Is a vegetarian diet right for me?
The perfect “diet” is one that is simple and sustainable and therefore isn’t what we think of as a diet, but rather a plan for eating. That being said, there is not perfect plan that works for every person. Some people are more active than others and others may have specific nutritional needs based on medical conditions or allergies. However, whether you follow a low carb, low fat or high protein diet most research agrees that consuming most of your food from non-meat sources is the healthiest plan to go with. You may have heard about the health benefits of eating a vegan or vegetarian diet. Maybe you have even tried to “give up” meat for awhile and found it more challenging than you thought. It is true, cutting meats and animal products out of your diet has been shown to offer many health benefits including weight loss, lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, lower risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer and even Alzheimers. But beware, just cutting meats out of your diet does not automatically lead to a healthier diet. You must make adjustments in all of the food groups while making sure you have variety and moderation.
Here are a few tips to get you started and keep you going on a healthy vegan lifestyle.
1. It is still important to limit processed foods. Many well intending Vegans end up consuming a lot of processed meat imitations that can contain a lot of sodium and other preservative. It’s ok to have some of these foods, but be sure to make most of your diet whole natural foods.
2. Don’t be opposed to supplements. If you are going to follow a strict vegan diet it is wise to take a B12 supplement and a multivitamin just to cover your basics. Remember the definition of a supplement is “in addition to” not “instead of” eating healthy. You may also want to consider an Omega3 supplement (you can choose a flaxseed based product rather than fish), and vitamin D if you have limited exposure to sunlight.
3. Do your homework. There are some fabulous web sites and cook books that offer tips, recipes and great community support to help you make the transition and keep going.
4. Be realistic. Many people attempt to jump right in and may set themselves for failure by trying to be too strict or extreme. Be realistic, if you find yourself losing interest with your new diet…try loosening up a bit. Or if you discover that finding or preparing the foods you have selected is time consuming…go back to the drawing board. As mentioned before, there are a lot of web sites and cook books to help you out.
5. Remember eating Vegan is only part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, relaxation and a meaningful purpose to life are also a big part to achieving health and vitality.
Here are some key foods to include:
- Legumes and Soy: beans, tofu, soymilk (cheese, yogurt), soy nuts, lentils (3-4 servings per day)
- Whole Grains: brown rice, whole grain pasta; cous-cous, Amaranth, quinoa, whole grain breads and wraps
- Nuts, Seeds, and healthy fats: Walnuts, Almonds, Cashews and their “butters”, Tahini, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, olive oil (moderate amounts as these foods have lots of calories but contain “healthy fats”)
- Fruits and vegetables: lots of different colors like dark leafy green and orange veggies and fruits high in antioxidants like berries and pomegrante (8 servings per day)