Switching over to a healthy-balanced vegetarian diet is not just taking the meat off your plate and eating what remains. You need to take extra efforts to make sure your body is receiving essential nutrition daily.
But many vegetarians don’t do that and just worry about not getting sufficient nutrients from the vegetarian food. A balanced vegetarian diet comprises of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
To make it simple, as long as you consume a variety of foods there are very few things you need to pay special attention to. Here are a few things for you to keep in mind.
Fruits & vegetables
Vegetarians can definitely not complain about not getting enough vitamins from the vegetarian diet! Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that combat several diseases; especially the fruits and veggies that are dark in color. We all have our personal preferences when it comes to a particular type of food but make sure you eat a ‘variety’ of vegetables and fruits.
Include broccoli, carrot, sweet pepper, kale, collard greens, winter squash, tomatoes, spinach and other green leafy vegetables in your diet. The most weight-friendly and nutritious fruits widely available are – papayas, berries, citrus fruits, apples and pears.
A good foundation for a vegetarian diet are food items that come from grains, such as whole-grain cereals, noodles and pasta, breads and other baked items. Whole grains are packed with minerals, protein and essential vitamins.
Many grain products (like hot and cold cereals) are fortified with vitamin B12, zinc and iron, amongst other vital nutrients. However, it is best to have grains with soy foods and/legumes so as to increase the protein content of your meal. Just make sure you don’t overdo and have grains and grain-products in controlled portion sizes.
Dairy and dairy substitutes
It is not too difficult for a vegetarian to get calcium from food. Low-fat milk and yogurts can be the best sources of calcium and fulfill the daily calcium requirement of a vegetarian quite easily. But if you don’t consume dairy or dairy products, you can get enough calcium from breakfast cereals, fortified juices, and soy products.
Bok Choy, green leafy vegetables and collard greens are all excellent sources of calcium. You don’t have to eat all of these in a single meal, just try including at least one of these food items at every meal for a balanced vegetarian diet.
Finding the right balance
Finding the right balance in your meals is critical to your health. If you have just started having on a vegetarian diet, try replacing beans or tofu in place of meat in your meals. As and when you start making the right food choices, a vegetarian diet can be one of the best ‘new’ things you tried in your life!
Also, a registered dietitian can let you know about your body’s requirements and help you achieve your health goals while following a vegetarian diet.
Being on a vegetarian does not mean you can eat anything meatless. A lesser known fact – a lot of vegetarians are over-weight and some obese too! So, do not make the mistake of replacing the meat on your plate with calorie-dense foods that are nutritionally empty.
Eat a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet
A diet including cola, French fries and pizza is definitely vegetarian. But if you want to lead a healthy life and also lose weight, you MUST avoid junk in order to have a healthy body.
Remember, never skip your breakfast, plan your lunches and dinners, drink plenty of water, eat fresh foods from the produce section or a farmers’ market, and consider taking a multi-vitamin if you are a picky eating vegetarian.