How to Go Vegetarian Without Going Hungry
Whether you're motivated by animal rights, religious beliefs, reducing your eco-footprint, or simply trying to eat a healthier diet, you may be interested in becoming a vegetarian. A vegetarian diet involves avoiding all meat products, but there are several different categories of vegetarianism.If you're considering a switch to a vegetarian diet, it's important to talk to your doctor to ensure that you are physically healthy enough for a dietary change. You should also talk to a dietitian to make sure you get the vitamins and nutrients you need. Whatever your motivation for going vegetarian, it's important to always eat enough food and make healthy food choices.
Becoming a Vegetarian
Identify your motivation.As time passes, you may feel tempted to eat meat again. There are many reasons why people become vegetarians, and remembering the reason you gave up meat may help you stay motivated and steer clear of it in the future.
- Think about what made you want to give up meat in the first place. Was it a realization that meat comes from animals, a trip to a local farm, or a religious conversion?
- Find a way to remind yourself of that reason whenever you feel tempted to eat meat again. For example, you might keep a photograph of a cow on your cell phone or in your wallet.
- If you gave up meat for religious reasons, try talking to a spiritual guide or authority figure whenever you feel tempted to eat meat. They may be able to help keep you on the path you've chosen for yourself.
Choose a dietary plan.Though in its basic sense vegetarianism is the avoidance of meat and meat products, there are several different types of vegetarians. Some vegetarians eat seafood, some eat dairy, still others eat eggs, while some combine various elements into their own unique dietary plan.The most common types of vegetarians include:
- Ovo-vegetarian - eats eggs but will not consume dairy products or any meat, fish, poultry, or seafood
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarian - consumes dairy products and eggs but will not eat meat, fish, or poultry
- Pescatarian - eats fish but will not consume meat, poultry, dairy, or eggs
- Pollotarian - avoids meat, dairy, and fish, but will consume poultry
Read the ingredients list.Many products that seem vegetarian contain animal products. For example, many types of cheese contain rennet, a digestive enzyme from a cow's stomach.The cow must be killed to harvest these enzymes.Gelatin is another non-vegetarian food ingredient. It is made from the bones, ligaments, tendons, and skin of animals.
- Checking the ingredients list can help you avoid foods that contain animal products.
- There may be a number of alternatives available instead of a given animal product. For example, many cheese makers now use alternatives to traditional rennet, including microbial and plant-based rennet.
Eating Right as a Vegetarian
Prioritize healthy food choices.Just because something doesn't contain meat, it doesn't make it healthy. Cheese pizza, french fries, and soda are all technically vegetarian, but a diet built around these foods and beverages can leave you malnourished and overweight. When you choose to impose dietary restrictions on yourself, it's imperative that you plan your diet to ensure your health and wellbeing.
- Focus on eating as many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as you can.
- Choose good fats (like the fats you get from nuts or olive oil) instead of saturated and trans fats. Good fats are much more heart healthy and are part of a balanced diet.
Include plenty of vegetables.Vegetables are the backbone of any plant-based diet. You probably already eat a lot of veggies, but as a vegetarian, you may need to eat even more to ensure that you get enough vitamins and minerals. Work with a dietitian to put together a meal plan that works best for you.
- 2.5 cups of vegetables each day
- 1.5 cups of dark green vegetables each week
- 5.5 cups of red and orange vegetables each week
Pick a protein source.Just because you don't eat meat, it doesn't mean you're out of luck when it comes to protein. There are many options available for vegetarians and vegans that don't involve any animal products.Some common sources of protein include:
- legumes (beans, lentils, and peas)
- soy products (tofu and tempeh)
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
Consider supplements.If you aren't getting enough of a given vitamin or mineral from your diet, you may need to take supplements. Always talk to your doctor or a dietitian before taking any supplements. You may be able to get these vitamins and minerals on your own by changing what you eat, or your doctor may have other recommendations.
- Choose supplements that are derived from plants to avoid accidentally ingesting any animal products.
- Vitamins B-12 and D are two of the most common vitamins that vegetarians need to take supplements for. You may also need to take iron and/or zinc supplements, depending on your diet.
Be aware of your portion sizes.Portion control is an important component of any dietary plan, including plant-based diets.When you're on a plant-based diet, you will need to limit certain foods like pasta while increasing your portions of others, such as vegetables.
