Vegetarian Caterers Need Nutritionists & Training

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A top UK Nutritionist warns that people choosing the vegetarian dish of the day, a vegetarian sandwich or vegetarian ready meal thinking it�s a healthier option could be making a big mistake and caterers are to blame. Sometimes it's not even truly vegetarian and that could cost caterers £millions.

As The Vegetarian Society celebrate the 13th National Vegetarian week with a Rude Food video, new recipes, new products and a early day motion for a legal definition of vegetarian in Parliament, questions are being asked about vegetarian catering, it's authenticity and it’s nutritional value.

Unfortunately chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and his public displays of ignorance about vegetarian diets are far too commonplace in the industry. He thinks it’s amusing to feed vegetarians meat but it’s not a joke. One day someone is going to get killed. Some people are allergic to these foods, which is why there is legislation going through the European Parliament to protect the consumer from this sort of ‘humour’.

McDonalds have just paid out $10 million to vegetarian and vegan groups in the USA after wrongly labelling fries and hash browns as vegetarian.

Gordon Ramsay needs to change his comic routine or he will find his jokes very expensive.

“It's not just authenticity. Caterers need to have basic training in nutrition and improve the standard of their so called healthy options. The good work in educating the public by UK Chef Jamie Oliver and TV evangelist nutritionists such as Gillian McKieth, Patrick Holford and Ian Marber The Food Doctor to encourage better diets needs to be replicated in the contract catering and foodservice sector” says London Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston, from Foods For Life.

As well as Nutritional Therapy Yvonne also provides catering consultancy services for some of the companies in the FT top 100, Worldwide investment banks in the City of London. “Even here, at some of the best companies to work for in the UK, the nutritional content of the vegetarian offer in the on-sight catering facilities is woeful” she says.

“Healthy eaters are choosing the vegetarian option thinking it’s healthier when quite often the dish is full of Supersize Me type white carbohydrate, sugar, salt, saturated fat, hydrogenated fat and seriously lacking in any worthwhile protein – from a health perspective they may as well not have bothered”

The availability of nutritious food from restaurants and caterers is a major problem for meat reducers – yes you can get a vegan all day breakfast in a Little Chef roadside cafe but it’s usually swimming in saturated fat and worse still full of dangerous hydrogenated trans fats.

Unlike meat reducers, 51% (vegsoc) of vegetarians are vegetarian mainly for ethical reasons and 62% of vegans hardly ever worry about their health (Imaner 2001) but most of the purchasers of meat free foods are meat reducers who do it for health reasons (FDF 2004)

Typical vegetarian dishes are

  • Stir fry – not too bad if it includes lots of brightly coloured vegetables, nuts and tofu but usually it’s just noodles in a sugary sauce and no quality protein.
  • Cheese Sandwich – usually full of saturated animal fats and with processed white rather than real whole-meal bread.
  • Veggie burger – often just a sad mix of potato and peas served with lashings of simple carbohydrates and saturated fat.
  • Sweet and Sour vegetables – Usually served with white rice and a sugary sauce guaranteed to tax your insulin levels to their limit.
  • Deep Fried Spring rolls – Usually not even vegetarian as the meat free ones often contain fish but soaked in denatured fat with little protein.
  • Vegetable Curry – If the curry was lentil based with exotic vegetables and served with brown basmati rice then that would be great but so often it’s just a sad combination of nutritionally empty carbohydrates swimming in saturated fat.
  • Vegetable Fajitas – So often a sad excuse for a great Mexican dish containing a mix of beans, cactus, corn and tahini – more likely to be some overcooked oily vegetables with more hydrogenated fat and sugar than protein.
  • Vegetarian Pasta – Pasta and cheese – you may as well have a cheese sandwich if you are looking for nutrients at least you may get a bit of salad in it. If it’s in tomato sauce then you could argue the guys were getting help for their prostate but they’d be better all round with more essential fatty acids rather than saturated ones.
  • Vegetarian Pizza – If you are looking to put on a few pounds to store up body fat for your winter hibernation you may be in for a treat other wise just think deep fried cheese and tomato sandwich and imagine the look on Gillian Mckieth’s face. If you manage to find one made with whole meal flour, artichokes, asparagus, capers, plump olives, wild mushrooms and melted dairy free cheese then enjoy!
  • Vegetarian Tabouleh – More wheat, usually served with roasted vegetables. Wheat has evolved so far from it’s less allergenic cousin spelt that it’s now chocker block full with gluten as it’s bred to grow quick and big not nutrient rich, organic and full of sunshine.

These are the sort of foods which are stopping vegetarians reach their true healthy potential.

A combination of ill informed caterers and complacent vegetarians could mean that fewer people may choose vegetarian in the future if consumers improve their knowledge of nutrition via TV nutritional evangelists and caterers don’t keep up with the current trends.

Editors Notes

1 National Diet & Nutrition Survey 2001

2 The Vegan Research Panel Survey 4 (October 2001)

Vegan Trends in Foodservice

In a survey of 100,000 US college students conducted by Aramark, 24% said vegan dishes were important to them, while 18% wanted low-carb dishes on the menu.

London Nutritionist, Yvonne Bishop-Weston BSc Dip ION used to be a director for Cranks the original vegetarian health food company and restaurant chain that started in London’s trendy Carnaby Street in 1961 and now works for The Food Doctor as well as running her own consultancy firm Foods For Life.

The Foods For Life Worst Vegetarian Caterer of The Year Award - British Airways

Vegetarian Society
Rude Food Movie

Yvonne Bishop-Weston’s advice for healthy nutrition can be found in her new cookbook Vegan by Hamlyn

Yvonne Bishop-Weston’s Top Ten Tips for vegetarians can by found in the new guide from Vegetarian Guides - Vegetarian Britain.

Further guidance from Yvonne on healthy diets can be found at

London Nutritionists –
Vegan Cookbook -
Healthy Recipes
Health News –
Vegetarian News -

Yvonne Bishop-Weston

Tony Bishop-Weston

Pictures can be found at

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