What does following a vegetarian or vegan diet mean?

Being a vegetarian means you live on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not consume red meat, poultry, seafood and flesh of any other animal and this also includes omitting any animal by-product such as animal fat or gelatin.

Thinking of going Vegan/plant-based?

If you have never followed a complete plant-based eating plan before here are some tips that might help you.

Vegan diets eliminate all animal products, while plant-based diets do not necessarily eliminate all animal products, but focus on eating mostly plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

It’s important to progress at your own pace, some people manage to go entirely plant-based/vegan overnight, but not everyone does. It’s essential to take it a stage at a time if that’s what works for you. Like any other lifestyle change, going entirely plant-based not only takes getting used to, but it takes time to find out what will work best for you. There are various tactics that you can try, and the most effective is to start making small changes to your everyday meals by decreasing the amount of animal-based products and increasing the plant-based ones. It’s fine to just do a few days a week at a time, you may have heard of ‘Meat Free Monday’, and this has become very popular because it’s not so hardcore.

There’s a plant-based alternative for almost every type of food you can think of, so you don’t have to miss out on any of your favourite foods or convince your self that you are never going to eat good food again. It just takes a little more thought to start with.

Try something new by swapping out ingredients; you’ll be amazed at how simply you can make a brand new delicious recipe by just changing one element.

The simple things in life - How do you make a good cup of tea or coffee? It’s a good question because not all plant kinds of milk are created equal. Dairy milk tastes like dairy milk no matter which brand you buy. Plant milk, however, has a different flavour depending on which plant is used. You need to find the type that you like, and the only real way to do it is experiment. The same applies when making things such as porridge, try hazelnut milk to give a richer nuttier flavour or coconut milk to give a creamier taste.

What type of vegetarian are you?

There is a variation between one person’s interpretation of being a vegetarian to another, and this is due to personal preferences and reasons for following this type of diet.

If you are thinking of becoming vegetarian, vegan or following predominantly plant-based lifestyle then it is good to under the various types.

  • Semi-vegetarian: excludes red meat but will eat fish or poultry.
  • Pescetarian: excludes red meat and poultry but will eatfish.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: does not eat any meat, poultry, fish,shellfish or ingredients derived e.g. gelatin and rennet. These vegetarians may also consume dairy products and eggs, but most likely only from free range origin.  
  • Ovo-vegetarian: include eggs but avoid all other animal foods, including dairy.
  • Vegan/plantbased: excludes all animal products including all derived additives and ingredients.
  • Fruitarian: is a vegan, who restricts their diet to only consist of raw fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and grains.
  • Macrobiotic: This is a pescetarian diet (sometimes vegetarian or vegan) fixed on ideas about types of food drawn from Zen Buddhism. It’s focus is on foods that contain both the ying and yang (based on the Chinese philosophy). With 7levels that differ and increase in restriction with the lowest level being the most varied which includes fish but still excludes meat, eggs and dairyproducts. The highest level is based on only consuming brown rice

When eliminating animal-based foods/products from your diet, there are some specific nutritional elements that you need to consider.   The following factors are vital to staying healthy, and they must be integrated into your eating plan.


Normally we get the most of our iron from red meat, which the body absorbs very easily.  However red meat is removed from the diet then alternatives need to be sort.

Good alternative sources include:

• Wholemeal bread
• Dried fruit
• Fortified breakfast cereals
• Leafy green vegetables
• Nuts
• Beans and lentils
• Sesame seeds

Vitamin C

Vitamin aids the absorption of iron into the bloodstream.  As the body does not retain Vitamin C, you need to ensure you have a food that is rich in Vitamin C in the same meal that contains the source of iron — for example, having a small glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal, adding peppers or broccoli to a meal.  It’s important to know that Vitamin C is depleted during the cooking process, so avoid overcooking foods..


As very few plant sources of proteins contain all the essential amino acids required by the body, except for soya, hemp and quinoa, so it is vital that a vegetarian eats a mixture of different plant proteins to ensure that their nutritional requirements are met..

Good sources of protein for a vegetarian are:
• Seeds
• Nuts and nut butters (e.g. peanut butter)
• Soya and soya products e.g. soya dairy alternatives, tofu, soya nuts and soya mince
• Seitan and Tempeh
• Grains such as wheat (found in cereals, pasta and bread), rice and maize
• Beans, lentils and chickpeas
• Milk and diary products such as cheese, but beware of the fat content, so always choose lower fat alternatives
• Eggs

Another source that some vegetarians may consume is:
Mycoprotein such as Quorn – some variations of this product may not be suitable for vegans, so it is always best to check the label, as some products contain egg.


It is an essential mineral as it helps builds bones and teeth, promotes blood health, and is essential in the function of muscles and nerves.

For vegetarians not consuming dairy products, other sources include:
• Dried fruit: apricots and figs.
• Calcium-fortified foods e.g. soya milk, yoghurts and puddings.
• Sesame seeds and tahini.
• Brown and white bread.
• Calcium-set tofu (i.e. those prepared using calcium).
• Green leafy vegetable: Kale, collard, spinach etc
• Nuts


This helps protect cells and tissues from damage.
Good sources are:
• Brazil and cashew nuts and sunflower seeds
• Some fortified breakfast cereals
• Wheatgerm bread

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in foods from animal sources and is essential in helping to build the genetic material of cells and production of blood cells. A vegetarian,vegan who does not eat eggs and dairy foods, they should consume fortified foods containing Vitamin B12.
• Vitamin B12 fortified yeast extract, such Marmite
• Vitamin B12 fortified breakfast cereals (with added vitamin B12).
• Vitamin B12 fortified dairy-free

Vegans are at very high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency unless they take supplements or consume fortified foods. Failing to supplement with vitamin B12 on a vegan diet can lead to anaemia, nerve damage, dementia, and other serious medical problems — some of which may be irreversible. To prevent vitamin B12 deficiency, you may wish to consider taking a daily supplement - check with your GP first

Omega 3

Omega-3 fats are important for good health Vegetarians can get omega-3 fatty acids from other foods sources shown below:

• Chia and Flax seeds
• Oils – Rapeseed and flaxseed
• Walnuts and walnut oil
• Soybeans