One of the trends we're seeing in food is the growth of vegetarianism.

But it feels as if this is less about people adopting an ideology, as suggested by "ism", and more people embracing a general vibe of vege-centric meals.

A Roy Morgan Research survey last year found 10.3 per cent of people are "always or mostly" vegetarian; an increase from 8.1 per cent four years earlier.

I suggest there's another group that isn't fully vegetarian, but is eating more meat-free meals. My Food Bag reports significant growth in its Veggie Bag, delivering the equivalent of 10,000 vegetarian meals each week.


This is a really positive trend. There's little argument about the fact we could all stand to eat more plant foods. I talk and write about it all the time, at the risk of boring the pants off everyone.

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in some of these "mostly vegetarian" households.

I would expect along with an increase in vegetarian eating, there'd be a spike in eating vegetables. But it may not quite be the case.

Countdown reports a growth in vegetarian and vegan protein replacement products (tofu, tempeh and Quorn) of over 13 per cent in the past year. Vegetable sales have not had a corresponding increase.

Are some people giving up meat, but not eating more veges? It is entirely possible to have an unhealthy vegetarian diet, just as it's possible to be an unhealthy vegan, paleo or carnivore.

Going vegetarian is about much more than giving up meat and animal products. It's also, really importantly, about celebrating vegetables.

It's a typical trap many young people fall into. They stop eating meat without really thinking about how to replace it healthily.

If we simply increase intake of refined carb-based foods, or junky but vegetarian snacks, we won't be any healthier - and could put our health at risk.

What's your view?

A healthy vegetarian diet is not difficult, but it does need thought and a good understanding of what our bodies need.

Protein can be an issue for people giving up meat. Meat gives us complete protein. Plants don't. Most plant proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids. But it's possible to get enough protein from plants by eating a range of sources of protein such as pulses, whole grains and soy.

Speaking of soy, you don't have to embrace tofu but I love it and think it's hugely underrated by most Kiwis.

Perhaps that's another column.

Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large of Healthy Food magazine.