How to Become a Vegetarian or a Vegan, the Complete Guide to Vegetarian Eating
People who become vegetarians and vegans are healthy, happy herbivores who have replaced animal foods with plant foods in their diet. Vegetarians make a lifestyle choice that lets them feel good about how they live their lives. They eat a food diet that benefits their health, the earth and the animals. Here we present a complete guide, if you want to know more about becoming a vegetarian or a vegan.
Farmers Market Fruit Stall
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
- What Foods Do Vegetarians and Vegans Eat?
- 5 Reasons Why People Become Vegetarians and Vegans
- Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthy?
- What Should Vegetarians Eat for Good Nutrition
- Easy Vegetarian Meals
What Foods Do Vegetarians and Vegans Eat?
You become a vegetarian or a vegan when you decide to eat a plant-based diet, avoiding red meat, chicken, pork, fish and seafood. A vegetarian or vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds.
Soy Protein Fruit Smoothie
- A Semi-Vegetarian eats small amounts of animal flesh.
- A Pesco-Vegetarian eats no animal meat except fish.
- A Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian does not eat animal flesh, but does eat eggs, milk, and dairy products.
- A Vegan does not eat animal flesh, eggs, milk or dairy products. Many vegans do not use any animal products like honey, gelatin, silk, leather, or wool. Veganism is a difficult choice in our culture.
5 Reasons Why People Become Vegetarians and Vegans
Many people become vegetarians and vegans. Their reasons for this lifestyle choice can be economics, religion, health, compassion for animals, belief in non-violence, concern over animal rights, or concern for the environment. Vegetarians say, "Choosing vegetarian foods is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, the environment, and for animals." But it is hard to be vegetarian where eating meat is popular by tradition, habit and culture. Only a small minority said they were vegetarians, just 3% of the people in the United States.
Vegetable Rice Bowl
- Economics For much of the world, people become vegetarian as a matter of economics. Meat costs a lot more than beans or rice, so meat is served only on special occasions. Even where meat is plentiful, it's still used in moderation, often providing a side note to a meal rather than taking center stage.
- Environment People become vegetarian because it is good for the environment. In a crowded world, raising animals for food use more resources, water, feed and land than plant farming does. According to the United Nations, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, to air and water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and loss of biodiversity.
- Religion People become vegetarian as a matter of religion. Traditionally many Hindus, Buddhist monks, Seventh-day Adventists, Rastafarians, Hare Krishnas, and most Chinese Buddhists do not eat meat. Other religions practice fasting and avoid meat during specified times such as Lent, Yom Kippur and Ramadan.
- Animal Rights and Ethical Concerns People become vegetarians to support animal rights. They reject violence and the killing of living creatures. Industrial-scale animal farming and slaughterhouse practices cause animal suffering and disease. For some vegetarians, beef, fowl and fish are four-letter words.
- Health People become vegetarians for better health. Studies show that a vegetarian diet extends your life expectancy by several years. The China Project, in conjunction with Cornell University, studied 880 million people over 20 years. It found that a diet with less meat reduced heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, the major causes of mortality in the Western world.
Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthy?
When you become a vegetarian, you can still have a healthy diet. The American Dietetic Association officially endorses vegetarianism, and says "Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." A vegetarian diet should be about more than not eating meat. It's also about eating smart. Like everyone else, vegetarians must pay attention to their food choices. Anyone who eats a diet of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, soft drinks and Pop-Tarts will be undernourished.
Veggie Burger for Lunch
What Should Vegetarians Eat for Good Nutrition
When you become a vegetarian or a vegan you should eat smart to get enough of these important nutrients, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin D, and zinc.
Buckwheat Black Bean Soup
Vitamin B12 Vegetarians absolutely must make sure they get enough vitamin B12. B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is found in fish, shellfish, meat, eggs and dairy products. It helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and makes DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vegetarians can get vitamin B12 from dairy foods, eggs, aged cheese, fortified brewer's yeast, vitamin B12 enriched processed foods and as a supplement. For good nutrition, some breakfast cereals, soy milk and vegetarian burger patties are fortified with vitamin B12.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Like everyone, vegetarians need omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy heart and immune immune system, along with other benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are obtained from fish and sea vegetables, as well as the milk, eggs and meat from grass-fed animals. If you are not eating fish, eggs or dairy, vegetarians should include in their daily diet some chia seeds, English walnuts, flaxseed oil, unheated canola oil or ground flaxseeds. The easiest way to get enough in your diet is through a supplement. If you haven't heard about chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids, here's our exciting article where you can find out more about chia seeds.
