Going green

1 October marks the start of Vegetarian Awareness Month, which helps to promote the benefits of vegetarianism

465977465Over the past few years, there’s been a sudden interest in vegetarian and vegan diets and, according to the Vegetarian Society, the number of vegetarians in the UK – currently 1.2 million – is growing by 20 per cent each year. Over 3,000 people took part in the Veganuary campaign, which challenged people to switch their diet to vegan – no animal products – for 31 days, and Paul McCartney’s Meat-Free Monday campaign now has more people involved than ever.

And despite the obvious benefits of standing up for animal rights, there are plenty more reasons why people are making the move towards a more plant-based diet.

According to the PB&J Campaign, swapping just one of your meaty feasts for a veggie substitute saves 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 133 gallons of water and 24 square feet of land, which could have a massive effect on tackling climate change by shrinking our carbon footprints.

And that’s not all, following a more plant-based diet comes with an abundance of health benefits. The World Health Organisation found we should be eating a minimum of 400g (five portions) of fruit and vegetables a day. By ditching red meat for more fruit, veg, beans and pulses, we could be reducing our cholesterol and protecting ourselves from strokes, heart diseases, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and, of course, obesity. According to a 2010 study from Imperial College, those who eat 250g of meat a day gained more weight over a five-year period than those who ate significantly less.

Find it hard to enjoy a plate of greens? Try adding some more vegetables into your diet with these sneaky tips:

– Finely mince some broccoli into your scrambled eggs – the texture and taste will remain the same and you’ll have all those extra nutrients in your weekend brunch.

– When making a one-pot dish or a family-sized ragu, grate some courgette or squash into the dish – you won’t even notice the extra goodness hidden in your spag bol!

– Try adding spinach to sauces, stews and curries. It wilts to almost nothing so you’ll be able to mask the taste with the other elements in your dish.

– Try shredding some carrots or courgette with a julienne peeler into noodle dishes. Not only will they add a bit of vibrancy and colour, they’ll share the same texture as your pasta so you’ll barely notice when you’re eating them.

– Purée your vegetables in a blender or food processor and then sneak them into any sauce to give an extra health kick to saucy suppers.

– Try swapping some of your meat-based meals for these easy-to-follow vegetarian takes on classic comfort food dishes, packed with nutrients and veggies.

Lentil bolognese

Serves 6

3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g tins of green lentils
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp of oregano and thyme
3 bay leaves
1 litre vegetable stock
500g spaghetti

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil on a medium heat until they are soft. Add all the chopped veg and fry for another few minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes and serve with the cooked spaghetti.

Recipe courtesy of BBC GoodFood 

Aubergine and chickpea curry

Serves 6

2 aubergines
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp brown or black mustard seeds
10-12 curry leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
2 dried chillies, chopped
4 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
400ml coconut milk
6 tomatoes, quartered
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Fry the onions and chilli in the sunflower oil until they are soft. Add the aubergines and spices and fry off for about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chick peas and coconut milk and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.

Recipe courtesy of BBC GoodFood 

Vegetarian chilli

Serves 6

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tbsp chilli powder
200g mushrooms, chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g can kidney beans undrained
1 x 340g can sweetcorn, undrained
1 tbsp ground cumin
1½ tsp dried oregano
1½ tsp dried basil

Fry the onions in the oil over a medium heat until they are soft. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes to allow them to soften. Add the remaining veg and spices and herbs and cook for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and sweetcorn. Cook for a further 10 minutes to make sure it’s heated through and serve with rice.

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