Vegetarian meals that use alternatives to meat can be a great way to enjoy a greater variety of foods, eat a wider range of nutrients and make meals more interesting. They can also be lower in kilojoules and useful for weight loss.

However, the meat and alternatives food group is an important source of essential nutrients, so vegetarian meals need to be careful to include enough serves of alternatives to meat, chicken or fish, rather than just leaving them out.

Many simple vegetarian recipes substitute cooked legumes or canned legumes (without added salt) in traditional recipes that usually use red meat, chicken or fish:

  • Lentils, kidney beans or mixed Italian style beans go well in tomato based sauces such as bolognaise sauce and sauce for lasagne
  • Chickpeas work well in curries and casseroles
  • Legumes can also be combined with grains and used as a salad or to stuff vegetables like zucchini, pumpkin, tomato or capsicum (link to recipes – ’Chickpea and couscous salad’)
  • Baked beans on toast are a well known way to combine legumes and grains.

Many easy traditional recipes based on eggs can be modified to include a variety of vegetables, such as frittata.

Tofu is another alternative to meat that is good in stir fries and other recipes.

Nuts are a delicious addition to salads, stuffed vegetables, stir fries, casseroles, crumbles and pastas that give interesting texture and added eye appeal. However, if you are aiming to lose weight, keep portion sizes of nuts and seeds small.