Kitchen Tips

9 essential meat-free foods for the modern vegetarian

Contrary to the stereotypes, vegetarianism isn’t all about tofu and carrot sticks.

If you're in the process of becoming a vegetarian, you already know what you can't eat, but choosing what you can eat instead isn't always so simple. Meat-substitutes are an easy choice, but they are pricey and heavily processed.
The key to a nutritious vegetarian diet is eating whole, unprocessed foods. If you are going full vegan, or just skipping meat, these are the 9 essential ingredients for the vegetarian kitchen.

Locally grown vegetables

Veggies are no longer just a side dish. By eating locally grown produce, you'll ensure that your veggies are fresh, your carbon-footprint is smaller, and your diet is in tune with the season. Try to let vegetables speak for themselves. Sometimes simple recipes will bring out the most flavour.

Whole fresh fruit

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a variety of fruits can provide many nutrients, as well as lots of fibre. Fruit juices and smoothies may seem healthy, but they are often high in sugar. Stick with a few pieces of whole fruit every day.

Leafy greens

You can find something fresh in this category year-round. We're mostly talking cabbage, broccoli and kale - all good sources of iron, which is important for health, and is especially key for the ladies.
Our delicious kale and walnut tarts will prove just how delicious and versatile this veggie is!


Otherwise known as beans or pulses. This is where a lot of your protein comes from, not to mention vitamins and minerals. Beans every day can be taxing on your transitioning digestive track, so ease into this and see what makes you feel best.


The nutritional value of mushrooms is underrated. This may be because they are neither fruit nor vegetables, but fungi. Full of nutrients and minerals, there is a reason the most expensive food in the world is a mushroom.

A source of vitamin D and calcium

Calcium is essential to strong bones. Vitamin D is helpful in many ways, but is key in the body's absorption of calcium. Milk or fortified milk alternatives are good sources. You can also find calcium in leafy greens, soy products like tempeh, and blackstrap molasses.

A source of B12

Vitamin B12 is essential to the nervous system. Milk, cheese and eggs are good sources for lacto-vegetarians. For vegans, nutritional yeast (aka brewer's yeast) and spreads like Vegemite are good sources, as are fortified breakfast cereals and vegan drinks.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, a good source of quick energy, and Omega-3 EPA, which is essential to brain function and is otherwise hard for vegetarians to find. Many people are giving up their old cooking fats for coconut oil. Like any fat, use in moderation.

Fermented foods

We aren't talking about beer, sorry. Foods created though lactic acid fermentation are helpful for healthy digestion, full of nutrients, and a great way to preserve fresh foods. Options include yoghurt and kefir, and fermented veggies like sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi. Fermented soy products like miso and tempeh can be easier to digest than other soy foods.

More From Women's Weekly Food