by Lauren Angelo
There are many reasons people choose to eat less meat or fully commit to a vegetarian diet. Some try it in attempt to lose weight or for other health reasons while others are driven by ethical concerns. Regardless of why you may want to become vegetarian, there’s a lot to know about making the switch and a lot to brag to your friends about once you do!
First of all, it’s crucial to know the definition of a ‘vegetarian’ diet because there are common misconceptions behind the difference between vegetarians and vegans. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a vegetarian diet excludes flesh foods (meat) and may or may not include egg or dairy products while vegan diets exclude all meat and dairy products from the diet (Melina, Craig, & Levin, 2016).
Anyone thinking about removing meat from their diet should aim to consume a well-rounded variety of nutrient-dense food choices rather than just loading up on pasta and other low nutrient, meat-free foods. Instead, choose a mixture of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs and healthy dairy foods. These foods supply a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients crucial to overall health.
Those eating a vegetarian diet need to pay special attention to their intake of protein, fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B-12. This may seem like a lot to worry about but modern resources such as meal tracking websites and applications for your phone make food and nutrient tracking easy. There are also many fun, creative, simple, meatless recipes on the internet. Get creative, try something new and discover some new, healthy foods!
In addition to discovering new and exciting foods, studies show that those who do not eat meat are often linked with improved health status. According to a study by Orlich et al. (2013), those following a vegetarian diet may have increased longevity and tend to be at less risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and renal disorders such as kidney failure. In addition to reduced risk of these specified health problems, studies have also shown a link between high intake of fruits and vegetables and a reduced risk of the two most common causes of death in the United States; cardiovascular disease and cancer (Liu, 2013).
I encourage you to have fun in the kitchen, look up a fruit or vegetable you’ve never heard of, and research how to cook it. You can get your children, spouse, parents or friends involved
to help you and to share in the excitement of learning about new, healthy foods.
The Digestible; a site for easy to understand food, nutrition, health, and energy balance information.