations still apply to vegetarian diets in that all the 5 food groups are included, these are:

  • Fruit and Vegetables
  • Starchy Foods
  • Nuts, seeds and pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils) and possibly eggs. These are the alternatives to meat and fish
  • Milk and dairy foods (yoghurt, cheese) and/or dairy alternatives.
  • Foods containing fat and/or sugar (this group being the smallest or limited to occasions)


A more plant based diet cannot only have a benefit for health, but also for the environment.


Plant Based Diets and The Environment

Over the next few decades as the global population increases, the demand for food will grow. Meat production puts a huge amount of pressure on the environment and natural resources, for example, to produce 1kg of beef, 13kg of grain are required, the larger the animal, the more grain and resources are generally required. Plant based diets tend to be more environmentally friendly by requiring less land, water, energy resources and less green house gas emissions, however there are also many other ways to help the environment, such as choosing seasonal foods and those that are locally sourced.


A Healthy Vegetarian Diet

By just cutting out meat, poultry, fish and possibly eggs and/or dairy foods this will not necessarily make the diet healthier. A vegetarian diet still needs to be balanced and contain all the nutrients your body needs to maintain health. There are also some nutritional considerations which are key to a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet and with a little planning, you can reduce the risk of missing out on essential nutrients, in particular, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Below, the 5 main food groups are discussed in more details, paying attention to sources of these particular nutrients.


1. Fruit and Vegetables

A rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre all needed for health.

Aim to eat at least five portions of a variety of colours daily to provide a diverse source of nutrients.

One portion is around 80g. In practical terms this is the equivalent of a medium sized fruit, such as an apple, a ‘cereal’ bowl of salad and 3 tablespoons of vegetables.


2. Starchy Foods

A rich source of carbohydrate needed for energy. Aim for the whole grain varieties of these foods and include some at each main meal.

Whole grain varieties are not only higher in minerals and vitamins including iron, but are also a richer source of fibre than refined versions which is important for gut health as well as many other health benefits.

Some examples of whole grains include quinoa, rye, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, corn and spelt.


3. Eggs, nuts, seeds and pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils). These are the alternatives to meat and fish

A rich source of protein essential for growth and repair. Vegetarian sources include pulses (beans, lentils and chickpeas), which are also high in fibre and one portion can count as one of your 5-A-Day; these are  particularly important for people who do not get protein by eating meat, fish, eggs or dairy foods. Nuts, seeds, are also sources of protein. It is important to eat a variety of these foods as most vegetarian sources do not contain the complete mix of amino acids (these are the building blocks of protein) as in animal protein sources.

Although red meat is the most easily absorbed source of iron, a variety of other plant foods will contribute and should be included in the diet, such as pulses, nuts, whole grains and dried fruit. By including a source of vitamin C (fruit and vegetables) with your meal, this will help iron in foods to be absorbed.

Efficiently absorbed sources of Omega-3’s are mainly found in oily fish, called DHA and EPA; aim to include vegetarian sources such as flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed oil which contain other types of Omega-3’s called ALA which can be converted to some extend in the body to DHA and EPA. Omega 3 is linked to keeping your heart healthy.


4. Milk and dairy foods (yoghurt, cheese) and/or dairy alternatives

A rich source of protein and calcium which plays an important role in bone health.

If included in the diet, choose plain, low-fat varieties and include a couple of portions a day to help meet your calcium requirements. If you choose not to eat dairy foods, check that alternatives, such as soya or almond milk are enriched with calcium and vitamin D. Other vegetarian sources of calcium include pulses, dried fruit (particularly apricots and figs), nuts and seeds (particularly sesame seeds) and green leafy vegetables.


5. Foods containing fat and/or sugar

These are often highly processed foods or drinks. Aim to limit or avoid these. Sugary foods and drinks can be high in empty calories, with little other nutrient value.

Some fat is needed in the diet, but you do not need to eat or drink any highly processed foods for a source of fat. If adding fat to your food, choose those that are rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and some polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). These fats, particularly MUFA are heart friendly. Rich sources of MUFA’s include olive and rapeseed oil.