Calcium Calcium, found in milk and yogurt, is important for healthy bones. If a vegetarian is not eating dairy foods, there are other foods that are good sources of calcium. The green leafy vegetables, like kale, collards, broccoli, okra, and bok choy, are rich in calcium. Tofu, soy milks, and orange juice are often fortified with calcium. Figs are also a delicious source of calcium. Spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens are also high in calcium, but it is poorly absorbed in the body. A daily supplement will provide calcium if you are not getting enough in your diet.
Protein When you become a vegetarian, you can get your protein from cheese, milk, eggs, and many kinds of beans, like garbanzos, kidney, pinto, and navy beans. Other good sources of protein for the vegetarian are lentils, split peas, green peas, edamame, tempeh, and other soy foods. Grains, nuts and seeds also provide protein. There is protein in peanut butter, tofu, cereals and soy milk. But green beans and string beans are not a high-protein food. It is an old-fashioned myth that you have to combine certain foods together in your meal, like beans and rice, in order to get a complete protein.
When you become a vegetarian, whole grains are a good source of nutrition. Whole grains are cereal grains that contain the germ, endosperm, and bran. Think of them as nature's superfoods. There are many whole grains besides whole wheat. Get acquainted with Oats, Barley, Maize or Corn, Brown Rice, Farro, Emmer, Einkorn, Rye, Spelt, Millet, Quinoa, Amaranth, Triticale, Teff, and Sprouted Grains. Even popcorn is a whole grain. Buckwheat and wild rice are not strictly grains, but they are also nutritious.
Vitamin D Vitamin D works with calcium to build strong bones. Sources of vitamin D are sunlight and vitamin D fortified cow's milk. Vegans can use fortified soy milk, fortified breakfast cereals and, if necessary, a vitamin D supplement.
Iron When you become a vegetarian, there are many ways to get enough iron in a vegetarian diet. Sea vegetables like nori, wakame, and dulse are very high in iron. More familiar sources of iron are iron-fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, chickpeas, lentils, and baked beans, soybeans and tofu, raisins and dried figs, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, and blackstrap molasses. When you eat these foods, it is recommended that you include a source of vitamin C, like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and broccoli, to help you to absorb the iron better.
Vitamin A Good sources of vitamin A are carrot juice, kale, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, green leafy vegetables, nuts and fruit. Whole grains are an important source of vitamin A that can be overlooked by vegetarians.
Iodine is needed for a healthy thyroid gland to regulate metabolism. Iodized salt, seafood, and seaweed vegetables provided the necessary iodine. Your daily multivitamin also contains iodine.
Zinc The mineral zinc is vital for many functions in the body. It helps to resist infections, strengthen the immune system, heal wounds and support enzyme reactions. When you become a vegetarian or vegan, you can get this important mineral from dairy products, beans, lentils, yeast, nuts, seeds and whole grain cereals. Pumpkin seeds provide one of the most concentrated vegetarian food sources of zinc. Soy products like tofu and tempeh are also good zinc sources.
Easy Vegetarian Meals
When you become a vegetarian, you can create delicious, interesting meals, in addition to the customary vegetable salads. Vegetarian meals include whole-grain pasta, along with plenty of vegetables, beans, grains, and fruits. You may also find that the veggie burgers, hot dogs, and chicken substitutes available in your local grocery store taste very much like the real thing. Try the ground meat substitute, tofu or seitan as replacements for beef in foods like tacos and spaghetti sauce. Your grocery store offers alternatives to almost any animal food, from soy sausages and "Fib Ribs" to Tofurky and mock lobster. There are many delicious replacements for dairy products, like soy ice cream, chocolate soy milk, and tofu cream cheese, to name just a few. Traditional recipes can be adapted to a vegetarian or vegan diet with these easy substitutes, so you can dine in style.
Fruits and Vegetables
When you become a vegetarian or vegan, you can still enjoy foreign cuisines like Thai, Indian and Chinese that offer vegetarian meals. Vegetarian restaurants can even be gourmet delights. The Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco was my first experience of a scrumptious gourmet vegetarian menu for foodies. Check your favorite vegetarian restaurants and cookbooks for more inspiration. Vegetarian or not, it's always a healthy idea to eat a wide variety of foods and explore new foods when you can.
Whole Grains in the Vegetarian Pantry
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