EATING more plant based foods is the biggest food trend at the moment. The numbers of vegans have doubled in just a few years and are set to rise further still.

It's not just a trend it's a food revolution. Restaurants, food chains and manufacturers are rushing to keep up.

It's particularly popular with the younger generation who are getting lots of information and recipes from social media, and the over 50's who are looking for natural ways too to boost their health and vitality.

Chef Keith Squires has been teaching vegetarian, vegan and plant based cooking in the UK, Europe and India for 30 years.

He says that these are the top ten questions he gets asked about plant based diets. In celebration of National Vegetarian Week, Keith has sent us his answers.

South West Farmer:

Chef Keith Squires

How do I get enough protein?

I notice that when people eat lots of processed and junk foods they don't seem to be concerned about their health that much. They may be overweight on medication, but it is all treated as normal. The thought however of having a healthy meal without meat then suddenly everyone starts to worry!

The first question is always will I get enough protein? Or where is the protein in a vegan meal and is it a complete protein?

Luckily it's really simple to answer this question. There is actually plenty of protein in plant based foods. Particularly in pulses (beans and lentils) seeds, nuts, whole grains and even in vegetables.

What fats and oils should I use?

The basic combo of pulses (beans and lentils) and grains gives you a great balance of protein and carbohydrate. The other thing to consider is the oils. We seem to have almost concluded now that all fats are bad for us. But our body has as much fat as protein. Fat is essential for our cell membranes, nervous system and brain. Luckily these are present in healthy nuts and seeds.

South West Farmer:

Carrot salad

Is it a healthy and balanced diet?

A good plant based diet is natural and healthy but that doesn't mean all vegan foods are. For example chips, chocolate, tomato sauce, jam, sugar and biscuits are often vegan!

The secret lies in the name ‘plant based' foods. The first thing to do is put vegetables centre stage. Even if you are not vegetarian or vegan you can start by making the meat or fish the side dish.

The great thing about vegetables is that they are colourful. This makes the food look great but it attracts us for a reason. The green colour comes from chlorophyll the magic pigment that converts CO2 to oxygen. It is like the blood of the plant world and is almost identical to our own blood cells.

Is it good for the environment?

If you are worried about the environment, then eating a more plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do.

Beans and lentils in particular are a fantastic food because they produce a lot of food from a small area of land. They are high in protein and fibre and low in fat. Legume plants like these actually fix nitrogen and fertilise the soil. Like all plants they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Is it expensive?

Wholefoods aren't just better for the environment, they don't cost the earth in another way. There's a misconception that healthy food is expensive. That only the middle-class or rich people can afford it. That people on low incomes have no choice but to eat the cheapest and processed foods from discount supermarkets.

The healthy diets based on pulses, grains and vegetables are very cheap. Lentils, rice and split peas can cost as little as £1 or £2 a kilo. When cooked both expand and double or triple in mass making the real cost less than 50p per Kg!

South West Farmer:

Many say they have more energy on a plant based diet

Will I put on weight?

After just a few days on a healthy plant based diet there are three things that most people tell me. The first is that minor ailments like rashes or skin problems seem to get better on their own. Also many say they have more energy and feel fresher and find it easier to get up in the morning.

But nearly everyone says they lose weight. Most people get overweight without trying. They don't eat that much and feel hungry most of the time but still put on weight! The great thing about plant based food is that there is a lot of fibre which makes you feel full. It is nutritious and this reduces cravings. You can actually eat more and weigh less.

What can I use to replace the meat?

There are a huge amount of vegan meat replacements these days. This makes it easy to begin to change. It is also convenient if you don't have much time. It is of course a nice treat from time to time.

Some are just as good if not better than the "real thing".

The best thing is not to try and replace the meat. There are lots of styles of cooking that were designed to be plant based. Traditional one pot stews and soups are a good place to start.

Will it take a long time to prepare?

The great news is plant based dishes are easy to prepare. Just use the vegetables in season: throw then into a big pot and let them simmer with the grains and pulses. Throw together a salad with a simple dressing. Some nice bread or rice.

Will it harm the rural economy?

Plant based food is for everyone: vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and everyone else. Even the most dedicated meat eater probably eats 50 percent plant based foods even if it's just the pie crust, chips and white bread. A bit of parsley always seems to get in there too.

We are just saying eat more of it. Even if everyone was 90 percent plant based which some experts are recommending then there would still be a demand for all the foods we eat now.

What happens to all the farm and domestic animals?

Some people worry that if so many people go plant based what would happen to all the farm animals. The likelihood is that that there will still be a demand for good quality produce rather than industrialised mass produced food many people eat now.

In parts of India dairy products are still produced without harm to animals. That is hard to believe in this day and age. In Gujarat India it is totally illegal to kill or export cows yet they have a thriving dairy industry. Cows have to be looked after until they die naturally.

Read more in Keith's book '

Cooking With Love