A vegetarian diet could help you shed pounds and is a healthy alternative to meat. But starting a new diet can be tricky with temptation all around, especially when you’re making your way through grocery aisles full of processed meat products. By embracing a vegetarian diet, you’ll load up on fiber, vitamins, and minerals while also slimming down. Here’s how to do it right to get maximum results.
Vegetarian Diet For Beginners
When people say they want to get healthy, most think of running marathons, getting in better shape, and eating less fast food. But these people don’t realize that improving their diet is the most important step toward true health.
If you want to experience a dramatic increase in energy and mental clarity, be sure to eat less meat (it also helps if you run marathons). In this article, I’ll outline one of the best-known vegetarian diets for beginners; known as The Vegan Diet.
If you’re thinking of adopting a vegetarian lifestyle or are maybe just curious about vegan cooking, choosing to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet has a slew of benefits for you and the planet. Making the shift toward plant-based eating is easier today now more than ever, namely because over 16 million Americans consider themselves vegetarian.
Not only is the plant-based community vast, but food establishments and restaurants are even starting to take notice and step up with tasty vegan alternatives to classic meat and dairy items. Here is everything you need to know about starting a vegetarian diet, including recipe inspiration and a complete shopping list.
Choosing Your Vegetarian Diet:
There are a few different types of vegetarian diets to consider when determining which is right for you. Some versions of a vegetarian diet allow fish and dairy, while others are stricter. Here are the various types of plant-based diets to choose from:
- Vegan: This approach is the strictest of the bunch and involves a completely plant-based diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and other animal-based products like honey and gelatin.
- Vegetarian: Based on the principles of a vegan diet, this option eliminates meat, poultry, and most animal-based products. This category can also be further divided into:
- Lacto-Ovo is vegetarian which allows both eggs and dairy.
- Lacto vegetarian which includes dairy products but not eggs.
- Ovo is a vegetarian which incorporates eggs but not dairy products.
- Pescatarian: This approach stems from following a vegetarian diet but incorporates fish and seafood. Pescatarians avoid all other meats, though some choose to eat dairy products and eggs.
- Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian: A more flexible option, this diet encourages mostly plant-based foods but allows for meat and other animal-based products in moderation.
- Plant-Forward: This style of cooking and eating places an emphasis on plant-based foods. Meat can be included in this diet, though it is not usually the main feature of the meal.
The Benefits Of Going Vegetarian:
The Benefits Of Going Vegetarian Going vegetarian is a great way to improve your health, the environment, and your animal-loving karma. It’s also a great way to protect your ticker. Cutting meat out of your diet can be one of the easiest ways to improve your health — not just in the immediate future, but in the long term as well.
- Go vegetarian in phases: A sudden shift towards vegetarian eating can be difficult, so instead try cutting one thing at a time, like eliminating red meat at first. Then, two weeks later, nix poultry and fish. As you eliminate foods, make sure you are adding in nutritious choices to counterbalance and have something to look forward to eating.
- Try it part-time: Many individuals chose to ditch animal products a few days a week, which may be ideal for you. You can also opt to make at least one meal a day completely plant-based by picking whichever meal is easiest to make the change for your lifestyle. Remember that nobody is perfect, so give yourself permission to slip up! Just do the best you can as you acclimate to the diet.
- Be adventurous: You don’t need to stick to force-feeding yourself tofu and broccoli, especially if you hate it. There is a world of natural plant-based foods that await you, so don’t be afraid to be adventurous and try a new vegetarian food each week. Some great choices include nutritional yeast, cashew butter, edamame, jackfruit, and banana blossom.
- Incorporate plant-based substitutes: In order for a vegetarian diet to work, you should try to build in choices that don’t make you feel deprived. If you used to love yogurt for breakfast, try coconut-milk yogurt as a non-dairy option. If letting go of red meat is challenging, meat alternatives may be perfect for you. Try your best to choose options with the fewest processed ingredients, and take note of sodium and added sugar counts too.
- Ask for help: Vegetarian doesn’t always translate to healthy; in fact, foods like potato chips, Skittles, and even Oreos are all totally vegan but won’t promote good health if you’re eating them regularly. And the diet, in general, may feel overwhelming and you may be nervous that you’re not getting adequate nutrition. Consider reaching out to a plant-based Registered Dietitian for assistance who can help troubleshoot any specific issue you’re having, from navigating take-out menus to helping you figure out how to create a balanced vegetarian plate.
Related Post: Cheap Easy Kid Friendly Vegetarian Recipes
Nutrients To Pay Attention To On A Vegetarian Diet
Eliminating animal products from your diet warrants special attention to a few key nutrients that you should be getting enough of on a daily basis. A few important nutrients to pay attention to while transitioning to and following a vegetarian diet include:
- Protein: Since you are cutting out animal sources from your diet, you may be concerned about meeting your protein needs. After all, protein is an important macronutrient that is helpful for multiple functions in the body like building and repairing muscles. But there are plenty of plant-based protein sources to take advantage of including beans, lentils, peas, nuts and nut kinds of butter, edamame, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, soy milk, and more. If you’re still concerned that you aren’t meeting your nutritional needs, vegan protein powders may come in handy.
