What is a Good Vegetarian Diet?

Overview

A good vegetarian diet consists of more than just eating vegetables each day. While vegetables are an important component of this lifestyle, grains, oils, nuts, legumes, fruit and some dairy are needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What Not to Eat

Many people consider becoming a vegetarian for a variety of reasons; health, environment and animal issues are just a few. But an uneducated vegetarian may experience unexpected weight gain, extreme weight loss, fatigue or vitamin deficiencies if they don't approach this new lifestyle with all the facts. Some people decide that today they will no longer eat meat and instead go for the french fries, donuts and white pasta. There's no meat in any of those items, but they aren't considered to be part of a healthy vegetarian diet. On the other extreme, some people will become restrictive and exist only on vegetables either raw or steamed. While doing this for a limited amount of time garners health benefits in terms of weight loss, eating this way for an extended period of time will deprive the body of important vitamins and minerals needed to live a healthy balanced life.

Becoming a vegetarian and maintaining a balance

Being a vegetarian means that you don't eat meat which includes red meat, fish and poultry. A vegan is a vegetarian that doesn't eat meat, eggs and dairy products whereas a vegetarian only does not eat meat. Some people call non-meat eating vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians. Another type of vegetarian that restricts both meat and eggs are lacto-vegetarians. Healthy vegetarianism includes a balance of food that covers the spectrum of grains, oils, nuts, vegetables and fruits. You generally want to inject as many vegetables into your diet as possible. A typical vegetarian meal would be any vegetable cooked lightly in olive oil, plenty of sea salt and garlic. You could accompany this vegetable with whole wheat couscous and have a fresh peach for dessert. Snacks might include yogurt, cheese (if permitted), a handful of nuts or even a raw vegetable and dip, such as carrots and ranch dressing. It's important for vegetarians to eat several small meals each day. Grazing is a good idea. Many vegetarians worry about not getting enough protein but protein exists in nearly all non-meat substances we eat. To get plenty of protein, many vegetarians consume natural peanut butter, black beans, navy beans, lentils, Greek yogurt, cheese, tofu, soybeans and oatmeal. Getting protein from eggs is always good, but as an individual vegetarian you need to decide if you will integrate eggs into your diet. Vegetarianism has become extremely popular over the past 10 years bringing a demand for new protein driven vegetarian foods such as veggie burgers, meatless crumbles and meatless bacon. Like with any diet, balance is important for maintaining a healthy life. You should include a proportionate amount of protein, fiber, grains and vegetables into nearly every meal of the day.

Experiment and try new recipes

Another aspect of being a vegetarian is that you are always experimenting with your food. Go on-line and look up recipes on many different ways to cook kale, for instance. Try a vegetarian cooking class or purchase a cookbook for vegetarians. You never know if you will like something until you try it. Remember, that being a vegetarian doesn't mean that you have to start cooking with strange ingredients or that you need to spend countless dollars to maintain the lifestyle. A little garlic, sea salt and olive oil will liven up any vegetable dish!

About this Author

Gina Ragusa has made a career out of writing for the past 15 years, with an emphasis on financial institution writing. Ragusa has written for Consumer Lending News, Deposit and Loan Growth Strategies and Community Bank President. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University.

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