One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog. Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits! So, for August, think about setting a goal to go meatless one day a week.
It’s impressive to me how many of my colleagues, students and friends have become vegetarians. They have different reasons, from ethical concerns for how animals are treated to issues with their health. If you’ve thought about trying a vegetarian diet, this is a good month to experiment by going meatless one day a week.
What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?
- There is growing evidence that vegetarian diets can help with preventing or even treating a variety of disease states “such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, renal disease and dementia, as well as diverticular disease, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis.”
- You’ll save money. Meat costs more than fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.
- It will be easier to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
- You’ll help the environment by decreasing the “carbon footprint” related to your food choices.
What are the different kinds of vegetarian diets?
From Wikipedia: “An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, such as eggs, dairy, and honey.”
How do you make sure you get adequate nutrients if you are not eating animal protein?
If you are going meatless a day or two every week, none of this will apply to you. If you are thinking about a completely vegetarian diet you may want to look at the the USDA resource page on Vegetarian Nutrition. The four nutrients that may be deficient in some vegetarian diets are:
- Protein. If you include eggs and dairy products, it’s realtively easy to get enough protein in a vegetarian diet. Good protein sources include beans, soy products (tofu has 20gm of protein per cup) and nuts. In the past, people who ate a vegetarian diet were told to combine food to make sure they got complete proteins. Current thinking is a little different – as long as you are eating a variety of proteins during the day, you’ll be fine. Women need about 50 gm of protein a day, men a little over 60 (unless you are an endurance athlete, pregnant or nursing). Here’s a list of protein sources from SportsMed Web.
- Calcium. If you include dairy products, calcium is not usually a problem. For vegans, it’s important to include calcium rich foods or consider a supplement.
- B12 is only present in animal sources. For that reason, vegans are particularly at risk for B12 deficiency.
- Iron Most vegetarians get enough iron if they eat a variety of foods, but a supplement may be necessary for some people.
Where can I get good vegetarian recipes?