These days, more and more folks are ditching meat from their diets for eco- and health-friendly reasons (or both).
There are many different types of vegetarians — the strictest being vegan.
If you or your loved one is going veg, here are some basic things to remember.
What kind of vegetarian do you want to be?
Most choose a lacto-ovo approach, turning their backs on meat, fish and poultry, but still eating dairy products and eggs.
(Lacto-vegetarians, meanwhile, also nix eggs, whereas ovo-vegetarians also nix dairy; vegans exclude all animal products.)
The basic types:
- Pesco-vegetarians – include seafood and fish
- Lacto-vegetarians – include dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt)
- Ovo-vegetarians – include eggs
- Ovo-lacto-vegetarians – include eggs and dairy
- Vegan – no foods containing animal products (including dairy, eggs and even sometimes honey)
How does Vegetarian Diet work?
You don’t have to go cold turkey.
You could start by preparing a couple meat-free dishes each week, and gradually make more substitutions – tofu in stir-fry instead of chicken, say, or grilled veggie burgers instead of beef.
If your aim is also weight loss, amp up your exercise routine and eat fewer calories than your daily recommended max.
To make the transition to a vegetarian diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends these tips:
- Every week, ramp up the number of meatless meals you already enjoy, like spaghetti with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry. Include greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and collards in your daily meals.
- Try some favorite recipes without meat. For instance, make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans.
- Look for ways to vary your vegetarian diet regimen by checking the internet for menus, buying or borrowing vegetarian cookbooks or checking out the growing number of vegetarian restaurants to try new dishes.
Eliminating fish, dairy or eggs from your diet significantly drops your protein intake.
For optimum health, we should all take in about 2 sensible servings of protein a day.
If you ditch the meat, there are other options. You might try 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, an egg, half a cup beans or lentils or 3 ounces of tofu.
Of course, alternate protein sources such as tofu, seitan (a thick, textured meat replacement made from wheat gluten), quinoa or amaranth are always good choices.
Try to combine various foods that complement each other — maybe you have peanut butter on whole wheat bread or prep up some brown rice and beans.
You don’t need a turkey at the center of the table to make Thanksgiving a special day! Here are delicious dishes that can take the spotlight at your vegetarian feast.
Recipes To Try:
- Three-Cheese Macaroni
- Slow-Cooker Squash Stew
- Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
- Meatless Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy
- Roasted Beet Risotto
- Roasted Tofu
- Spaghetti Squash with Marinara
- Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew
- Polenta with Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushrooms (swap vegetable stock for the chicken broth)
- Shepherd’s Pie with French Lentils and Chard
What can I eat and drink on a vegetarian diet?
Grains: Choose whole grains for at least half of your grain servings each day.
- Whole-wheat bread, roll, English muffin, bagel, or sandwich bun
- Cooked whole-grain pasta, or white, brown, or wild rice
- Whole-grain dry cereal low in sugar, or cooked cereal such as oatmeal
Fruits and vegetables:
- All fresh and dried fruits, canned fruit in juice, or frozen fruit without added sugar
- All fresh vegetables, especially fresh dark green, red, or orange vegetables
- Low-sodium canned or frozen vegetables
- Low-fat or fat-free milk
- Low-fat buttermilk or evaporated skim milk
- Fortified soy milk
- Low-fat or fat-free yogurt
- Nonfat or low-fat cheese
- Dried beans, split peas, or lentils
- Soybeans, soy tofu or tempeh, or soy milk
- Unsalted nuts or nut butters
- Vegetarian meat substitute
Foods to Avoid on a Vegetarian Diet for Weight Loss
While most plant foods are naturally healthy, highly processed vegetarian foods tend to be less so.
You should limit or avoid the following foods if you’re following a vegetarian diet for weight loss:
- Highly processed vegetarian foods: veggie burgers, meat replacements, freezer meals, frozen desserts, and imitation dairy products
- Refined carbs: white bread, white pasta, bagels, and crackers
- Sugary foods and beverages: candy, cookies, pastries, table sugar, sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweet tea
In addition, try to avoid extra-large portions of any food — especially those high in sugar and calories.
Sample Vegetarian Meal Plan for Weight Loss
This 5-day meal plan provides a few ideas for a vegetarian diet for weight loss.
- Breakfast: steel-cut oats with apples, peanut butter, and cinnamon
- Lunch: a salad with greens, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette
- Dinner: black-bean soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt, whole-grain bread, and a side salad
- Snack: almonds and dark chocolate
- Breakfast: scrambled eggs with broccoli and cheddar, plus a side of berries
- Lunch: a burrito bowl with brown rice, pinto beans, tomato, onion, and avocado
- Dinner: zucchini noodles with marinara, sunflower seeds, and white beans
- Snack: string cheese or an orange
- Breakfast: plain Greek yogurt with pineapple, shredded coconut, and walnuts
- Lunch: lentil soup, chopped bell peppers, and guacamole
- Dinner: eggplant Parmesan served over whole-grain pasta and green beans
- Snack: a whole-grain granola bar or berries
- Breakfast: a smoothie bowl made from unsweetened almond milk, spinach, hemp seeds, frozen berries, and a banana
- Lunch: an egg salad on whole-grain bread with strawberries, carrots, and hummus
- Dinner: stir-fry with tofu, carrots, broccoli, brown rice, soy sauce, and honey
- Snack: dried mango and pistachios
- Breakfast: two eggs and one slice of whole-grain toast with avocado, plus a side of grapes
- Lunch: a salad with kale, pecans, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and edamame
- Dinner: homemade chickpea patties alongside sautéed mushrooms and a baked sweet potato
- Snack: plain Greek yogurt with cherriesThese meal and snack ideas can help you get started with vegetarian eating for weight loss.
If you like the idea of going vegetarian, but you’re just not sure whether it will work for you, remember that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision.
Instead of giving up meat completely, you can just cut down on the amount you eat.
By giving up meat just one night per week, you can save a bit of money, shave a little off your carbon footprint, and add some interesting variety to your diet.
Once you’ve tried it, you can decide whether to reduce your meat consumption more.
Cutting back on meat can be a stepping stone to a full-scale vegetarian diet, or it can be a new eating choice in itself.
By eating a meat-light diet, you can still enjoy the benefits of vegetarianism on a smaller scale.
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This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.