Many individuals are choosing to go vegetarian for its many health benefits. Studies suggest that vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Here are a few tips.
Love your vegetables! A vegetarian diet is only healthy if you’re focusing on the right kinds of anti-inflammatory foods. Your diet should emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes and healthy fats. As a rule of thumb, when grocery shopping, concentrate on the outer areas of the store, where the produce and fresh food is situated. You can also buy fresh organic vegetables in the freezer aisle or freeze fresh produce after a trip to the local Farmer’s Market, a fabulous place to get seasonal fruits and vegetables. Buying in bulk is also a terrific idea to save money as you will no doubt be using a lot of whole grains and beans in your cooking and meal prep.
This will also ensure that you’re keeping your weight in check. For instance, a quinoa and vegetable bowl sautéed in some olive oil and garlic is a great meal selection, whereas a big plate of macaroni-and-cheese, not so much. But when you eat a balanced diet combing all of the above, your weight will stay balanced and consistent. After all, just like non-vegetarians, you need to eat quality foods, watch your portion sizes and move.
It’s an old wives’ tale that vegetarians are protein deficient. There are actually many sources readily available to you. For instance, beans, seitan (a vegetarian meat substitute made from wheat gluten) or soy protein (including tofu or tempeh) are great sources. Many unprocessed plant foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts also provide adequate amounts of protein. Quinoa, in particular, is a complete protein (meaning containing all nine essential amino acids) and has the highest content of any grain.
Nowadays, it is easy to eat vegetarian at restaurants. Many places even have a vegetarian menu or marked selections. And do not ever be afraid to ask the server to kindly prepare a dish to your liking. This is a common request and most restaurants are very accommodating to the customer’s dietary restrictions. In addition, check out one of the many vegetarian and vegan restaurants popping up in cities everywhere. Many grocery stores also have salad bars and prepared items. When in doubt you can almost always get a salad with some vegetables and garbanzo beans to tie you over until your next meal.
You can easily make food swaps for your favorite foods. For example, if you love tacos or fajitas, sauté bell peppers and onions with tofu or vegetarian “beef” crumbles and then top with all your favorite trimmings in a corn tortilla. Make pizzas with creative vegetable toppings and some vegan pepperoni or seitan Italian sausage. There are even delicious milk and cheese substitutes made from nuts for all you vegans. Further, you can find many selections of veggie burgers at your local grocery haunt. You can even make them yourself at home in a jiff or go for a portabella mushroom burger. Further, who needs chicken when you have eggplant parmigiana!