Maybe you or someone you know has recently adapted a vegetarian lifestyle. It might seem like a healthy plan at first. Eating only fruits, veggies and grains and eliminating meat right? This may have been true years ago, before the invention of fast food. Unfortunately, these days there are plenty of foods that can be considered vegetarian and have no nutritional value. So what are some healthy ways to adapt a vegetarian lifestyle while still getting the needed nutrition from whole foods? First, we must understand the idea of being a vegetarian.
There are different types of vegetarians and each choose the lifestyle for their own personal reasons. Total vegetarians or vegans eliminate all animal foods from their diets. These foods include fish, eggs, dairy and honey. Because they only eat plant foods, they must find alternate sources of nutrients found in meat. Most total vegetarians would eat beans, nuts, whole grains or soy products in order to obtain protein. A lactovegetarian does not eat meat, poultry, fish or eggs but will eat dairy products. Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians will include eggs and dairy in their diets, but will eliminate all other animal products. This type of vegetarian is most common in the U.S. Pesco-vegetarians will include fish in their diets and Pollo-vegetarians will include only poultry such as chicken and duck. Vegetarians need to watch their diet carefully to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of protein, calcium, iron, and Vitamins B12 and D. Some important foods they might include in their diets are:
- Soymilk or rice milk
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Fortified juices and cereals
- Nuts and nut butters
- Dairy products and eggs ( for Lacto and Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians)
Many vegetarians are careful about what they eat; however there are options in fast food restaurants that are vegetarian, but high in fat and calories and low in nutrients. Deep fried appetizers, potato chips, ice cream, French fries and desserts can all be included in a vegetarian diet, but are not the healthiest choices. Even a vegetarian needs to eat these foods in moderation and watch the portion sizes.