What Is a Vegetarian Diet? Benefits and Diet Tips for a Newbie Vegetarian
There are a growing number of vegetarians and vegans worldwide, and for a good reason. A meat-free diet is healthy, ethical, and more accessible 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.
All companies offer more plant-based options for their customers to make it easy to follow a healthy vegetarian diet. However, you don’t have to miss out on any of your favorite foods; you have to alter them.
Keep reading to learn a few tips on being a happy and healthy vegetarian!
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. This logic has a few flaws, but there are some moral 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. In addition, people trying to lose or maintain their weight may benefit from switching to plant-based options.
You also learn to explore more foods. Many rely on meat products and do not expand 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 an everyday use of the ingredient, it’s everywhere.
Marshmallows, Poptarts, many kinds of cereals, dips, sauces, and even some yogurts all contain gelatin. Therefore, 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 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 its comparatively low protein.
Let’s be realistic: meat does offer more protein than plants when consumed in average amounts. Protein is also crucial for the body. Not enough protein can prevent muscle growth and 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 essential to know your protein sources. For example, it’s not always all tofu (though tofu can be delicious).
Beans are a great source of protein, and there are such wide varieties that you have plenty of options. Nuts and seeds are also protein-heavy, though you don’t want to overeat.
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. However, they’re not always the healthiest, so check the labels to ensure you’re not getting too much sodium or sugar.
When in doubt, supplementing with a healthy protein bar or shake is never a wrong choice.
Make Healthy Choices
It’s easy to fall into the myth that all vegetarian diets are healthy. Unfortunately, while vegetarian diets are generally more nutritious, you can quickly 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 many 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 they want to eat. With a bit of creativity, this isn’t true at all.
Any foods you love can be substituted for healthy and delicious vegetarian options. You need to watch your nutrition.
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