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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I begin a vegetarian diet?

    I have wanted to become vegetarian for a long time and I have finally decided to make the change. What do I need to do and know to begin?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    The Australian Vegetarian Society's aim is to increase the number of vegetarians in Australia in order to stop cruelty to animals, benefit human health, protect … View Profile

    Begin by assessing your current diet. Look for meat-free versions of foods you already enjoy, such as chili without meat, or tofu burgers or vegetable cutlets instead of chicken. You may want to look through a few vegetarian cookbooks, check out your local health food store or supermarket, vegetarian, natural foods or ethnic restaurants for ideas. If you feel unsure, try cutting down on your meat intake while introducing new vegetarian foods or increasing those vegetarian foods you are already familiar with. Set a period of, say, three months as a target and assess your progress at the end of it. After that you should feel confident enough to continue for a longer period or, if you are still reducing your meat intake, try reducing it a little more over the next three months. There is no golden rule other than to feel comfortable and confident about what you are doing.
    Just keep in mind the many vegetarians who have been living healthy active lives for years. Contact your local vegetarian society via this website for support and to find out about how to meet other vegetarians with whom you can share your experiences and knowledge. There are many social functions you are welcome to attend - whether you are  vegetarian or not - where you can talk with people who have been long-term vegetarians.

  • 1


    Angela Jackson

    Exercise Scientist

    I have qualifications as an Exercise Scientist, Herbalist and Health Coach, with over 10 years experience in the preventative health industry helping people to improve … View Profile

    I agree that seeking vegetarian sources of protein is probably the best place to start, as this will be what changes in your diet. Some excellent sources are:
    - Eggs
    - Tofu
    - Tempeh
    - Lentils
    - other legumes (such as chickpeas, red kidney beans etc)
    - cheese
    - nuts/seeds
    Think about how you can swap these things for the meat in recipes you normally cook.And of course don't forget to include lots of veges, especially green leafy veges, as well as quality whole grains like quinoa and oats.

    If you'd like some recipe inspiration you can check out my blog for lots of healthy, vegetarian recipes -

    Good luck!

  • 1


    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    A vegetarian diet can be well balanced, whilst meeting the healthy eating recommendations for all populations including children, adolescents, pregnancy and adults. A well balanced vegetarian diet should incorporate a wide variety of whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds plus dairy foods/or eggs if not vegan.

    The health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet are due to the absence of meat and the increased consumption of plant foods. In general the characteristics of a vegetarian diet:

    • are lower in fat, in particular saturated fat
    • are higher in dietary fibre
    • low in cholesterol
    • contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes
    • are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals

    As well as the above benefits, a vegetarian diet has economic and ecological advantages such as lower production uses of water, land, phosphate fertilisers, and fossil fuels, and less greenhouse gas emissions.

    Nutrients that you need to be considering in a vegetarian diet include protein, iron, zinc, calcium,  vitamin B12 and omega-3. If you decide to choose to consume eggs and dairy as part of your diet most of these nutrients can be easily met. Protein, iron and zinc can be found in the food sources that Angela Jackson has mentioned above. Omega-3 can be obtained by eating plant sources such as chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds however, the conversion to the long chain fatty acids EPA and DHA is not as efficient as obtaining omega-3 directly from fish or fish oil. You can also get omega-3 fortified products such as eggs and some milks (i.e. soy)

    I would recommend that you get a full blood profile done including checking the levels of the nutrients I have mentioned to see if you have adequate levels. My best advice is to seek the expert advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who can help you to develop a nutritious vegetarian diet. You can find one at  

  • 1


    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

    Usually, following a vegetarian diet is a process that occurs over time, or it’s something you were raised into. Consider the following steps before deciding to adhere to a vegetarian diet.
    Define Your Reason So, you’ve decided to become a vegetarian and follow a vegetarian diet. This should not be a spur of the moment decision. You really need to define why you are making this choice, so that you can get the support you may need, and you have a reference point if it gets hard. There are many reasons one may choose to become a vegetarian. Among them are religious reasons, ethical reasons (the inhumane treatment of animals), and health reasons.
    Define Your Type You may not even be aware that there are different types of vegetarian diets to follow. You may decide to become a vegan, which means you choose not to eat any meat, dairy or egg products.
    You may decide to become a Lacto-Vegetarian, which means you include milk products in your diet, but not egg or meat products. Or maybe you’ve decided on the Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian diet, which includes plant based eating as well as milk and egg products. Maybe you’ve chosen to be even more flexible and are going to follow a Lacto-Ovo-Pesco-Vegetarian, which means you will include fish and chicken in your diet along with milk and egg products.
    Learn About Protein You need to learn about the benefits and necessities of protein in your diet, so you don’t become protein deficient. Non-vegetarians get most of their protein from meat sources. A vegetarian diet usually needs to be include tofu, or some type of other soy products, because soy is the closest vegetable protein that resembles meat.
    Start Gradual Trying to adhere to a vegetarian meal plan right away can be too difficult. It’s best to start gradually. For instance, if you are a big meat eater, try eliminating meat one or two days a week at first. Then go from there, eliminating more and more each week until you reach your vegetarian diet goals.
    Find Replacements It’s simply unrealistic to go into a new way of eating without learning how to replace the things you have been eating. Going from a regular diet to a vegetarian diet needs to be thoughtful. Buying processed and ‘junk’ food to replace what you are missing will cause health problems and vitamin deficiencies.
    Try New Recipes Make it a priority to try at least two new vegetarian recipes each week, so you learn what the right options are to maintain your health, and, in fact, benefit from your new eating plan. There is a wealth of recipes available online or in cookbooks that are easy, economical, and yummy.
    Deciding to make a healthy lifestyle change is a great choice, and you will find that it doesn’t have to be difficult with a little bit of planning.

  • 1


    Mel Haynes


    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. View Profile

    4 easy steps!

    1.  Give away all the meat you have in your fridge and freezer (or have a dinner party!)
    2.  Plan a fortnights worth of meals by looking at some websites for vegetarian food.  Include lots of nuts, beans, lentils, grains, vegetables, tofu, tempeh,  herbs and spices.  You could even try some of the replacement meats that are available such as veggie roasts, textured vegetable protein and sausages.
    3.  Head to the supermarket and buy up your ingredients for the first week, and then the second week
    4.  Cook your fortnight’s food recording which foods you liked and which you didn’t.  

    Repeat step 2,3 & 4 replacing less preferred meals with new ideas.

    Enjoy yourself! Being vegetarian is healthy, kind and rewarding lifestyle, which is good for you, animals and the environment.

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