- Use visual cues. For example, a whole vegetable (like a bell pepper) or a portion of chopped vegetables that equals the size of a baseball is approximately one serving size of vegetable.
- Eat a variety of vegetables and multiple servings. You don't have to limit the amount of vegetables that you eat, but you should be aware of how many portions that you're eating to make sure that you get enough.
- Limit your carbohydrate intake. A single serving of carbs (like cooked whole-grain pasta) should be about the size of a hockey puck, or approximately 1/3 to 1/2 a cup.
- Dairy is a staple of many vegetarian diets, but it can be high in calories. Limit yourself to three servings of dairy each day.
Putting Together a Meal Plan
Prepare vegetarian versions of familiar dishes.Eating foods that look and taste familiar can make your transition to a vegetarian diet easier and less jarring. Use vegetarian/vegan "meat" alternatives, as well as nuts, grains, beans, and fresh vegetables, to recreate some of your favorite meals. You can make modifications to recipes you already cook, or search online or in a cookbook for something you've never made before.
Decide on a healthy breakfast.Many people consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day, and that still holds true for vegetarians. There are many options available, depending on how large and hearty of a meal you want.
- You can use tofu instead of eggs to make a stir-fry or scramble. Just drain a block of tofu, mash it with a fork, and fry it like you would cook scrambled eggs. Mix in vegetables to boost your nutritional content.You can serve it with fruit or a side of hashbrowns.
- Buy and cook vegetarian or vegan "breakfast sausage," then cook it in a skillet or microwave like traditional breakfast sausage.Serve your "sausage" with breakfast potatoes sauteed with veggies.
- Blend your favorite fruits, vegetables, and juices together to make a delicious, nutritious smoothie.Use soft tofu, protein powder, or dairy to boost the protein content of your smoothie.
Make a good lunch.What you eat for lunch can make or break the rest of your afternoon. A meal that has too much fat or sugar will leave you tired and sluggish, while a meal that's chock full of vegetables is more likely to give you the energy you need for the remainder of the day.
- Salads are a great way to fill up on vegetarian and vegan foods. Toss in as many vegetables as you like.
- Quinoa is a great food for vegetarians and vegans alike. It's completely free of meat and dairy products and it's very nutritious.
Eat a satisfying dinner.Dinner options are plentiful for vegetarians. You can decide how light or heavy or a meal you want, as well as what types of foods you want to incorporate.
- Buy frozen, vegetarian "fish" cutlets, then prepare them with french fries for a tasty, seafood-free alternative to fish and chips.
- Marinate a portabello mushroom cap in balsamic vinegar with whatever spices you like. Then grill it up, put it on a toasted bun, and enjoy your delicious portabello "burger."
- Make a vegetarian chilli using meat-free "beef" crumbles, or simply load your chilli up with vegetables and beans.
Choose the right snacks.Snacks are a great way to keep your stomach full and your body fueled between meals. There are plenty of options for vegetarians. You can get as creative as you want, or stick with a classic like fresh vegetables and a tasty dip.
- Make mini-burrito "roll ups" by rolling cheese, spinach, salsa, and refried beans in a large tortilla, then cutting it into smaller servings for easy snacking.
- You can make an easy guacamole dip to eat with chips and veggies, or use it as a spread on your favorite sandwich. Mash up some avocados, then add tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook up your own mini pizza bites by cutting mini-bagels in half and spreading pizza sauce, cheese , and any veggies or meat alternatives you like. Then pop them in the microwave until the cheese is melted and enjoy.
Get more protein when you exercise.Protein is an important part of every vegetarian and vegans' diet, but if you exercise you may need even more protein. Many nutritionists specifically recommend loading up on protein before and after an intense workout session to help fuel your body through your exercise routine and help it recover afterward.
- Aim to get approximately 10 grams of protein. For best results, pair a protein with a carb. For example, you could eat an apple with 2 tbs of peanut butter.
- Choose good protein sources like soy-based foods, quinoa, or both.
- A good post-workout snack would be a glass of soymilk, a soy protein shake, or a soy-based yogurt cup.
- You can reach your nutritional needs with both complete proteins and complimentary proteins.
- If you're feeling hungry, track your intake on an app like MyFitnessPal. You can make sure that you are eating enough calories and track your consumption of macro-nutrients like protein, fat, and carbs.
- Fiber helps you feel full, so look for great sources like beans, lentils, and peas.
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