Marilou Wieder, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC
So, you have considered adopting vegetarian meals for a while now. Everyone knows that a vegetarian diet has health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing type 2 diabetes risks, and decreases the risk of some cancers. Incidentally, vegetarians tend to have a healthier body weight than non-vegetarians. Stop thinking about making changes and begin now.
There are many different vegetarian meal types, but they all exclude meat. The 5 main types of vegetarian types are: Lacto-vegetarian – excludes meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Dairy products are included. Ovo-vegetarian – excludes meat, poultry, fish, and daily foods, permits eggs. Lacto-Ovo vegetarian – exclude meat, fish, and poultry, allow eggs and dairy. Pescatarian – exclude meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs, permits fish. Vegan – excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy and all foods that contain these foods. Do not want to jump into vegetarianism with both feet? Why not begin by becoming a flexitarian? A flexitarian mainly consumes a plan-based diet, but can include meat, poultry, fish, dairy or eggs occasionally or in smaller portions. Going vegetarian is not tasteless as you may believe it to be! And it does not mean you relegate your meals to salads! There are lots of great vegetarian recipes to try.
A vegetarian diet does require some education and planning to ensure you are getting all your macro and micronutrients. Protein is the obvious biggest change. The research and planning payoff improve overall health are worth it. Just as not all energy bars are healthy, not all foods deemed vegetarian are healthy either so read labels. Make an appointment with a dietitian to help you discover and plan your healthier vegetarian diet.
Here are a couple of easy tips for planning a healthy vegetarian diet:
1. Make your plate colorful. The more color on your plate the more variety in nutrients.
2. Include new protein sources like flavored hummus and tofu. There are other protein options such as nuts and nut butters, lentils, beans, chia, and flax seeds. Including include dairy, eggs, or fish, protein needs are easily met.
3. Choose whole grains as they contain more fiber and protein than their white, processed cousins.
4. Eat whole fruit and vegetables at each meal. Keep them cut up and handy for snacks.
Unless you are “all in,” begin by making small changes. Choose lunch or dinner to make one change. Or start out by eliminating one food, such as red meat or make one day per week vegetarian. Build on the successes of those small changes. Cook in large batches and freeze for re heat to save thought and time. Start out by taking a favorite recipe and get creative by substituting a vegetarian protein or simply leave out meat and add more veggies. Making a familiar item like fajitas, allows you to choose your favorite or new vegetarian toppings to eliminate the meat. Peruse the internet for the many vegetarian recipes. Discover what you like. As with all recipes, some you will love and others not so much. Eat those you love. Eating because you think you must, will not be a plan you will desire to stick with.
Start small and add to your vegetarian plan each week. Moving to a 100% vegetarian diet is beyond what most people are ready to do out of the gate. Choosing one day per week to be an “all vegetarian day” adds some health benefits.
Here are some web site recipes to look at:
Want to eat out? Find a vegetarian restaurant near you.
So, take those baby steps you have been considering for a long time.
|20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables. http://www.eatright.org/~/media/eatright%20files/nationalnutritionmonth/handoutsandtipsheets/nutritiontipsheets/20waystoenjoymorefruitsandvegeta bles.ashx. Published 2014. Accessed August 1, 2020.|
|Healthy eating tips for vegetarians. http://www.eatright.org/~/media/eatright%20files/nationalnutritionmonth/handoutsandtipsheets/nutritiontipsheets/healthyeatingtipsforvegetarians_nn m2017_final.ashx. Published 2017. Accessed August 1, 2020|
|The Beginners Guide to going vegetarian without getting sick. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/a20469930/the-beginner-s-guide-to-goingvegetarian/. Published June 19, 2017. Accessed August 1, 2020|