4 Steps to a Healthy, Happy Vegetarian Lifestyle
For some, giving up meat comes down to a taste preference. For many more, they’re concerned about the lives of animals and want to preserve those lives. No matter your reasoning, going vegetarian is a great decision for your health and well-being.
That said, as you begin a vegetarian diet, you may have some concerns. Will you be able to get the protein normally found in meat? What about your iron levels?
You need not worry. There are plenty of vegetarians out there whose diets are still chock full of all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients their healthy bodies require. You too can be just like them. Here are four steps we recommend for a healthy, happy vegetarian lifestyle.
1. Know the Different Kinds of Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism is not a one-size-fits-all lifestyle. There are six kinds of vegetarianism, so if you’re interested in giving up meat, surely you can find one that fits your dietary needs. These diets are as follows:
- Veganism, in which you omit all dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat
- Pollotarianism, in which you do eat poultry but not fish, dairy, and meat
- Pescetarianism, in which you do eat fish but not eggs, dairy, poultry, and meat
- Lacto-ovo vegetarianism, in which you eat eggs and dairy but not poultry, fish, and meat
- Ovo-vegetarianism, in which you eat eggs but not dairy, seafood, poultry, and meat
- Lacto-vegetarianism, in which you eat dairy products but not eggs, poultry, fish, and meat
Going vegetarian solely means giving up meat. With these different diet types, you can still enjoy poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy if you’d prefer. If not, you can always go full vegan.
2. Choose a Diverse Diet (and Supplements!) to Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
As mentioned before, you may have concerns about low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, vitamin B12, and protein in your diet as a vegetarian. While those concerns are valid, there are plenty of ways to get these vitamins and nutrients. You just have to open up your diet and consider taking supplements if necessary.
- If your diet is lacking omega-3 fatty acids, eat more soy, canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed. You can also drink DHA-fortified soy milk or eat breakfast bars with DHA. Algae supplements also contain fatty acids.
- If lacking zinc, watch your consumption of legumes, beans, seeds, and whole grains. These foods slow your ability to absorb zinc.
- If lacking iron, watch your consumption of nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, and whole grains. These make absorbing iron more difficult. Instead, take iron with vegetables, fruits, and foods containing vitamin C for optimal absorption.
- If lacking vitamin B12, take supplements. You can also eat cereals, rice, and soy that contains vitamin B12. If your vegetarian diet allows for eggs and dairy, eat these.
- If lacking protein, eat brown rice, soy, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, and beans. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who can consume dairy and eggs, should have no problem getting protein in their diet.
3. Eat the Right Amount
So how much should you eat daily and weekly? Here’s what Mayo Clinic recommends:
- Refined starches, solid fats, added sugars — 290 calories daily
- Oils — 27 grams daily
- Soy, seeds, and nuts — 14 ounces weekly
- Eggs, poultry, and meats — 3 ounces weekly, especially for eggs
- Protein — 3 ½ ounces daily
- Dairy — 3 cups daily
- Whole grains — About 3 ½ ounces daily
- Fruits — 2 cups daily
- Legumes — 3 cups weekly
- Orange and red vegetables — 5 ½ cups weekly
- Green and dark green vegetables — 2 ½ cups daily
4. Start Slowly
Becoming a vegetarian isn’t something that happens overnight. The longer you’ve been accustomed to eating meat, the longer the adjustment period will be. Before going full vegetarian (or some variation as mentioned above), try using meat replacements. Tofu and black beans are great alternatives.
Then, start cutting out meat more and more until it’s no longer in your diet. If you want to stop eating poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs as well, follow the same process.
If you need help getting started on your path to vegetarianism, come grab a bite to eat at Pure Pita. Based in Montclair, Hoboken, and Morristown, New Jersey, Pure Pita specializes in healthful, delicious Mediterranean food. Plenty of the items on the menu, like the grilled vegetables and goat cheese panini or the Pure Pita Special Falafel Burger, are made with vegetarians in mind. Visit today!