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Seven Smart Vegetarian Moves

Give up meat without compromising satisfaction or your health.

by Lisa Bertagnoli


Imagine an eating regimen that helps you shed pounds, lowers blood pressure & cholesterol, kick-starts our energy level & tastes great. Only in your dreams, you say?


Not so! The well-planned vegetarian diet is all of these things. If you're worried that you can't possibly get all the protein, calcium & iron you need from a meat-free diet, Suzanne Havala, a registered dietitian & author of "Being Vegetarian for Dummies," has a thing or two to teach you.

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Here's some (veggie) food for thought: Take It Slow
If you're new to the vegetarian diet, Havala suggests gradually weaning yourself off animal products rather than going cold turkey, so to speak.

This gives your body & your appetite time to adjust to the absence of filling meats. Begin by decreasing the amount of meat in main dishes. For example, instead of having a whole chicken breast, prepare a vegetable stir-fry w/small chunks of chicken. Eventually, you can just skip the chicken.

You should also continue to make your favorite dishes; just replace the meat w/a soy-based alternative. Chili, spaghetti sauce and tacos, for example, taste great w/soy crumbles, a good substitute for ground meat.

Shop Right

It may seem daunting to whip up creative veggie-only dishes day in & day out. That's why you should stock up on the frozen vegetarian meals available at most supermarkets.

Look for:

  • vegetarian enchiladas
  • mac & cheese
  • pizza
  • lasagna 
  • even meatloaf among the traditional varieties (one good, easy-to-find brand is Amy's Naturals)

Also, don't forget veggie burgers, dogs & deli meats (Soy Deli is a favorite).

Pick Your Food
Contrary to popular belief, "you can get all the vitamins & minerals you need w/a vegetarian diet," says Havala. You simply have to add a variety of new foods to your pantry. Here are some nutritious winners:


Calcium: You probably never knew that pinto beans contain calcium; just 1/2 cup has a respectable 45 milligrams. Other calcium-rich vegetarian options are tofu (408 milligrams in 1 cup); calcium-fortified soy milk (200 to 300 milligrams per 8 ozs); orange juice (200 milligrams per 6 ozs); breads (290 milligrams per 3 ozs); & cereals (150 to 600 milligrams per cup).


Who needs dairy to get 1,000 milligrams the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium?

Iron: Cooked kale, a leafy green, contains 1.8 milligrams of iron in 1 cup about the same amount you'd find in a 1.5 oz. sirloin steak. Other foods that meet your iron RDA (32 milligrams for vegetarian women vs. just 18 milligrams for non-vegetarians, because the blood absorbs iron more readily from meat than from other sources): kidney beans (4.6 milligrams per cup); lentils (4.2 milligrams per cup); fortified cereals (4.7 milligrams per 30 grams); enriched pasta (2.2 milligrams per cup); & whole-grain bread (0.8 milligrams per slice). If you still have trouble filling your iron quota, take a daily multivitamin.


Protein: It's not as hard as you'd think to work protein into a vegetarian diet, since nearly every food on Earth contains some of this nutrient. "Protein is the biggest nonissue," says Havala. "It's part of the myth of vegetarianism."


With 46 grams of protein as your goal, you can get your fill w/tofu (10 grams per half cup); veggie burgers (18 grams each); whole grains (7 to 26 grams per 100 grams); nuts (26 grams per cup of walnuts); & lentils (16 grams per cup).


Vitamin B-12. This vitamin, found exclusively in animal products & essential for a healthy nervous system, is the only nutrient that vegetarians really need to be concerned about.


Havala suggests taking a complete multivitamin or a B-12 supplement daily, or eat nutritional yeast, a food Havala likens to vegetarian Parmesan cheese. That ought to fill the B-12 gap in your diet.

Select Super-Foods
Finally, a great way to pack your diet w/a nutritional punch is to consume as many vegetarian super-foods those loaded w/key vitamins & minerals as possible.

After all, w/fewer food options, you'll need to get the biggest bang for your buck. Here, some yummy, high-nutrition eats:

  • Walnuts: Chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids & fiber
  • Oats: A high-fiber, high-satiety food. (They make you feel full)
  • Leafy greens: Rich in antioxidants & vitamins A, C & E
  • sweet potatoes: Packed w/vitamins A, C, B1 & B2, beta-carotene, calcium, iron & fiber
  • Blackstrap molasses: A potent source of iron
  • Vegetarian baked beans: Contain calcium, iron, B vitamins, zinc & fiber
  • Olive oil: Rich in monounsaturated fat & antioxidants.




A vegetarian diet is a meal plan that contains little or no animal products.

Types of vegetarian diets include:

  • Vegan: Diet consists of only foods of plant origin.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Diet consists of plant foods plus some or all dairy products.
  • Lacto-ovovegetarian: Diet consists of plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.
  • Semi- or partial vegetarian: Diet consists of plant foods and may include chicken or fish, dairy products, and eggs. It does not include red meat.

Alternative Names

Lacto-ovovegetarian; Semi-vegetarian; Partial vegetarian; Vegan; Lacto-vegetarian


A person may choose to follow a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons, including religious, moral or political beliefs, economics, or the desire to eat more healthy foods.

The American Dietetic Association states that a well-planned vegetarian diet can deliver good nutrition. Dietary recommendations vary with the type of vegetarian diet. For children and adolescents these diets require special planning, because it may be difficult to obtain all the nutrients required for growth and development.

Nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian's diet include:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Riboflavin
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Protein

Protein is necessary for good health. There are two types of protein: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins contain adequate amounts of the essential substances (amino acids) needed for health. They are found in meats, milk, fish, and eggs. Incomplete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids, but not enough of them.

You do not have to eat animal products to get complete proteins in your diet. You can mix two incomplete proteins or an incomplete protein with a complete protein to get the proper amount. Some combinations are milk and cereal, peanut butter and bread, beans and rice, beans and corn tortillas, and macaroni and cheese.

Vegetarian Does Not Have To Be All or Nothing
By Melanie Mendelson
Many people contemplate becoming a vegetarian at one point or another. Some consider a meatless diet because they feel sorry for the animals. Others think a vegetarian way of eating will improve their health.

However, out of those well-intentioned people very few actually follow through and change their way of eating. The idea of completely giving up meat forms a big stumbling block for most.

For some reason, when it comes to vegetarian cooking, most people only see the "extremist" approach: either give up meat completely or you might as well include the meat in every meal. This "all or nothing" thinking becomes a mental barrier that keeps a lot of people from eating more vegetarian meals.

How about finding a happy medium? Drastic changes to one's diet never last. Do not beat yourself up for eating meat. There is no need to give it up completely. Just try eating a little less of it, that's all.

Start right now by making one meatless dinner every week. Keep everything else the same. Eating just one vegetarian dinner every week is definitely doable and easy. It will be just a nice change instead of deprivation!

If you think going meatless one day a week would not make a big difference, consider these simple numbers: if everyone ate vegetarian meals just one day a week, it would save one out of seven animals. Out of 92 million animals that are consumed in the United States alone every year, over 13 million animals would be spared. This is a huge impact!

In addition to doing good for our planet, you'll enjoy great health benefits by including more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, nutrients, anti-oxidants and fiber - all the things that are good for us. They can help with weight loss and prevent diseases. Numerous studies show that diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce the risks of deadly diseases such as cancer, heart attack and stroke.

Also, by trying out new dishes, you will break your food routine and discover new tasty recipes and food combinations. It's really nice to eat something different once in a while instead of being stuck in a food rut.

This simple shift of mindset from "all or nothing" to a happy middle ground will do wonders. Vegetarian eating does not need to be a full-time commitment, sacrifice and strive for unattainable perfection. Just do what you can to eat a little less meat, have fun trying new vegetarian meals and enjoy the benefits.

source: selfgrowth.com

"Nothing will benefit human health & increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
Albert Einstein

What is a Vegetarian?

  • Vegetarians don't eat meat, fish & poultry.
  • Vegans are vegetarians who abstain from eating or using all animal products, including milk, cheese, other dairy items, eggs, wool, silk & leather.

Among the many reasons for being a vegetarian are:

  • health
  • ecological
  • religious concerns
  • dislike of meat
  • compassion for animals
  • belief in non-violence
  • economics

The American Dietetic Association has affirmed that a vegetarian diet can meet all known nutrient needs. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as w/any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • plenty of leafy greens
  • whole grain products
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes

Limit your intake of sweets & fatty foods.

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Making the Change to a Vegetarian Diet

Many people become vegetarian instantly. They totally give up meat, fish & poultry overnight. Others make the change gradually. Do what works best for you.

Being a vegetarian is as hard or as easy as you choose to make it. Some people enjoy planning & preparing elaborate meals, while others opt for quick & easy vegetarian dishes.

Vegetarian Nutrition

Protein: Vegetarians easily meet their protein needs by eating a varied diet, as long as they consume enough calories to maintain their weight.

It's not necessary to plan combinations of foods. A mixture of proteins throughout the day will provide enough "essential amino acids." (See Position of The American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets, JADA, November, 1997 & "A Vegetarian Sourcebook" by Keith Akers, Vegetarian Press, 1993.)

Good protein sources are: (just as stated on the left in the article)

  • lentils
  • tofu
  • low-fat dairy products
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • tempeh
  • peas
  • whole grain bread
  • greens
  • potatoes
  • pasta
  • corn 


Good iron sources are:

  • dried beans
  • spinach
  • chard
  • beet greens
  • blackstrap molasses
  • bulgur
  • prune juice
  • dried fruit

are all good sources of iron. To increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal eat a food containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomato, or broccoli. Cooking food in iron cookware also adds to iron intake.


Good calcium sources are:

  • collard greens
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • low fat dairy products
  • turnip greens
  • tofu prepared w/calcium
  • fortified soy milk

all contain high quantities of calcium.

Vitamin B12

The adult recommended intake for vitamin B12 is very low. Vitamin B12 comes primarily from animal-derived foods. A diet containing dairy products or eggs provides adequate vitamin B12.

Fortified foods, such as some brands of cereal, nutritional yeast, soy milk, or soy analogs, are good non-animal sources. Check labels to discover other products that are fortified w/vitamin B12.

Tempeh & sea vegetables may contain vitamin B12, but their content varies & may be unreliable.

To be on the safe side, if you're one of the few people who don't consume dairy products, eggs, or fortified foods regularly, you can take a non-animal derived supplement. Much research still needs to be done on vitamin B12 needs & sources.

Children & Vegetarianism

According to The American Dietetic Association, vegetarian diets can meet all nitrogen needs & amino acid requirements for growth. A vegan diet, to be on the safe side, should be well planned & probably include fortified soy milk.


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