Vitamin B12 is necessary for making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy. The main sources of vitamin B12 is in eggs, dairy foods, fish and meat. Both vegans and some vegetarians may not get enough of this vitamin as is not found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains. However fortified yeast extracts and cereals will contain some vitamin B12 so it is important to consider including these or to discuss further with a healthcare professional.



To further enhance your health though healthy eating and lifestyle, incorporate the following also:

  • Eat less salt – we should have no more than 6g a day. Remember foods already contain some salt naturally and highly processed foods a lot more. Eating too much can raise your blood pressure so try to include spices and herbs instead to enhance taste. If you are reading a food label more than 1.5g per 100g means the product is high in salt. Younger children should have even less.
  • Regular exercise and being a healthy weight – physical activity also plays an important role, not only for weight control, but for your health, by being physically active this can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
  • Drink enough water – we need about 1.6 to 2 litres of fluid a day to stop us getting dehydrated. Water is the best choice, but you can also count other non-alcoholic drinks if in moderation. Aim to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary.


Starting a more plant based diet:

  • Try to have a vegetarian day once a week.
  • Focus meals on plant based foods rather than meat (vegetables, pulse and whole grains) when cooking or planning a shopping list.
  • Aim for meat and poultry to be the smallest portion on the plate at mealtimes; pulses (lentils, beans and chickpeas) can be a tasty alternative to meat and to bulk out meals.
  • Choose a variety of vegetables at meals – aim for at least 3 different colours a day.
  • Try a fortified milk alterative, such as almond or oat milk.
  • Choose plant based snacks, such as raw vegetables, fruit, nuts or whole grains.
  • Explore vegetarian recipes (examples below).



Recipe Ideas

Below are some recipes to get you started..



Chickpea or Gram Flour Pancakes


Makes enough for 1 pancake so just multiply up the numbers for however many you want and however many you are feeding.

  • 1 TBS chickpea (gram) flour
  • 4-5 TBS water (try sparkling water, it makes a fluffier pancake)


  • Greek yoghurt with walnuts
  • Greek yoghurt with blueberries or raspberries or strawberries (leave the berries whole or whizz them in the blender to make a berry sauce)
  • Greek yoghurt with nuts and seeds
  • Extras:  Add a little vanilla essence to your yoghurt for extra sweetness, grate a little dark chocolate over the top to finish off


  1. Dribble a little oil into your non-stick frying pan over a moderate heat, wipe out the excess with kitchen paper.
  2. Measure the chick pea flour into a small bowl, add water and whisk until dissolved (consistency is like double cream)
  3. Pour mixture into the heated frying pan and tilt pan to spread mixture evenly around.  Cook for about 2 minutes on each side which will make the pancake easy to fold
  4. Add your toppings and serve immediately.


No-cook Porridge

This can be made ahead of time and kept for several days, enabling you to prepare ahead – and it only takes a matter of minutes.


Serves 1    

Basic Porridge Recipe

  • 20g uncooked rolled oats
  • 70g Greek yoghurt (natural yoghurt is thinner, and if this is used, your milk will need to be reduced)
  • 80ml milk (semi-skimmed)
  • 1 ½ tsp Chai seeds

Apple & Cinnamon Porridge

  • 1 apple (diced)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp honey


  1. Combine the oats, milk, yoghurts and chai seeds in a Tupperware pot/jar that has a lid
  2. Put the lid on your container and shake to combine the ingredients
  3. Add in your chosen fruit and flavours and gently stir in until combined
  4. Place in the fridge overnight – and it’ll be good to go by the morning.  

Tip: Make extra for the following few mornings as this recipe stays fresh for several days.


Creamy Smoothie with Almond Milk

Creamy smoothie with almond milk is delicious served for breakfast or as a filling snack during the day.

Serves 1


  • 200ml Almond milk
  • 4 tbsp coconut water
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed, sunflower and pumpkin seed
  • 120g (¼ bag) frozen mango chunks or pineapple chunks


  1. Measure all the ingredients or use a tall glass for speed – they don’t have to be exact. Put them into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into 1 tall glass (you’ll have enough for a top up) or two short tumblers.


