Thinking of going vegetarian? Struggling with how to get started? Fear not! The Nudjed nutrition team has put together this short guide to help you make the swap. Avoiding the pitfalls that many people fear.
The Pro’s and Cons of a vegetarian diet
Being a vegetarian can be a really easy way to boost your health and cut your carbon footprint (yes, meat generally creates more pollution!). But swapping out the foods you’re used to, can be tough to start with and you may be nervous about missing out on the vitamins you need to stay in top condition.
The reasons to go Veggie
The normal fears people have
- Replacing the protein you get from meat
- Making sure you’re not missing any nutrients
- Managing your energy levels (avoiding ‘Carb loading’)
- The reduced choice worry
So let’s help you avoid them…
Replacing the protein you get from meat
If you’re a meat eater, it’s a good bet that meat or fish is the main source of protein in your diet. Here are ways to replace that:
Choose low-fat Dairy & Eggs –
Milk, eggs and cheese are all sources of good quality protein. Try cottage cheese, mozzarella and ricotta, instead of cheddar and cream cheese in your sandwiches and salads.
Throw on some nuts and seeds –
Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of quality protein. Try sprinkling them on salads and stir-fries, adding them to curries or throwing them into pots for snacks at work.
Love Beans –
Lentils, beans and chickpeas are all excellent sources of protein. They work surprisingly well in place of meat, especially in Indian or Mexican dishes.
Managing your energy levels (avoiding ‘Carb loading’)
Anytime you change your diet, there will be learning curve as your body adapts. Managing your energy levels is a crucial part of any diet, here’s the things to look out for in a vegetarian version.
Swap white for wholegrain –
Go for wholemeal everything, besides a boost in fibre you will also consume more protein. Replacing rice with other grains like quinoa, pearl barley and bulgur wheat is a great way to do this.
Don’t become a sugar-holic –
Going veggie can be a chance to excuse your over-consumption of simple sugars and processed white carbs. Try keeping a small pack of nuts, seeds or fruit next to your desk in work.
Making sure you’re not missing any nutrients
If you want to lose weight then cutting out animal fats is probably a good thing, but if not (and you’re light already) then you need to replace those fats to make sure you absorb enough vitamins and get enough energy.
Use a quality oil and dress your salads –
Cold pressed oils retain the most nutrients. Go for olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or seed oils for a boost of (good) unsaturated fats.
Make friends with fatty plants –
Containing wonderful essential fats, try including more avocado, kidney/black beans, flaxseed, edamame (soya) beans, and wild rice.
Look out for enriched products –
spreads, eggs, cheese and milks all come with added omega 3 (essential fatty acid) these days
Green and leafy = extra vitamins and minerals –
meat and fish do contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals, but there are none that you can’t get from maintaining (or slightly increasing) your intake of dairy products and munching down more broccoli, kale, brussels, spinach, chard (or anything else green and leafy).
Mix it up –
Eat your meals in combination (more than one thing on the plate). For example, combining vegetables with fats often increases the absorption of vitamins and minerals and slows down the rise in blood sugar.
The reduced choice worry
Removing meat from your diet may seem like it limits your choice. But according to research carried out by Merchant Gourmet, most families rely on just 9 recipes to feed themselves. To improve your choice, here’s our top 9 meals (+ some lunch ideas) to swap for them:
Bonus Vegetarian Lunches