When you hear the word vegetarian do the words; hippie, weird, healthy, unhealthy, tofu, vegetables, or meat haters come to your mind? Many of us consider this diet weird, and don't understand it! In our culture 3.5% of females say they never eat meat, and 3.2% of males say they never eat meat, in a national poll done by the Vegetarian Resource Group in 2016! Apparently skipping meat isn't weird anymore, but becoming quite mainstream! Many people choose this diet for health reasons, but many others simply do not believe in killing animals and the treatment that they receive, and wish to lower their carbon footprint in the world! All great reasons!
Vegetarians eat a plant based diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds, but there are differences from that point on. Some are very strict and eat no meat, poultry, fish, dairy products or eggs and are known as Vegans! Some include dairy, some include dairy and eggs, some include fish, dairy and eggs, and the least restrictive types are known as semi or cheaters because they occasionally eat poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. There is definitely variety in this diet!
There are many reasons for following a healthy vegetarian diet, but it is also possible to fill up on empty calories and be considered a vegetarian too. Fattening, processed non meat foods like potato chips, French fries, Mac and cheese, cheese pizza, ice cream, crackers, cakes, cookies, candy, and chocolate should be limited on this diet, just like any other eating plan. On the whole though, most people choose this diet because they are concerned about their health!
Eating a vegetarian diet is simple, not so different than a meat eaters diet! Four food groups to follow:
Fruit: 3 or more servings per day. Includes all fruits. A serving is a medium piece of fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of cooked fruit, 1/4 cup of dried fruit, or 4 ounces of juice (remember those time juice glasses your grandma had). Easy!
Vegetables: 4 or more servings per day. A serving is 1 cup raw veggies or 1/2 cup cooked veggies. Fresh or frozen, raw or cooked are all acceptable! Include a variety of differently colored veggies in this diet as with any diet. Easy!
Whole Grains: 5 or more servings per day. A serving is 1/2 cup of rice or grain, 1 ounce of dry cereal or 1 slice of bread. Each of your meals should be built around a healthy grain. Easy!
Legumes: 2 or more servings per day. A serving size is 1/2 cup of cooked beans, 4 oz of tofu or tempeh, or 8 ounces (1 cup) of non-dairy milk like soy, almond, rice or coconut milk. There are so many different bean choices, veggie burgers, Soy Hot dogs, or sliced meats. One or two servings of nuts or seeds can also be included. One serving is 1 Tablespoon of nuts or nut butters so use them sparingly for salad toppings or spreads! Easy!
This is not a weird diet at all, but one that is a healthy diet habit. Many cultures center their meals on beans and vegetables and eat little meat! Americans eat more meat than any other country in the world! Change your thinking!
I would encourage everyone to try a vegetarian diet by supporting the Meatless Monday idea, where you eat no meat on Mondays! Its a growing world-wide movement! Join the fun and see that meat free is not weird but just healthy eating. You might find you actually feel better on Mondays and Tuesdays, by adopting some of these great lifestyle solutions!
Going vegetarian might be the choice for you!