Lunch Ideas

Pear, Gorgonzola, Walnut and Cranberry salad

This salad can be eaten as a delicious lunchtime salad or a light evening meal.

Serves 4


  • 100g baby rocket leaves
  • 300g mixed greens
  • 2 pears, washed, unpeeled, cored and cut into thin slices
  • 60g dried cranberries
  • 100ml French dressing
  • 50g walnut halves
  • 65g Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled


  1. Place the mixed greens and rocket into a large bowl.
  2. Add the pear slices and dried cranberries to the bowl with the greens. Add the French dressing and gently toss together so lightly coat everything in the bowl.
  3. Sprinkle over the Gorgonzola cheese and walnut halves and serve.


Spiced Carrot Soup

This lightly spiced ginger and carrot soup has warming and delicate flavours that make for a great lunch or light evening meal. Make extra and freeze for a later date when you're pushed for time.


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • knob of fresh root ginger, grated
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp mild curry powder, plus extra
  • 1kg carrots, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bashed
  • 2 strips orange zest
  • 400g can low fat coconut milk
  • 700ml vegetable stock


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. Tip in the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, then cook for 3-5 mins until soft. Stir in the curry powder, followed by the carrots, lemongrass and zest, then cover and cook over a low heat for 10 mins more.
  2. Give the coconut milk can a shake, pour most of it into the pan along with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 15 mins until the carrots are really soft. Remove the lemongrass and orange zest, use a stick blender or food processor to whizz until smooth. Ladle into bowls and top with a swirl of reserved coconut milk and an extra sprinkling of curry powder, if you like.


Feta, Cranberry and Spinach Salad

This salad literally takes minutes to prepare and serve. An ideal quick meal for those times when you have NO time! It can also be used when entertaining family and friends, simply multiply the ingredients and serve on a large platter for people to help themselves. 


  • 2 bags of spinach
  • 16 olives
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 200g feta cheese, cubed
  • 4 tbs pine nuts
  • dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Serves 4 


  1. To the spinach leaves add olives, dried cranberries, cubed feta cheese and pine nuts. Gently toss to combine
  2. Combine the dried oregano and olive oil and drizzle over the salad
  3. Serve immediately


Evening Meal Ideas

Slow Cooker Vegetable Currry

This meal is a great filler that is wonderfully versatile, enabling you to chop and change the vegetables to suit tastes and seasons.

If you don't own a slow cooker, there are a number of guidelines you can work with to ensure this dish comes out just as well from the oven:

  • Use about a third more stock than this recipe states
  • Change step 3 to pre-heating your oven to 163 degrees Celsius and cook your covered dish in the oven for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the veggies are soft

Serves 2


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 curry leaves
  • 2.5cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh chillies, deseeded and chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp Indian curry paste
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 115g mange tout
  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 150-225ml hot vegetable stock
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • brown rice, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes, until they give off their aroma and begin to pop. Add the onion and curry leaves and cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the ginger and chillies (optional) and heat through, stirring occasionally for 1 minute.
  2. Stir in the curry paste and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the carrots, mange tout and cauliflower. Cook through for 5 minutes, follow this by adding the tomatoes and turmeric, season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, then add 150ml of the hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker. If the vegetables are not fully covered by the stock, add more hot stock, cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours.
  4. Once cooked, remove and discard the curry leaves. Serve immediately with brown rice. 


Braised Coconut & Chickpeas with Lemon

This recipe is filled with plenty of sustenance from the sweet potato and chickpeas


Serves 4

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • a dash of dried red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 can chickpeas (400g), drained and rinsed
  • 450g baby spinach
  • 1 can coconut milk (400ml)
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 4 whole roasted sweet potatoes
  • coriander leaves, to garnish
  • toasted unsweetened coconut, to garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan. Scrub the sweet potatoes and pat dry with a tea towel
  2. Prepare squares of foil, one for each sweet potato. Place each potato on a foil square and drizzle with a little olive oil. Rub the oil in a thin layer all over the potato to evenly coat.
  3. Prick each potato several times with a fork and wrap loosely in the foil, ensuring that they are well sealed. Place them on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven. They should take roughly 30 minutes to cook, depending on their size
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or cast iron heavy based pot over a medium-high heat, add the onion and cook for around 5 minutes or until softened
  5. Add garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and red chilli flakes (if using). Heat through for roughly 3 minutes, frequently stirring
  6. Add the chickpeas and cook over a high heat for a few minutes – the chickpeas will turn golden
  7. Add the spinach a handful at a time, letting each handful wilt to make space for the next
  8. Add the coconut milk, ground ginger & lemon juice and bring to the simmer
  9. Turn down the heat slightly and cook through for 10 minutes
  10. Serve with a roasted sweet potato and top with coriander and unsweetened coconut


