Healthy Eating for Vegetarians
Adopting a healthy vegetarian diet isn’t just taking meat off your plate and eating what’s left. You need to take extra steps to ensure you’re meeting your daily nutritional needs. A well-balanced vegetarian diet consists mostly of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
You need to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. The more restrictive your diet, the harder it is to get everything you need. You need to be conscious that you are getting all the required vitamins and nutrients
•Protein – eggs and dairy products, soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains
•Calcium – dark green vegetables (spinach, turnip, collard greens, kale, and broccoli), tofu enriched with calcium and fortified soy milk, fruit juices
•Vitamin B-12 – milk, eggs, and cheese, enriched cereals, fortified soy products, a vitamin supplement
•Iron – dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, dried fruit
•Zinc – whole grains, soy products, nuts, wheat germ
Start with vegetarian dishes with which you are already familiar. Make a list of some meatless meals you already prepare, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce and a high protein pasta some companies make now. One pasta brand, the spaghetti is made with lentils, and chick peas. Vegetable stir fry is also good, and one can substitute beans instead of meat for extra protein.
Eat your vegetables! Vegetables and fruits provide nutrients and vitamins. Try to buy from local farmers markets and organically if possible. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and its like-minded counterparts tend to have plenty of iron. Eat vegetables that are colorful and fresh. The more color and variety the more vitamins and nutrients you are ingesting. Since most people take in more protein than is actually necessary you don’t have to worry about replacing all the protein you give up with meat.
Find protein and fiber in legumes. Beans are inexpensive, available year round and easier to prepare. Lentils are possibly the perfect food as they contain more protein pound for pound than steak, not fat and plenty fiber. They’re also available in several varieties.
Whole grains are essential to any diet and should be consumed at every meal. Eat plenty of short grain brown rice, wild rice and avoid the flavored and par boiled rice mixes. Also add nuts and seeds into your diet. They provide healthy fats. Don’t be confused with “mixed grains” and et cetera as it may just contain a small sample of healthier grains mixed in with processed flour. Read the labels and look in the organic or health food section of the store. Chances are the refrigerated breads have less preservatives and chemicals.
Read labels. Many times, products that don’t seem like they’d have meat product in them actually do. Vegetable soups are often made with chicken or beef stock.
Avoid processed foods. Even foods that say they are fortified don’t come near the original nutritional content of the food. It simply means the nutrients were taken out and only some were put back in later.