Monday, 7 May 2012

How To Follow A Winning Vegetarian Diet

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Words of wisdom by Louise Morrissey, 28, a public health nutritionist.  Our vegetarian health fanatic reveals her bare essentials on a global vegetarian diet.

What inspires you?
'I have been fully vegetarian for about 17 years.  It was so long ago now that I can’t remember when it all first began.  I’ve always never really liked meat.  The thought of eating animal meat or flesh made my stomach churn.  What really tipped me off the edge was when I ate take away chicken nuggets one night.  It made me really ill.  This inspired me to re-evaluate my diet and to start making healthier choices'.

Why vegetarian?
'I feel that it can be a healthier diet.  Vegetarian diets are often lower in saturated fat and higher in fibre and antioxidants.  I studied nutrition at university and this makes me aware about the principles of a balanced diet.  For me, meat is not needed in my diet.'

Any temptations to stray?
'I do slightly miss bacon, that’s the only thing that I ever get cravings for!  I am not a fan of meat generally, but bacon sure does smell good.'

What’s your secret to a successful veggie diet?
Variety is key to a balanced diet.  One of my projects in my final year at university was on ‘the balance of health on a vegetarian diet’.  This highlighted the variety of foods that are out there that many people are not even aware of when following a vegetarian diet.'  

'For example, quinoa is supposedly one of the most nutritionally abundant foods out there. It's a brilliant substitute for meat containing 9 essential amino acids.'  

'Tempeh is another great alternative.  Made from soy beans it is similar to tofu and I usually enjoy this at restaurants.  It is low in fat, protein rich and thought to have a cholesterol lowering effect.  I started eating it when I completed an Indonesian cooking course in Bali.  It’s great in stir-fries and salads.  My favourite way to eat tempeh is in a satay sauce.  I love gadu gadu.  That’s like a salad with loads of mixed vegetables.  This is a popular Indonesian dish and I often use tempeh as the star ingredient for this dish.'

'Lentils are a scrumptious source of protein and iron.  It is low in fat and can be delicious when cooked well.  They are quite bland but absorb flavours well so cook with loads of herbs and spices.'

What’s your favourite recipe?
'My favourite recipe is butternut squash with spiced lentils & feta.  I found this treasure on BBC Good Food (see Butternut Squash With Spiced Lentils And Feta).  I love it because it incorporates lentils and butternut squash; two things that I absolutely adore.  This recipe is really tasty with mint, cumin and loads of other spices.'

Any other recommendations for recipes?
'I can recommend Vegetarian Society and goodtoknow for excellent recipe ideas.'

'I also get tonnes of recipes from my mum who has collected the most amazing veggie recipes from magazines and newspapers over the years.  I especially enjoy ‘The Philadelphia Cookbook’ and ‘Food For Good Health’ which are two of my favourite cookbooks.'

What do you worry about?
'I’m lucky, I hold a degree in human nutrition and I make sure that I know what foods are iron rich.  I ensure that meals are paired with vitamin C rich foods.  I do take ‘Spatone’ which is iron enriched water, claimed to be sourced from Welsh mountains.  Each sachet contains 34% of your recommended daily allowance and I take this in orange juice a few times a week.'

'I drink Berocca daily for B12 which provides more than 3 times your daily requirements!  I also eat the equivalent of one egg a day and enjoy eating cheese and milk daily.'

Any frustrations on the diet?
'Other people’s perceptions about vegetarian diets can be difficult to deal with.  People often automatically assume that I am a ‘fussy eater’.  Friends complain that dining out could be difficult.  They forecast problems when usually none exist.  Most restaurants cater well for vegetarians.  I am really easy as I love food and will eat just about anything on the menu (minus the cow and chicken ofcourse)!  The only quibble I’ll have with you is when you offer me an olive instead of the prosecco.'

What’s your typical day like?

Porridge with banana & dried fruit + a tablespoon of linseeds

Mid-morning snack

Varies.  In winter soups and salads for summer.  Or left-overs from the previous night.

'Today I had a yummy Thai lentil soup with granary bread & cottage cheese that my mum made.  Afterwards we went for a long bike ride through the woods & various villages in Hertfordshire where my parents live.'

Tell me about the cottage cheese
'There is so much variety in cottage cheese these days.  Today I had a sweet chilli flavoured variety which really does make it more exciting.  It’s also low in fat and high in protein so what’s there not to love?  Occasionally I may eat a muller rice afterwards for dessert.'

Mid-afternoon snack

Evening meal
Salads with quinoa, chickpeas, lentils and feta cheese, eggs or goats cheese.  I love vegetables such as beetroot and avocado and I always eat a different salad every day.

What do you indulge in?
'I do have a very sweet tooth which I hate to admit, so I may have a chocolate rice cake, low fat rice pudding or indulge in hot chocolate.'

'I absolutely love scones so some mornings I may treat myself to a scone instead of porridge if I’m feeling naughty!  To wind down after work I may enjoy a glass of rose or celebrate with prosecco!'

My Top Three Tips
'Don’t be afraid to try new foods.'
'Make sure that you include protein foods such as eggs, cheese, lentils and pulses.  Incorporate these at every meal.'
'Know your iron rich foods and include vitamin C rich foods in the same meal to aid absorption.'

Final Words of Wisdom
'Variety in any diet is essential and nothing frustrates me more than when individuals don’t eat a variety of foods.  There are just so many different foods out there to ensure that you do meet your daily recommended intake of vitamins and minerals.  As you plan your diet and try new foods, you’ll soon realise that vegetarian diets can be quite delicious.  I am trying new foods every day and I am never bored on my vegetarian diet!'


  1. This vegetarian diet is why you look so stunning in your photograph Lou! Made a veggie curry for dinner - incorporating chickpeas as the protein source. Even my meat loving man loved it. Great interview!

    1. I love chickpeas too! The macarons would have been an excellent way to finish off that meal ;)

      See Magnifique Macarons - Mastering The Art if you too would like to learn how to make macarons!

  2. Well you certainly challenged my viewpoint of the vegetarian diet Lou...that and low calorie rose! I have bee lucky enough to sample many of your recipes and they all taste great! You must keep working on training your tastebuds to love olives though!! :)

    1. Thank you very much for commenting Rachel. I agree, Lou is indeed a fantastic cook. As for rose & low calories, I suspect that they don't go hand in hand ;)