Chickpea Stew

This recipe will keep in the freezer for whenever is convenient for you. Simply decant into single portions and freeze on the same day as making. 


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1/2 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp each ground coriander, cumin and turmeric
  • Pinch grated ginger
  • 1/4 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 100g tinned, chopped tomatoes
  • 200g tinned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • Fresh coriander, chopped (to garnish)

Serves 1


  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion, garlic and spices
  2. When the onion is soft, add the ginger, chilli, tomatoes, chickpeas and courgette
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the courgette is cooked
  4. Garnish with the coriander and serve immediately


Snack Ideas

Natural Oat Cakes

Please note that there are no amounts listed with the ingredients below. This is because this is a recipe that is designed to be thrown together by eye, feel and taste.

The consistency needs to be that of an Xmas pudding - not too moist but not too dry!

This recipe is flexible and is designed as a starting point for inspiration. You can incorporate any flavours and ingredients you wish, including the flavours below to personal taste.


  • Coconut oil
  • Rolled oats
  • Mixed lemon and orange peel
  • Currants (optional)
  • Chia seeds
  • Mixed fresh (or frozen) summer fruits
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh orange juice
  • Honey 
  • Cinnamon


  1. ​Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Pour a little coconut oil into a flapjack tin and place in the oven to heat.
  3. Simply put all of your ingredients into a large mixing bowl and combine. 
  4. Add your ingredients to your flapjack tin and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  5. Turn the oven up to 200 degrees and cook for a further 5-10 minutes to make the top of your dish crispy.
  6. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and enjoy!


Berry Snack

Simple food is often the best. Put the ingredients together in a bowl or alternatively in the blender to whizz up as a smoothie to grab and go if you are against the clock in the morning.

Quantities to be decided by you, depending on how many you are feeding.


  • Berries of your choice
  • Natural live plain yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Seeds


  1. Combine berries of your choice with natural live plain yogurt and lots of nuts and seeds


Avocado Salsa

Homemade avocado salsa puts the life into pitta breads and wraps as a replacement for mayonnaise or salad cream. You could also use it to dollop onto your salad instead of a dressing. Delicious used to accompany chicken or fish or as an accompaniement to your BBQ meals. Use it as a dip for mangetout or baby corns as a snack. You can alter the heat by adding more or less tabasco or by the addition of some chopped chilli. 

Remember to make life easy for yourself and make double to keep in the fridge to go with your meals for the next couple of days. 


  • 1 ripe but firm avocado
  • 2 large firm tomatoes
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 rounded TBS fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 TBS fresh lime juice
  • A few drops of tabasco sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves 4


  1. To skin the tomatoes, put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Leave for 1 minute, then transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Leave for another minute, then slip the skins off
  2. Cut each tomato in half and, holding each half over a saucer (cut side down), squeeze gently to extract the seeds. Chop the tomato flesh as finely as possible
  3. Next, halve the avocado, remove the stone, cut each half into quarters and peel off the skin
  4. Chop the avocado into minutely small dice, and do the same with the onion
  5. Finally, combine everything together in a bowl, adding the seasoning, lime juice, coriander and tabasco
  6. Cover and leave on one side for an hour before serving to allow the flavours to develop
  7. Serve this salsa with either grilled or baked salmon


More recipe ideas can be found here.

This fact file is intended for adults as a general guide only and not a substitute for professional advice or a diagnosis. If you are on certain medication or suffer from a medical condition, seek individual advice from your health care professional. Date produced January 2016.

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