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How To Eat as a Vegetarian

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by Sean Goedecke (subscribe)
Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published August 22nd 2011
Most people eat more meat than is healthy for them. This is especially true when eating in restaurants, where meat is loaded with salt and buttery sauces. Choosing the vegetarian option once in a while can open up new areas of culinary experience and improve your life expectancy at the same time. What's not to love? Here are some ways you can incorporate meatless meals into eating out.

Every restaurant offers at least some vegetarian options. Even a steakhouse is bound to have one dish without meat – after all, many large groups of people who come to dinner include a vegetarian, and if the menu totally excludes them, the restaurant loses the entire group. The trick is finding something worth eating; there's nothing worse than nibbling away at a garden salad while the rest of the table is enjoying hearty steaks.

Garden Salad
They'll call you a rabbit, for one.

Here's some good news: almost all vegetarian dishes – excluding salads – can fill you up as well as meat does. Look for dishes with beans or other legumes in them or, failing that, high-protein vegetables like eggplant. While there's less protein in these meals than, say, a steak, your body absorbs protein slowly enough so that it doesn't matter. It's too easy to reflexively order the meat option because you're hungry and it's familiar – give the pumpkin and pine nut risotto a try instead of the lamb risotto. Vegetarian serving sizes also tend to be larger than meat servings, and often you'll find yourself less hungry than your carnivorous friends at the end of a meal.

One benefit of choosing a vegetarian meal every so often is that, without the strong flavour of the meat, the other flavours seem stronger and more vivid. Be prepared to discover a new love for zucchini or pumpkin, or to appreciate flavour combinations you didn't know existed. You might even find yourself enjoying the dreaded tofu (which is, incidentally, an incredible source of protein.)

Doesn't that look tempting?

One word of warning: choose your vegetarian option carefully. Some restaurants assume that vegetarian food is bland and tasteless, and load it up with unhealthy fats and salt to compensate. Words to watch out for are "creamy", meaning thick and fatty , and "cheesy", which is guaranteed to leave you feeling greasy and bloated. If you're in doubt, stay away from "Mediterranean", which can mean "smothered in oil". This mostly happens in restaurants with few vegetarian dishes on the menu – most places in the city of Melbourne should be fine.

Melbourne is full of part-vegetarian places. Any Indian restaurant will have tons of meatless options, and most other restaurants will have a section of the menu dedicated to vegetarians. There's Bimbo Deluxe, Yoyogi, Café Andiamo, Grumpy's Green, Konjo... the list is endless. If you can persuade your friends to go to an all-vegetarian restaurant, it's worth doing. The food will be more varied, since the people who run the place are likely to be vegetarians themselves who have tried all the standard restaurant options and got bored of them. For Mexican food, try Trippy Taco, for Indian food visit Crossways for lunch, or eat food that defies description at Soulfood Café. (Addresses of these places can be found at the other end of the links.)

There's no downside in allowing yourself to try new meals. You'll get a more complete sense of Indian food, a lot of which is traditionally vegetarian. You'll try Pad Thai, and love it. Best of all, you'll be healthier and feel better – and isn't that what food's all about?
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Why? Because healthy doesn't have to mean boring.
When: Any meal you like.
Where: Everywhere in Melbourne.
Cost: Usually cheaper than meat dishes.
I decided earlier this year to become a part-time vegetarian - the full-time option seemed a bit too committing...anyway, I'm loving discovering new dishes when I'm out and I can whip up a whole lot of dishes with pulses, including a pretty tasty dhal. Dried beans are so amazingly cheap as well.
By Sue Williams - senior reviewer
Tuesday, 23rd of August @ 05:00 am
The amount of meat we consume is unsustainable for our planet so switching those few meals a week to a veg option is not only helping yourself but helping our planet.
By ccunn - reader
Wednesday, 2nd of May @ 10:35 pm
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