- Iron: Iron enables red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. But plant-based sources of iron aren’t as readily absorbed in the body as animal-based foods. A solution is for vegetarians to pair plant-based iron foods with vitamin C-rich foods which significantly improves iron absorption. Squeeze some lemon juice in your bean salad vinaigrette or over sautéed spinach. Other vitamin C-rich foods can be paired well too.
- Vitamin B12: This important vitamin is crucial for red blood cell production and nerve development, but is often found in animal foods like red meat. In a vegetarian diet, foods like nutritional yeast and B12-fortified foods like cereals and non-dairy milk can help you meet your needs.
- Vitamin D: Important for helping maintain strong bones and supporting a healthy immune system. Vitamin D is actually a hormone in the body. It can be synthesized by the sun, but if you have limited sunlight exposure, you’ll have to get enough vitamin D through your diet or supplementation. Pescetarians can incorporate rainbow trout and salmon into their routine for healthy fats and vitamin D, but those avoiding fish can try sliced white mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light which is the only vegetable source of vitamin D.
- Calcium: Cutting out dairy products may make you nervous about meeting your calcium needs. But foods like soybeans and calcium-fortified plant-based milk are great options. Dark leafy greens like bok choy and collard greens also contain calcium but shouldn’t be relied on as a primary source.
The Vegetarian Diet: A Beginner’s Guide and Meal Plan
The vegetarian diet has gained widespread popularity in recent years.
Some studies estimate that vegetarians account for up to 18% of the global population (1).
Apart from cutting meat from your diet, a well-planned vegetarian diet may also reduce your risk of chronic disease. It will support weight loss and improve the quality of your diet.
This article provides a beginner’s guide to the vegetarian diet, including a sample meal plan for one week.
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from eating meat, fish, and poultry.
People often adopt a vegetarian diet for religious or personal reasons, as well as ethical issues, such as animal rights.
Others decide to become vegetarian for environmental reasons, as livestock production increases greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to climate change, and requires large amounts of water, energy, and natural resources.
There are several forms of vegetarianism, each of which differs in its restrictions.
The most common types include:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, and eggs but allows dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but allows eggs.
- Pescetarian diet: Eliminates meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
- Vegan diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, as well as other animal-derived products, such as honey.
- Flexitarian diet: A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat, fish, or poultry.
Vegetarian diets have a number of health benefits. In fact, studies show that vegetarians tend to have better diet quality than meat-eaters and a higher intake of important nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium. A vegetarian diet may provide several other health boosts as well.
May Enhance Weight Loss
Switching to a vegetarian diet can be an effective strategy if you’re looking to lose weight.
In fact, one review of 12 studies noted that vegetarians, on average, experienced 4.5 more pounds (2 kg) of weight loss over 18 weeks than non-vegetarians.
Similarly, a six-month study of 74 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that vegetarian diets were nearly twice as effective at reducing body weight as low-calorie diets.
Plus, a study on nearly 61,000 adults showed that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than omnivores — BMI being a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.
May Reduce Cancer Risk
Some research suggests that a vegetarian diet may be linked to a lower risk of cancer — including those of the breast, colon, rectum, and stomach.
However, current research is limited to observational studies, which cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Keep in mind that some studies have turned up inconsistent findings.
Therefore, more research is needed to understand how vegetarianism may impact cancer risk.
May Stabilize Blood Sugar
Several studies indicate that vegetarian diets may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
For instance, one review of six studies linked vegetarianism to improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
Vegetarian diets may also prevent diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar levels in the long term.
According to one study 2,918 people, switched from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian diet. It was associated with a 53% reduced risk of diabetes over an average of five years.
Promotes Heart Health
Vegetarian diets reduce several heart disease risk factors to keep your heart healthy and strong.
One study in 76 people tied vegetarian diets to lower levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and “bad” LDL cholesterol — all of which are risk factors for heart disease when elevated.
Similarly, another recent study on 118 people found a low-calorie vegetarian diet. It was more effective at reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol than a Mediterranean diet.
Other research indicates that vegetarianism may be associated with lower blood pressure levels. High blood pressure is another key risk factor for heart disease.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There are a few ways that vegetarians can lose weight fast. One way is to cut out processed foods and eat more whole foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Another way is to make sure they are getting enough protein and fiber. Protein helps to keep you feeling full, while fiber helps to regulate digestion. Finally, vegetarians can try to exercise regularly. This can help boost metabolism and burn calories.
There are many different types of vegetarian diets, so it’s hard to give a general answer. Some vegetarian diets can be very healthy, while others may not be as good for you. It’s important to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need if you’re following a vegetarian diet.
There are a few things you can do to start transitioning to a vegetarian diet. First, try replacing meat with plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, and tofu. Next, focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. And finally, try recipes that are vegetarian-friendly.