Becoming vegetarian is much easier than many people think. Whether you want to stop eating meat for health reasons or for ethical reasons, a vegetarian diet can be more varied and interesting than a meat-based diet.
Is it safe to go vegetarian?
If you are thinking of giving up meat, you have several options. Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish, but many eat dairy products and some eat eggs. An lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet includes dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt) and eggs. A vegan diet does not include any animal products. How to get enough nutrients from a vegetarian diet? New vegetarians often worry about getting enough nutrients from a meat-free diet. A veggie diet can actually be much more varied, nutritionally balanced and healthier than a meat-based diet. If you include a wide variety of vegetables, legumes, pulses, grains, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds and meat alternatives (such as soya products) in your meals, you may notice that you eat a wide variety of foods that are also more nutritious than meals based around meat. Many new vegetarians are concerned about getting enough protein after they go veg. Although meat may be a good source of protein, there are many non-animal protein sources that can easily be used as meat substitutes. Vegetarian protein sources include tofu, soy sausages and burgers, nuts and seeds, peanut butter and other nut butters, lentils and beans, and dairy products. You may need to eat larger amounts of vegetarian protein-rich food than meat to get the adequate amount of protein, and you need to combine different sources of protein into your meals, but few people in the Western world suffer from a lack of protein, especially if they eat dairy products.
Calcium and vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets
Getting enough calcium is sometimes a concern for vegetarians, but if you eat dairy products (cheese, milk, yoghurt) you have less reason to worry as all these are sources of calcium. Vegetarian calcium sources include green leafy vegetables, and many soy and rice milk producers add calcium and vitamin D to their products. Look for calcium-added soy milks in health food stores. A balanced and varied vegetarian diet usually provides most of the necessary vitamins, but vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods. To get enough this important vitamin, choose foods that are fortified with vitamin B12: fortified breakfast cereals, soy milks and nutritional yeast flakes. Vegans especially should consider taking B12 supplements. Before giving up meat, read up on meat alternatives to make sure that your diet is balanced and nutritious. To start with, get a good vegetarian cook book or research online for some simple veggie recipes and learn a new recipe or two every week.