Vegetarian for Life

How inclusive is your lunch club?

Posted by Claire on 20/09/21 in Articles, Recipes

If you run a lunch club you’ll know how beneficial they can be for people, helping to reduce social isolation and providing a regular social activity for an older person to look forward to.

A lunch club is a great reason for someone to get out of the house and enjoy a home-cooked, nutritious meal without having to cook or wash up themselves.

As a lunch club, you provide a key piece in the jigsaw of services that support older people living in their own homes to eat well. For some, the meal that they get at a lunch club may be the only home-cooked meal they have all week.

Something to consider when planning your menus is whether or not they are inclusive? Perhaps someone who is vegan or vegetarian would like to attend, but they don't feel that they'll be catered for. They shouldn’t have to miss out on the social aspect of a lunch club because they follow a special diet. Providing a good selection of vegan or vegetarian options will also make your lunch club more inclusive for those following a special diet for religious reasons, or those with certain allergies.

Catering for vegans and vegetarians is not hard but you may need to read some food labels or do a little extra research to ensure what you serve is suitable for them. You may also find your meat–eating attendees are keen to try the new vegan options and may enjoy the change, so you don’t always have to serve them as separate options.


We've put together our top tips and recipes to help you get started.

Think about your existing menu. What meat–free dishes would complement what is already there in terms of style and process? What small changes can be made to make an existing recipe vegan or vegetarian? Many soups can be made vegetarian simply by changing from a meat–based stock to a vegetable stock. Try tomato, minestrone, lentil, split pea, or potato and leek soups

A firm favourite, lasagne can be prepared with a meatless sauce, and vegetables such as spinach, aubergine, peppers and courgette can be substituted for the meat filling. Crumbled tofu can be substituted for cottage cheese or ricotta cheese in lasagne and similar dishes, or try topping with vegan cheese.

Get creative with your sandwich fillings. Here’s plenty of inspiration for vegan sandwiches.

Don’t be scared to combine lots of different vegetables in one dish. Cook them in many ways, too: mashed, roasted, marinaded, steamed or fried.

Think big and punchy flavours. Seek inspiration in international cuisine. Countries where large numbers of the population follow a meat–free lifestyle such as India, Israel and Taiwan can be a good starting point.

Milk can be replaced with soya milk, rice milk, or oat milk in most recipes, without altering the taste or appearance of the food. Also make sure that you offer a selection of these for people to choose from with their tea and coffee. Ask your veggie/vegan attendees what their preference is, and buy this in future.

Be aware of non-veggie ‘hidden’ ingredients. There are ingredients that may appear to be vegetarian but in fact aren’t. Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies) for example. Many French and Italian cheeses are not vegetarian such as Parmesan, but you can easily find suitable alternatives. Make sure you label vegetarian cheese as vegetarian on your menus.

Stocks and bouillon are not always suitable for vegans. Look for brands such as Kallo or Bouillon or check the label. Vegetarian gravies are easily available such as vegetable gravy granules from ASDA, Tesco, or Co–op, and the red tub of Bisto original gravy granules is vegan, too.

Try tofu. Cooked, seasoned diced or mashed tofu can be used in some salads and sandwiches in place of chopped egg. Marinaded and shallow-fried, it works well in str-fries and curries. Scrambled tofu is an excellent alternative to scrambled eggs too.

Quorn or TVP can be used to replace ground meat in items like chilli, Bolognese or shepherd’s pie. Give these recipes a go.

We hope that you find these tips are useful. If you’d like any further support to make your lunch club offering more inclusive, or training information, please get in touch with ellie@vegetarianforlife.org.uk

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and looking for a vegan lunch club, VfL runs a monthly lunch club via Zoom on the 4th Tuesday of every month. Meet at a virtual table to enjoy a meal just like you would with friends, in the comfort of your own home. Lunch club is a great place to meet like-minded people and share stories and laughs.

It is free to join, open to vegans, vegetarians, and meat-reducers aged 65 and over. Every lunch club has a different theme and recipes are provided for each session. You get the recipes in advance, which you cook in time for lunch club and sit down and enjoy with the group. If you don’t fancy cooking, you are welcome to join for the chat with a cup of tea or whatever you’re having for your lunch that day, as long as it’s vegan friendly.


It could not be easier to meet friendly faces in the comfort of your own home, with a plate of warm food in front of you. If you’re still not sure, here’s some feedback from our regular attendees:

“Very good, easy-to-follow recipes that are delicious – it is helping to extend our range of recipes and ingredients to add to the repertoire, re–establishment of lunch time in our household – it's nice to make a bit of an event of it.”

“The themes are good. I am looking forward to future ones.”

What attendees said they enjoyed the most:

“Learning great new recipes and being able to discuss with the chef.”

“Cooking lunch in readiness for the meeting and then sitting down to eat in the company of others.”

Our next lunch club will be on the 28 September at 1pm. Email Ellie to find out more or book your place.

If you’d prefer to attend an in–person lunch club but don’t feel well catered for, put them in touch with VfL and we can give them some ideas and support to cater well. Or why not try setting up a vegan lunch club in your area? Get in touch if you’d like any support doing this.


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