Eating meat has great nutritional value, especially since meat is high in protein, but as we all know, there is more than one way to eat right. Nowadays, a variety of vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly popular for both ethical and health-related reasons; adopted by many people, including some of our staff members here at Cardiogenix. Some of the many health benefits that attract people towards a vegetarian diet are that it reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even cancers!
The vegetarian diet that usually comes to mind is the one that excludes meat, poultry and fish intake, but this is not the only type of vegetarian diet. There are also pescatarian, pollotarian, and vegan diets to name a few! While vegan diets exclude the intake of everything from meat, poultry, fish, and any animal by-products, pescatarian diets include fish and pollotarian diets include poultry. If you decide to take on a certain diet, choose one that suits your needs best!
Now, let’s take a look at how to reap the health benefits of a nutritious vegetarian diet!
Becoming a vegetarian is more than just a simple change in diet; it is also a lifestyle change. Before doing so, it is important to know how to replace essential nutrients, such as protein and iron! Seeing as there are many alternatives, be cautious to not rely on processed foods as fillers, which are usually high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.
In order to ensure not to miss out on the nutritional benefits of an optimal vegetarian diet, it is highly advised to make an appointment with a registered dietitian to figure out your new diet plan together and then stick to that plan!
Getting started: transition your diet gradually
Rather than becoming vegetarian overnight, gradually reduce your intake of meat while increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables at the same time.
Increase your vegetarian meals
Week by week, you can increase the number of vegetarian meals you eat. You can also add more greens, such as spinach and kale, to your daily meals.
Substitute and transform (H2)
You can replace the ingredients of some of your favorite dishes to transform them into vegetarian meals. You’ll actually be surprised at how many meals can easily be made vegetarian or already are! Rather than adding meat sauce to your spaghetti, you can opt for tomato sauce instead. Better yet, you can substitute the chicken in your fajitas with tofu! And, for poutine lovers, just swap the regular gravy for a vegetable-based one. You won’t even see or taste the difference!
Branch out and discover
Now that you’ve increased your meatless meals and made other ones vegetarian with simple substitution, it’s the perfect time to try out new vegetarian cuisines. So go ahead and discover recipes online, explore vegetarian cookbooks, or visit different ethnic restaurants!
From falafel pitas to sweet potato burgers, there is no shortage of recipes to enjoy as a vegetarian! You’ll be sure to find some vegetarian options in just about any restaurant you go to, and if you want to try out vegetarian restaurants in particular, there are plenty to discover in Montreal as well. Whether you’re craving Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, or Vietnamese food, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for!
Planning a healthy vegetarian diet: get all your nutritional needs!
The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is to bring as much variety to your meal so that you can better meet all your nutritional needs! Make sure to get the required intake of the following nutrients: calcium and vitamin D, vitamin B-12, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc.
Calcium and Vitamin D
The highest source of calcium is found in milk and dairy products. Eating a good amount of dark green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and turnips also provide a source of calcium. Other ways to get calcium are in calcium-enriched or fortified products, including juice, soymilk, cereals, and tofu.
Vitamin D is found in foods like salmon, egg yolks, and cheese. It is also often added to cow, soy or rice milk, certain cereals and margarines.
Sources of Vitamin B-12 are mostly limited to animal products, making it difficult to find elsewhere. Because of this, vegetarians should consider taking vitamin supplements, and eating vitamin-enriched cereals and fortified soy products.
Good sources of protein include eggs and dairy products, as well as plant-based foods, such as soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Fish and eggs are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of fatty acids include canola and soy oil, walnuts, soybeans, and ground flaxseed. Vegetarians should still consider supplements or fortified products to meet this nutritional need.
Iron and Zinc
It is recommended that vegetarians double their intake of iron in comparison to non-vegetarians. Good sources of iron include dried beans and peas, lentils, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, enriched cereals, and dried fruit. Also, to better absorb iron, vegetarians should eat Vitamin C-rich foods alongside their sources of iron, like strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, cabbage and broccoli.
A good source of zinc for vegetarians is cheese, and plant-based products such as whole grains, soy products, nuts, legumes, and wheat.
Now that you know the basics of a healthy vegetarian diet, you can always speak to a dietitian for more information! After all, if you are thinking of becoming a vegetarian or already are a vegetarian, you might as well make sure you are getting every last bit of those health advantages!