Vegetarian Facts: How to do it healthfully.
Vegetarian Facts—What types are there?
A vegetarian totally avoids eating meat—including fish, poultry, and red meat. But there are a few types of vegetarians—these are the two basic ones:
- Partial vegetarians often eat eggs and milk and are called ovo-lacto-vegetarians.
- Absolute vegetarians are known as vegans, and tend to avoid any food that comes from animals—including milk, cheese, and eggs.
If you want to go veggie, you might consider shifting to that lifestyle slowly. Always consult a doctor or nutritionist first before dramatically changing your eating habits. Becoming a vegetarian could be good for your body if you're still getting the right vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Try giving up red meat and poultry first. Although people who eat fish aren't considered vegetarians, fish is a good protein source to keep in your diet until you get used to other types of protein.
Vegetarian Facts—Why veggie?
People choose vegetarian diets for a lot of reasons. Some people just don't like meat products; some find meat and milk products hard to digest; others do it for political reasons—they don't like the idea of killing a living thing in order to eat. Whatever your reason, you can have a very healthy diet if you choose vegetarianism, but it will take a little education and research to do it healthfully.
Here are some suggestions. But if you really want to have a strictly vegetarian diet, you might want to meet with a nutritionist, or at the very least, get a good book on vegetarianism.
Vegetarian Facts—How to go veggie healthfully
The big problems that inexperienced vegetarians suffer from are B12 and protein deficiencies. B12 becomes a problem because it isn't easily available from plants. Sometimes vegetarians take a multi-vitamin to make up for that loss.
Protein requirements don't change when you go veggie—you just select plant protein over animal ones. Women need about 45–50 grams per day. To get your daily requirements of protein, you have to substitute other amino acids for your body, and eat a variety of foods.
Veggies should still stick to the food pyramid—that is, mostly carbs, some protein, and a little fat. The only difference is you'll eat non-meat foods. The majority of your diet should be fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates. Remember food combining helps vegetarians obtain appropriate protein portions. For example, mixing carbohydrates (rice, whole grain breads) with nuts and beans will keep those amino acids building tissue.
Vegetarian Facts—Non-meat protein sources
If you decide to be a partial veggie—you can still eat eggs, cheese, and milk products. These are all great sources of protein, but eggs are high in cholesterol and cheeses are high in fat and calories. Just eat them in moderation. Other protein sources include:
- Nuts and seeds—peanut butter, sunflower seeds, any other kind of nut (seeds are generally better for you than nuts—less fat and calories).
- Beans—Mexican food is a veggie standard! It's because beans—red, black, pink, white—all are great sources of protein, especially when mixed with whole grains like rice.
- Soy products—this includes soymilk, tofu and its family of products—like soy cheese, soy hot dogs, soy burgers, and tempeh. Some of these "phony" meat substitutes have gotten really good—it's hard to tell a grilled soy cheese sandwich from regular American cheese.
You'd be surprised what other foods have protein—for example, a spaghetti dinner with tomato sauce, two slices of bread and a large salad provides almost 16 grams, about half of your daily need! Be careful not to eat too much pasta or cheese, though (it's high-cal). Instead, eat a wide variety of other types of protein.
For information on vegetarian facts, take a look at the books:
Diet for a Small Planet
by Frances Moore Lappe (Ballantine)
A Teen's Guide to Going Vegetarian
by Judy Krizmanic (Puffin)