Eating a vegetarian diet is becoming a popular trend. Not only is it better for the planet, but when well-balanced, a plant-based diet is great for your body, too. You must make sure that your diet is nutritionally sound, however, here are some tips making sure your diet meets your nutritional needs.
One of your biggest nutritional concerns should be eating enough protein without meat in your diet. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, meaning that you consume eggs and dairy products, you can get a significant amount of protein from those foods. Other good sources of protein include nuts and nut butters, beans and legumes. Soy is another good source of protein, edamame, tofu and meat-like products are all rich in this macronutrient. Try to eat a variety of these protein-rich foods, because unlike meat, vegetable-based proteins are less likely to contain all the amino acids your body needs. Eating different types of protein makes it less likely that you will be deficient in any particular amino acids.
Just as you should eat a wide variety of proteins, you should eat a rainbow of fruits and veggies, too. Different types of vegetables contain different nutrients, leafy, dark greens are rich in calcium, while brightly colored peppers and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Eating a wide variety of produce prevents nutritional deficiencies. When possible, stick to fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. These have the most nutrients and the least sodium and preservatives.
To adjust to being a vegetarian, avoid giving up your favorite foods, just alter them. For instance, you can make tacos using seasoned lentils in place of the meat. Soups, stews, pizza and casseroles can all be rich and hearty without the addition of meat. If you’re craving a burger, whip up some black bean patties, or grill a portabello mushroom cap and pile it high with your favorite toppings.
While eating vegetarian versions of your favorite dishes is a great idea, so is breaking out of your comfort zone. Try to prepare foods in a new way, or cook foods that you’ve never tried before. Tofu, for instance, is great in stir-fries, or broiled in the oven with a peanut sauce. Try roasting your favorite veggies for a rich, flavorful side dish or sandwich topping. Keeping your diet varied prevents you from feeling burned-out or bored.
One pitfall to avoid as a vegetarian is a reliance upon carbohydrates as your main form of fuel. While carbs are an essential part of your diet, many vegetarians fall into unhealthy patterns of eating too many carbohydrates and not enough lean proteins and veggies. Without careful attention to what you are eating, you can easily miss out on important nutrients, such as iron or calcium. You may feel sluggish or have trouble maintaining your weight. Just remember that vegetarian junk food is still junk food, and try to keep unhealthy foods to a minimum.
A vegetarian diet is great for you and great for the planet, but only if you make sure that the foods you eat meet your nutritional needs. Use these tips to create a healthy, well-balanced diet that allows you to skip the meat while staying healthy.