Many people are under the impression that a vegetarian diet is an incomplete diet in terms of nutrition. While it is true that meats are not featured the important nutrients found in meats can also be found in many non-meat food items. Below are some pointers on how to craft a vegetarian diet that is well balanced and healthy.
Iron is the nutrient commonly associated with red meat. So, since a vegetarian diet does inot include meat, iron must be obtained from other sources. Fortunately, many leafy green vegetables like spinach and collard greens are rich in iron. Tofu and certain beans also have a high iron content.
Adding Dairy to a Vegetarian Diet
When deciding on a vegetarian diet it is your choice whether or not to include both milk and eggs; some do and some don’t. When making your decision, keep in mind that eggs, and milk too, are great sources of very high-quality protein. Vitamin B-12 is a critical nutrient mostly found in meat, fish and dairy products. If you decide against including dairy products and fish in your diet, you may need to take a B-12 supplement to be certain that your body receives a sufficient amount of B-12.
Having said all that, don’t use dairy products with a high-fat content as your main source of protein. The excess fat can lead to undesired weight gain. Instead, use low-fat or skim milk. And don’t forget that there are non-dairy sources of protein, such as nuts, legumes, tofu and beans.
Whole Grains are Crucial
Whole grains will be an important part of any vegetarian diet. They are rich with healthy fiber and many other nutrients as well. Different grains are rich in different vitamins and minerals so including a variety of whole grains in your meals will add a number of different nutrients as well. Don’t make the mistake of confusing whole grains with refined grain products. Highly processed refined grains have had most of their nutrients removed when the outer and inner parts of the grain seed were removed during processing.
To be healthy any diet needs to include what are know as “complete” proteins. A complete protein contains proportions of nine essential amino acids. Proteins derived from animals are complete where plant derived proteins may not be. Including as many varieties of beans, nuts, grains, and legumes as you can greatly improves the quality and quantity of important amino acids in your vegetarian diet.
Avoid Processed Food Products
It should go without saying that you really need to avoid highly processed foods loaded with salts and artificial ingredients. Even some of the pre-packaged “vegetarian” meals in the store contain some artificial, man-made ingredients. Stick with fresh foods as much as you can. Simply because a pre-packaged food says that it is vegetarian, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy. It can be loaded with empty calories from fats, with excess sodium and ingredients that you cannot even pronounce. These are food choices that you should avoid.
Building a vegetarian diet that is well-balanced and healthy can certainly be done but it does require both knowledge and planning. Most importantly, learning all about the non-meat options and what nutrients are provided by each type of food is your challenge. But once you have done your homework, you will find that you can exclude meat from your diet pretty easily without depriving yourself of proper nutrition.
Smoothies are Key
Adding these nutrients to your now vegetarian diet is going to be much easier with smoothies. A well made smoothie can easily contain the larger part of your daily nutritional requirements by combining many different ingredients in a single glass. Browse through our collection of more than 800 smoothie recipes and you are certain to find some that you are going to enjoy.