THERE'S plenty of good reasons for becoming a vegetarian.
Two of the most common are a love of animals and the fact that you want to be healthier.
Several research studies certainly suggest that vegetarians may have it over the steak and hamburger eaters in the health stakes.
One of the largest involved more than 70,000 Seventh Day Adventists.
Californian scientists who studied these vegetarians found that a vegetarian diet may help you reduce your risk of heart disease, kidney-related deaths and even diabetes.
The research was published the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Of course not all vegetarian diets are healthy - some simply replace meat with lots of high-fat dairy or an excess of carbohydrates.
Many also fail to get the right balance of vitamins and minerals, including iron and B vitamins that are most easily found in meat.
A subsequent lack of energy, or ill health, may cause some people to abandon a vegetarian diet, as can the fact that, in social situations, it can sometimes be awkward to be a non-meat eater.
Not as awkward as being a teetotaller in Australia, but close.
Of course these days, there's plenty of vegetarian options on restaurant menus, but what about at a barbecue?
In his new book, Fired Up No Nonsense Vegetarian Barbecuing, chef Ross Dobson offers plenty of inspiration for meat-free dishes.
In fact they are so good that even meat eaters will be tempted to try them.
Drawing on culinary influences from around the globe, including South East Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe, his flavoursome dishes include everything from silverbeet and feta gozleme to japaeno jam and pumpkin and black bean dip.
And there's not a dead cow, pig, sheep or chicken in sight.
Ross says that many people assume that vegetarians are small eaters and, at a barbecue, they are often overlooked.
"And please don't let the vegetarian option be a tofu sausage or a frozen pattie," he says. "This is insulting to both the individual and to the many cuisines that have vegetarian cookery embedded in their culinary history."
With warmer weather around the corner, it's just the healthy inspiration we need.
Tangy Sweet Potato Salad
- 1 medium-sized sweet potato, sliced into rounds 5mm thick
- 2 tablespoons rice bran oil
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 2 dill pickles, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped mint leaves
- 1 large red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
Preheat barbecue grill to medium.
Put the sweet potato, rice bran oil and caraway seeds in a bowl and toss to coat the sweet potato.
Tumble the sweet potato over the grill and use tongs to spread them out.
Cook for 8 to 10 minutes each side or until caramelised and tender.
Place hot sweet potato in bowl. Add dill pickles, mint and chilli. In a small bowl combine the vinegar, olive oil and sugar, then drizzle this over the sweet potatoes and stir gently. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.