Benefits of vegetarianism

Undated Handout Photo of FRESH GNOCCHI WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES AND PESTO. See PA Feature FOOD Vegetarian. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Vegetarian.

Undated Handout Photo of FRESH GNOCCHI WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES AND PESTO. See PA Feature FOOD Vegetarian. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Vegetarian.

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Adopting a meat-free diet brings plenty of benefits to animals and the environment, not to mention your bank balance, once you’ve taken costly meat and fish off the shopping list.

But will veggie food give me all the nourishment and flavour I need, or will I be reaching for a Big Mac by day three?

Luckily, I have a foolproof meal plan devised by online supermarket Ocado and nutritionist Anita Bean, to see me through the week and ensure I get a balanced and varied diet. I sometimes struggle to come up with exciting dishes when cooking for veggie friends, but there are a wide range of tastes and textures in Bean’s recipes, from the super-simple bean and quinoa salad to the gnocchi, pesto and roasted veg, and the goat’s cheese and tomato frittata. What’s more, they’re surprisingly filling.

It’s all about getting the balance right, according to Bean - ensuring you get enough protein, iron, vitamin B12 (from eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals), omega-3 (try chia, pumpkin and flax seeds and dark green leafy veg), and vitamin D.

By the end of my week, I’m feeling great - healthy, clear-skinned and with more energy than usual. I’ve been getting about seven portions of fruit and veg a day, and from now on, I’ll definitely be more imaginative when it comes to planning meals.

Want to try out some vegetarian dishes? Here’s one to be going on with at home from Ocado and Anita Bean.

Ingredients

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1/2 courgette, sliced

1/2 small onion, sliced

50g cherry tomatoes whole

1tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

200g potato gnocchi

1tbsp pesto (Ocado recommends Zest Vegan Basil Pesto)

Method

lPre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.

lPlace the chopped vegetables and whole tomatoes in a large roasting tin with the garlic. Toss lightly in olive oil so that the vegetables are well coated, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.

lCook the gnocchi in boiling water for three minutes, drain and return to the pan. Add the pesto and warm through for a further minute.

lCombine the cooked gnocchi and pesto, mix with the roasted vegetables and serve.

Recipes courtesy of Ocado (www.ocado.com/vegetarian)