There are a growing number of vegetarians and vegans in the world and for good reason. A meat-free diet is healthy, ethical, and easier now than ever.
What is a vegetarian diet anyway? Vegetarians are people who don’t eat anything that comes from a dead animal. They may consume eggs, dairy, or both.
Following a healthy vegetarian diet is made easy by all of the companies that are currently offering more plant-based options for their customers. You don’t have to miss out on any of your favorite foods; you just have to alter them.
To learn a few tips on how to be a happy and healthy vegetarian, keep reading!
Why Go Vegetarian?
As vegetarianism is gaining popularity, many people are considering the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarian diets are considered more ethical than omnivorous diets. There are a few flaws in this logic, but there are some ethical benefits. While all diets have unethical qualities, vegetarian diets are better for the animals and better for the environment.
Vegetarian diets are lower in fat and cholesterol and may help you lead a healthier lifestyle overall. People who are trying to lose or maintain their weight may benefit from making a switch to plant-based options.
You also learn to explore more foods. Many people rely on meat products and end up not expanding their palate for more unique choices. While omnivores have the option to eat vegetarian foods, many of them shy away.
There are also so many delicious vegetarian foods; why not make the switch? It’s good for you, the animals, and the planet.
Look Out for Secret Animal Products
This is generally a vegan problem, but vegetarians tackle it as well. The most common offender? Gelatin.
Many people don’t know that gelatin is an animal product at all. It isn’t like eggs or dairy where the animal is still alive when the product is taken (though these industries are often still problematic), gelatin comes from dead animals.
“That’s okay” you might be thinking, “because I don’t have to eat JELL-O.”
Well, unfortunately, that’s not correct. While those colorful and wobbly gelatin desserts are a common use of the ingredient, it’s actually everywhere.
Marshmallows, Poptarts, many kinds of cereals, dips, and sauces, and even some yogurts all contain gelatin. You need to look for vegetarian-friendly versions of these foods. This means that you’ll be spending a lot of time reading labels.
You also want to look out for hidden meat broths, oils, or powders. McDonald’s fries, for example, are seasoned with beef in the United States (though they’re safe if you live in another country). Refried beans in restaurants (as well as other fried foods) are nearly always cooked with animal fat unless they’re specifically fat-free.
Ask about ingredients first before getting your food and always see if any meal services or restaurants offer more customized healthy meals if you want to swap out a protein for a plant-based option.
Look for Protein Sources
Many people are critical of the vegetarian diet due to the comparatively low protein that it offers.
Let’s be realistic: meat does offer more protein than plants when consumed in normal amounts. Protein is also crucial for the body. Not getting enough protein can prevent muscle growth and eventually cause hair and nails to thin out and break.
That said, there’s some dispute on how much protein is enough. Some people even think that the average American omnivorous diet is too protein-heavy.
Even so, it’s important to know your protein sources. It’s not all tofu all the time (though tofu can be delicious).
Beans are a great source of protein, and there are so many varieties that you have plenty of options. Nuts and seeds are also protein-heavy, though you don’t want to eat too much.
There are so many mock-meat options that are high-protein and delicious that if you’re missing your meats, these are great options as well. They’re not always the healthiest, so always check the labels to make sure that you’re not getting too much sodium or sugar.
When in doubt, supplementing with a healthy protein bar or shake is never a bad choice.
Make Healthy Choices
It’s easy to fall into the myth that all vegetarian diets are healthy diets. While vegetarian diets are often healthier diets in general, you can also easily become a junk food vegetarian if you aren’t keeping up with healthy recipes.
It’s easy to overload on carbs and sugar when you’re new to eating vegetarian food. You can even overdo it on fruit!
Just be aware of your choices. Animal-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy!
Get Into Cooking
Switching to a vegetarian diet will require you to learn how to cook. This may seem obvious, but it’s an unpleasant surprise for a lot of people.
Luckily, there are plenty of vegetarian-friendly food blogs and cookbooks available as the diet becomes more popular.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to make things that work for you, but at first cooking vegetarian foods might be a bit confusing. It’s an adjustment and there’s a learning curve.
Don’t give up when your first few meals are duds. We’ve all been there.
So What Is a Vegetarian Diet? Whatever You Want It to Be
Vegetarian diets aren’t all nuts, seeds, and tofu.
There are many delicious and varied foods that anyone can enjoy. Many people ask “what is a vegetarian diet” worried that there won’t be any foods that they want to eat. With a bit of creativity, this isn’t true at all.
Any foods that you love can be substituted for healthy and delicious vegetarian options. You just need to watch your nutrition.
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