An increasing number of Kiwis are turning to vegetarian meals believing them to be healthier, cost less and be more environmentally friendly according to new research.

The results from a new HelloFresh study of more than 1,000 New Zealanders showed that more than half of those surveyed were choosing to be meat-free due for health reasons.

When it came to weekly dinners, three in ten respondents said they were now cooking more vegetarian meals than last year, with two-thirds (67%) saying they felt pressure to eat more vegetables.

Reasons for turning to vegetarian meals included wanting to improve their health (58%), save costs (43%), save the planet (37%) and a seventh (15%) say they are looking for more vegetable-based options having watched pro plant diet documentaries.

But while Kiwis were keen to increase their vegetarian cooking (36%) many struggled when it came to putting a meat-free meal together with only one in 10 (9%) Kiwis knowing how to make a nutritionally balanced vegetarian meal.

A third don’t know how to cook vegetarian meals (35%) and more than half (53%) have no go-to recipes they can rely on, with only a tenth (9%) knowing how to put together a nutritionally balanced vegetarian plate!

A new tongue-in-cheek cooking series with How to Dad parenting expert Jordan Watson starring actress Kimberley Crossman has been created to help dispel some of the myths about vegetarian cooking.

In the episode, Crossman can be seen giving her co-host a crash-course in acting while poking fun at Hollywood’s passion for plastic surgery with strategically placed tape, while the pair prepare a plant-based meal.

Crossman who has largely been vegetarian most of her life says this year she made a commitment to be meat-free for animal welfare and environmental reasons.

She says the long set days in Los Angeles meant that cooking has never been part of her skill set and has in the past relied on noodles and cheese toasties as dinner fare.

Since arriving back in New Zealand Crossman has been living at home with her parents and learning some culinary skills in the process with the family now creating HelloFresh meals most evenings.

“We often have to go back and re-read parts of the recipe as it’s new for us to have all this time together and we go down rabbit holes of conversations. What is special to me is the camaraderie and community of cooking as a team, it’s wonderful for us to be able to produce something together,” she says.

“I think there is also a perception that vegetarian meals are boring and not exciting and it’s not the case, but I know it can be a bit daunting if you’re new to this way of eating, so having a meal kit like this show you step by step can really help,” she says.

A fan of spicy food, she says the Southeast Asian tofu bowl and warm Thai pumpkin salad are her favourite HelloFresh recipes to make.

Crossman says she and Watson had a lot of fun putting together the video content and hopes that it will inspire others to try and eat at least one meat-free meal a week.

“I hope people watch it and are entertained, and also maybe a little bit more curious about how fun and easy it can be to be vegetarian,” she says.

Crossman is right in her perception of Kiwi attitudes to vegetarian food. The research showing nearly half (45%) of New Zealanders say a reason they don’t cook as many vegetarian meals as they may want is that plant-based meals are not as tasty as meals with meat with more than half of male respondents feeling this way (56%).

Watson says before he started working with the meal kit company he felt the same way.

“I was like get back with ye, it’s the devil. I’m a born and bred meat-eater but now I have no issues chowing down on a vegetarian meal here and there. Every fortnight we have a veggie dish to make us feel healthier,” he says.

He says working on the new episode with Crossman was “bloody hilarious”.

“She is so much fun and authentic. That bubbly Kim you always see on screen is exactly how she is when the cameras are off. I didn’t pick up any cooking tips from her, no offence Kim, but she definitely attacked the cooking day like a professional and nailed the technical wordy bits better than I did, I need to scrub up!” he says.

His advice for anyone wanting to dip their toe into a meat-free meal is to start with vegetarian curries, which are simple to make and filling.

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