There are many people who are interested in vegetarian eating, but who aren’t sure where to start. If you’re interested in eating less meat or no meat at all, its important to educate yourself on how to make sure you get all the protein your body needs. You will also need to come up with healthy vegetarian recipes to use as alternatives to replace favorite dishes. Though it can be difficult to eat meat free when you are surrounded by foods and social events that contain meat, if you’re committed, making the change won’t be as hard as you think. Here are a few tips to help you with your transition to a new, healthier eating style.
What Type of Vegetarian Diet Do You Want to Follow?
Though often vegetarianism gets dumped into one big category of “no meat,” there are many different ways to follow a vegetarian diet. Here are the most common diets with a short list of what foods they include and exclude:
Semi-Vegetarian - Also called the “flexitarian diet”, this way of eating is based primarily on plants and whole grains, but does include small portions of other foods on occasion. These other foods include meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish in small quantities.
Lacto-Vegetarian - These diets exclude poultry, meat, fish and eggs, including any foods that contain these types of foods as ingredients. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, kefir, butter and cheese are allowed. Originally based on a religious belief from ancient India, this practice is very common for vegetarians in the Mediterranean, and also followed by others around the world.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian - Those following this diet allow dairy products and eggs, but do not eat any meat, fish or poultry. It’s easy to remember because the Latin derivatives give us clues. “Lacto” means milk, and “ovo” means egg, thus being the clues of what is allowed on these diets. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet in the Western world.
Ovo-Vegetarian - This type of food plan excludes the use of meat, poultry, seafood and all dairy products, but includes the consumption of eggs. A common nickname for this type of vegetarianism is “eggetarians”. Generally those following this diet do so because of issues with the industrial production of meat, including the slaughter of unwanted male calves in the dairy industry.
Vegan - The Vegan diet is the most strict type of vegetarian diet, excluding all meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, or any foods that contain these products. It is based on the original philosophy of Donald Watson who believed that “man should live without exploiting animals.” Veganism enjoys a large following around the world, with approximately 2% of the U.S. population following strict Vegan practices, according to the 2012 Gallup poll.
How to Keep Your Vegetarian Diet Nutritionally Balanced
Once you’ve decided which type of vegetarianism you want to follow, its important to understand your body’s nutritional needs so you can plan your diet accordingly. Here are a few guidelines to help you as you plan your healthy vegetarian recipes.
Foods to Eat at Every Meal - Every recipe you plan should include veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes or beans. This is a great way to make sure you get the caloric needs that your body needs to grow properly. Many vegetarians believe in eating food native to the area where you live, believing that those plants are designed to help one thrive in ones particular environment.
Foods to Consume Daily - It’s important that each day you eat foods such as nuts, seeds, plant oils, egg whites, soy milk and dairy to provide you with the daily nutrients your body needs. You should also be sure to drink at leave six glasses of water every day and make sure you get plenty of protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B-12.
Weekly Foods - Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you are following, you can eat sweets and eggs weekly. Be sure to treat yourself with your favorite foods to help shore up your commitment to eat healthy the rest of the time.
Enjoy Your Healthy Food and Lifestyle
The healthy lifestyle of vegetarianism is followed by more than 4 million people in the United States, and is generally low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Eating this way may help you decrease your chances of developing many of today’s most common diseases including cardiac issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. With a little bit of research, you can find a variety of delicious healthy vegetarian recipes that will taste so wonderful that you won’t be tempted to return to your old lifestyle ever again.