Did you know that about there are about 6-8 million of adults in the US who consumes no meat, poultry and fish meals? And there are also some millions of people who have eliminated red meat in their diet but still consume fish or chicken. Such facts only prove that vegetarianism has increasingly become popular in just a short time.
Why? There are plenty of possible reasons for that aside from simply avoiding the consumption of meat. It may be due to concerns on animal welfare, the use of hormones and antibiotics in livestock or because they cannot afford to consume meat. Whatever the reason is, becoming a vegetarian has become a mainstream in the modern world. And that’s for a reason – the endless benefits it brings.
So, how can an interested individual begin with the vegetarian way of eating now? Here’s your guideline to switching to a healthy way of eating.
For Starter: Take Things Slow
Ask yourself why do you want to convert into the vegetarian way of eating? Does consumption of meat play a significant role in your current diet? Whatever your answers are to these questions will give you an idea on just how quick your conversion will be to vegetarianism.
If you are a meat lover, consider that your transition won’t be as fast. But you can start things by exclude red meat in your diet. As soon as you feel comfortable with that change, you can follow poultry and fish. Or if eliminating meat entirely in your diet is too tough on you, then you can simply reduce your consumption of meat in at least two of your meals per day. Then you can eliminate meat from your meat entirely.
What Your Vegetarian Diet Must be Comprised of
Remember that removing chicken, fish and meat in your diet will require you to replace the vitamins, minerals and protein you are missing. This can be done by using meat alternatives, like nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, soy and tofu. For mineral and vitamin intake, consider the following:
Calcium – Vegetarian can still get enough calcium in two ways. First is by consuming at least 2-3 dairy product servings. Second is by increasing their intake of foods that are rich in calcium like almonds, beans, calcium-fortified, leafy greens and figs.
Iron – Meat is known as the richest source of iron, which is why it is vital for vegetarians to include alternative foods which can supply their need for the nutrient. Examples of these foods are fortified breakfast cereals, oatmeal, beans, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds and firm tofu. It would also be best if these are paired with foods like strawberries, sweet peppers, citrus fruit, tomatoes and potatoes, which are rich in Vitamin C.
Omega-3 – This micronutrient is important for several reasons. It helps reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease, lower bad cholesterol levels and in the development of brain function. Such micronutrient is often found in fish foods. You can consume seeds like flaxseed and vegetarian supplements to get your needed omega-3 fatty acids.
Unsaturated Fats – are known as a secondary source of energy, also essential in building the cell membranes, fat-soluble vitamin absorption and brain function. This macronutrient can be obtained by consuming nuts, avocadoes, seeds and oils like flaxseed and olive oil.
Vitamin B12 – Most of this nutrient is obtained in animal-based foods. To support the body with its Vitamin B12 requirements, make sure to consume fortified soy beverages, nutritional yeast, fortified “mock meats” and take vitamin supplements.
Zinc – A significant amount of zinc is also obtained in meat. To still supply the body with enough supply of the mineral, consume foods like soy nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, yogurt, almonds, beans and cashews.
When Making and Preparing Your Vegetarian Diet Plan
Breakfast – Provide yourself with the needed energy to start and last for the entire day by preparing healthy vegetarian breakfast. Toast some bread while scrambling eggs to start your day. The egg itself already provides the combination of protein, fat and Vitamin D. Other options include cereal or porridge filled with your preferred seeds and nuts and finishing your breakfast with a spoonful of natural yogurt.
Mid-Morning and Mid-Afternoon Snack – Instead of grabbing some biscuits for your snack, eat a toast and slices of banana instead, or blend a fruit smoothie or prepare yourself with fruit-packed muffins. Other good suggestions are peanut butter and banana on toast and nutty blueberry muffins. For the mid-afternoon snacks, treat yourself and go for low-fat cream, crunchy colorful salads or a simple cheese on crackers.
Lunch – For this meal, always include protein for your lunch like beans, nuts, dairy products, and starchy carbs. Always prepare carb-rich lunch meals to keep you supplied with energy for the rest of the day. The best carb foods to choose are those that help boost the sugar level. Fats must also be part of your lunch meals.
Dinner – Again, you should go for foods rich in carbs to help you through your breakfast. Combine these carbs with healthy essential fats, like walnuts and seeds, and protein like eggs or tofu.
Planning to eat out for dinner? Make sure to search beforehand for the nearest vegetarian restaurants and check their menu. The same must be done in case your family is planning on having dinner in a non-vegetarian restaurant. In this case, choosing restaurants offering international cuisines, like Chinese, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, would be a good choice. These non-vegetarian restaurants often offer vegetarian dishes that would suit your palate just fine.