Everything You Need to Know About a Vegetarian Diet Plan
Vegetarians rejoiced when Beyond Meat burgers entered the world. Being able to order a plant based burger at a fast food joint makes choosing to eat a vegetarian diet a lot simpler. However, before you move exclusively to a vegetarian meal plan, you need to make sure you are giving your body everything it needs; it is not as simple as just cutting out meat when it comes to a vegetarian diet plan.
To boil it down to the simplest of terms, being a vegetarian and eating vegetarian food is choosing a diet that does not include meat, fish, or poultry. There are subtypes of vegetarians, ranging from a strict diet to a bit more of a guideline.
Here are the different types of vegetarians:
- Vegans. They do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or products derived from animals, such as milk, cheese, eggs, or gelatin. They only eat plant based foods.
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarians. They do not eat meat, poultry, or fish. They do eat dairy and egg products.
- Lacto vegetarians. They do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. They do eat dairy products.
- Ovo vegetarians. They do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or dairy. They do eat egg products.
- Pescatarians. They do not eat meat. They may eat fish or poultry and they do eat dairy and egg products.
- Semivegetarians (Flexitarians). They eat primarily plant based diets with a bit of wiggle room. They may eat meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish infrequently in small amounts.
Why Choose a Vegetarian Diet Plan?
There are many vegetarian diet benefits if you make smart food choices. Vegetarian diets are nutritionally sufficient and help reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses, help you lower your blood pressure and lower your body mass index (BMI). Eating healthy will reduce your chance of obesity, as vegetarians usually consume less saturated fat and cholesterol.
Upping your natural food intake pays dividends in the health department. This type of diet reduces your risk of getting cancer and type 2 diabetes since you are consuming lots of fruits and vegetables, which are packed full of health benefits. In addition to minimizing the risk for some health conditions, a proper vegetarian diet will have you consuming more vitamin C, vitamin E, dietary fibre, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and phytochemicals, all of which are great contributions to your overall health.
Pros of a Vegetarian Diet
If improved health is not enough of a reason to consider switching to a vegetarian diet, there are some additional perks:
- It delivers a diet with complete nutrition when done properly
- It’s a more ethical choice when you consider the welfare of animals
- Vegetarian diets avoid excessive use of environmental resources
- It’s less expensive to buy produce than it is to purchase meat, fish and poultry
- There is year-round availability of produce, so you are not limited to eating the fruits and vegetables that are currently in season
- As more people are trying to incorporate more vegetables into their diet, restaurants and fast food establishments have increased their number of vegetarian dining options
- This diet can help alleviate world hunger. It takes more than 10 pounds of plant protein to produce one pound of beef protein; if this plant protein were earmarked for human consumption instead it would help lessen world hunger.
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Cons of a Vegetarian Diet
Depending on the type of vegetarian you want to be, there are some reasons that you may want to do your research before declaring yourself a vegetarian:
- You need to be more conscious of protein sources. Iron from meat sources absorbs more efficiently than iron from plant foods.
- Insufficiencies in certain foods may be challenging with certain life stages, like pregnancy
- You may be consuming less calcium, which brings concerns of osteoporosis
- These diets can be insufficient in vitamins D and K, zinc and iodine
- Vegetarians who do not eat dairy or eggs tend to have a vitamin B12 insufficiency
- No fish or eggs are diets low in omega 3 fatty acids
- Vegetarians do not necessarily live longer
- Processed vegetarian protein can cause more greenhouse gas pollution than farming meat
How a Vegetarian Diet Affects Your Health
If you want to switch to a vegetarian diet for health reasons, you need to follow recommended guidelines on nutrition, fat and calorie consumption, and weight control. If you are eating processed vegetarian foods, you are not giving yourself a true health benefit by switching your diet. You need a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in order to reap the benefits of vegetarianism.
A Vegetarian Food List
You still want to consume a healthy calorie intake with a plant based diet. While a vegetarian diet includes meat-free foods, like potato chips and macaroni and cheese, making it technically vegetarian, you want to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. You still need to make healthy choices.
Staples of a vegetarian diet plan include:
- Fruits like citrus fruit, melons, berries, apples and dried fruits
- Dark, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, collard greens and spinach
- Dark orange or yellow vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes and squash)
- Legumes including various types of beans, lentils, chickpeas and hummus
- Whole grains which can be brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, corn, oats and quinoa
- Soy products like soy milk, tofu edamame and tempeh
- Meat substitutes such as texturized vegetable protein, seitan, nuts and seeds and veggie burgers
- Eggs and dairy including milk, yogurt and cheese
Always read food labels. They let you know if the vegetarian option you are planning to purchase is actually nutritionally sound. Not sure what to make that will taste good? Google recipes online to find your next favourite vegetarian recipes so you have a delicious reason to remove meat from your diet.
Talking to Your Doctor
Even though becoming vegetarian may be a preference, it is good to check with your doctor to see if this is suitable for you. If you have underlying health conditions, removing meat from your diet may not be a smart option.