A study last month showed that vegetarians are 12 per cent less likely to die than meat-eaters thanks to the lower blood pressure, reduced risk of obesity, and improved cholesterol levels associated with a low-fat diet based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit.
Research has also shown that embracing a vegetarian diet could make you happier and less stressed, with non meat-eaters experiencing lower incidence of depression, anxiety, and other mood problems than omnivores.
So, thinking of making the switch? We asked Jane Marshall, founder of Planet V, for her tips to get you started.
1. Reassess your diet
'If you're going veggie for ethical reasons, you'll want to check you food for any hidden ingredients,' says Jane. 'Jelly and sweets contain gelatine, which is made from animal bones, while rennet - used in some cheeses - is the lining of a calf's stomach. Red food dye can sometimes be made from the cochineal beetles and is labelled as E120. Take a look at the Vegetarian Society A-Z list of vegetarian foods for all the information.'
2. Make sensible swaps
'Write down all your favourite meals and the foods you eat the most, then think about what you can swap out to make it meat-free. For example, if you frequently make spaghetti bolognese and sausage casserole for your dinner during the week, pick up vegetarian mince and sausages and head to the canned beans aisle - beans and pulses are great meat substitutes.'
3. Think protein
'Protein is the thing that makes you feel full and helps to repair your muscles and tissue,' explains Jane. 'So when you remove meat from your diet, you need to replace it with another form of protein. This can be any of a meat-alternative like tofu, or soya, or foods that natural contain protein, including nuts, seeds, eggs and beans.'
4. Eat out
'There are an increasing number of vegetarian restaurants popping up in the UK for you to take advantage of. Having the choice of a full menu is a real treat, rather than just the two usual veggie options offered in most restaurants. Check out planet-v.co.uk/pv/directory to find veggie restaurants, hotels and B&Bs.'
5. Check your cheese
'Parmesan is not vegetarian,' says Jane. 'For a cheese to be called Parmesan it has to have animal rennet in the ingredients, which means vegetarians can't eat it. You'll find that some restaurants label their Parmesan-laden meals as vegetarian, so watch out. Ask for the dish without cheese and do inform them of their mistake. In the supermarket, look for Italian Hard Cheese - this is similar to Parmesan but without rennet.'
6. Stay balanced
'Switching to vegetarianism should change what your plate looks like. You should still aim to fill half with salad or vegetables, a quarter with complex carbs such as brown rice or pasta, and a quarter with protein. This will help you to ensure you're getting the correct ratios of all the foods you need,' explains Jane.
For more info, visit planet-v.co.uk
If you need some cooking inspiration, check out these tasty veggie recipes...
10 VEGETARIAN RECIPES FOR MEAT LOVERS
VEGETARIAN HALLOUMI AND COURGETTE BURGERS
EASY VEGETARIAN RECIPE COLLECTION