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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Does it take long to prepare vegetarian foods?

    I would like to consider changing to a vegetarian diet but I am worried that it will be too time consuming to prepare my meals. Is this the case?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Mark Berriman

    HealthShare Member

    Preparing vegetarian meals can be simple or complicated, just like any other food preparation. If you are after fast meals, these can be just as nutritious - if not more so - than more complicated ones.

    Most people are concerned with the amount of protein they would get with a veg meal, but this is not a problem. All living things, animal or vegetable, contain protein in varying amounts. Good protein sources are legumes (beans), tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds and sprouts. Also, green leafy vegetables have quite a lot of usable protein as well as antioxidants which prevent degenerative diseases.

    Meals can be simple like a salad with beans, nuts, seeds and sprouts added. You can always save time by using tinned beans such as borlotti, cannelini, navy and kidney beans, but preparing your own beforehand means that you have a ready supply. Simply soak for several hours, changing water if necessary, then heat until tender. Drain when ready and put into individual containers in your freezer for future use. By increasing your consumption of green leafy vegetables, along with steamed vegetables like carrots, pumpkin , potato, peas, etc. you will certianly be getting some good nutrition.

    For faster preparation there are many soy, lentil and even fungus (like mushroom) based burgers and sausages available from supermarkets. Some brands include Sanitarium, Frys and Quorn.

  • Kate Marsh

    Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Dietitian

    Kate works with clients with type 1 and gestational diabetes, PCOS, and those following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet. As a diabetes educator, she … View Profile

    As Mark said, it really depends on the meals you are preparing but it certainly doesn't have to be time consuming. Tofu is very easy to use - it doesn't really need cooking, just heating through so is much faster to cook than meat and makes a great stir-fry.  Canned legumes are ready to use and very versatile for making a variety of meals. If you cook them from scratch you can cook extra and freeze so they are ready to use when you need them.  While some grains like brown rice and barley can take longer to cook, quinoa takes less than 10 minutes and is a very nutritious grain which goes well with a variety of dishes. If you eat eggs these also make a variety of quick easy meals.

    A few ideas for simple vegetarian meals are:

    • Tofu and vegetable stir-fry
    • Jacket potato topped with beans, salad, a dollop of greek yoghurt or mashed avocado
    • Tacos with mexican beans, salad and mashed avocado
    • Roasted vegetable and quinoa salad with chickpeas
    • Vegetable frittata
    • Lentil or chickpea burgers (pre-made or purchased) on a wholegrain roll with salad and avocado
    • Wraps with felafel, hummus and tabbouli
    Many vegetarian meals can also be made in larger quantities and frozen or used as leftovers the following day.  These include meals like:
    • lentil or bean and vegetable soups
    • lentil or chickpea and vegetable curries
    • bean and vegetable casseroles or hotpots
    • lentil bolognaise
    • vegetable and bean lasagne
    • lentil shepherds pie
    • lentil dahl
    • lentil or chickpea patties
    A pressure cooker can be a great investment if you cook lots of legumes and means you can cook meals like soups, curries and dahl in no time at all!

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Vegetarian meals can take time to prepare as they involve chopping, peeling, washing ingredients and of course shopping. I am a big fan of spending quality time on food and eating. Eating is one of the most important things you do all day long, so for physical, mental and spiritual health, it is vital to spend time and thought each part of the process from selecting ingredients and recipes, to preparing your food, to enjoying your meals to their fullest. But I also know that sometimes weeknights can be hectic and you want to have some recipes handy that are healthy and delicious but that come together in a hurry when needed. So here you is a great vegetarian meal that can be made in 30 minutes or less.
    Chickpeas simmered in masala sauce
    The most time you'll spend on this is just waiting for it to simmer. Preparation of ingredients includes just chopping onions and tomatoes. The rest of the time you're letting spices meld in the pan, stirring every so often, and of course steaming the rice. In about 30 minutes, you have an incredibly flavourful meal.
    3 tbsp olive or canola oil
    3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
    1 cup finely chopped onions
    1 tsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
    3/4 tsp ground coriander
    1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/4 tsp ground turmeric
    1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
    1 tsp salt
    2 1/2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas
    1/2 tsp garam masala
    1 tsp lemon juice
    1. Pour the oil into a frying pan and set over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. After 10 seconds, put in the onions. Stir and fry until the onions turn brown at the edges.
    2. Add the ginger and stir once. Add the coriander, cayenne, and turmeric and stir once. Put in the tomatoes and stir for a minute. Now add 1 cup water and the salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.
    3. Add the chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook 15 minutes. Add the garam masala and lemon juice. Stir and cook, uncovered, on low heat, another 5 minutes.
    4. Serve over rice or with naan.

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