FAQs About Healthy Vegetarian Diets
More than 16 million people are following some form of healthy vegetarian diet. Plant diets are known to have many health benefits including reduced risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancers. To answer any questions about a nutritious vegetarian diet, you must first distinguish between being vegan or vegetarian. While vegans avoid eating all kinds of animal products, including dairy and eggs, some vegetarians do eat dairy and eggs.
What is the Definition of Vegetarianism?
Vegetarianism is a health diet that generally excludes meat, poultry, and fish. It is a diet that is comprised of plants foods, including, fruit, grains, seeds, nuts, beans, and vegetables. There are different types of vegetarians. Veganism is the strictest form and excludes all foods and by products that come from animals (eggs, honey, dairy), and they do not use any products made from animals, like silk and leather. Some vegetarians choose to include or exclude eggs or dairy from their menu plans. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy while ovo-vegetarians will consume eggs.
Do Vegetarians Use Animal-based Materials?
While vegans will not eat or use any products that are derived from animals, vegetarians typically do not mind making use of such animal products as wool or leather goods. Veganism is more a philosophy than a diet that holds a general reverence for life of any kind.
What is Pescetarianism?
Pescetarianism is a type of vegetarian diet that includes vegetables, whole grains and fruits as well as fish in the menu.
What Type of Foods are Used to Replace Meat in the Vegetarian Diet?
Foods that replace meats may include soy products, like tofu and tempeh. Additionally, some vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds ad many beans are quality protein sources. Each of these plant proteins contain the building blocks of protein, known as amino acids. Amino acids contribute to the healthy repair of cells and muscle growth.
How Much Protein is Contained in Vegetarian Foods? How Does It Compare to Beef?
You will receive a healthy amount of protein in any vegetarian-based protein source.
Protein varies in vegetarian diet foods, based on the category and the portion size. However, most foods will provide you, on average with 8 to 15 grams of protein. Soy foods provide the highest amount of protein with edamame containing 29 grams (as much as beef) and tempeh offering 21 grams for each 4-ounce serving. Complete sources of protein, or those that contain all nine essential amino acids include quinoa, soybeans, buckwheat and hemp seed.
What Fruits Contain the Highest Amounts of Protein?
While vegetables and legumes contain more protein than fruits, several fruits are a good source of protein for anyone wishing to avoid meat.
High protein intake has been proven unhealthful. A healthy vegetarian diet is naturally low in fat and high in carbohydrates and provides just the right amount of protein in such sources as soy, legumes, seeds, nuts, and grains. Contrary to popular belief, high levels of protein actually contribute to health issues and other diseases.
What Health Problems Result When Protein Intakes Are Too High?
High protein levels in the diet can lead to such health conditions as osteoporosis, cancer, kidney problems, and cardiovascular disease. High protein consumption can also encourage urinary calcium loss. When eaten in beef, a high amount protein can lead to the development of heterocyclic amines, substances that are known to cause cancer over time.
What are the Recommended Servings for Each Food Group in a Vegetarian Diet?
A Guide to the History of Vegetarianism
While the term “vegetarianism” is relatively knew, eating primarily a plant-based diet is not. In fact, many anthropologists believe early humans were more gatherers than hunters.
One fact supporting their views is that meat-eaters do not have molars as do humans. Another fact is that our digestive system more closely resembles other vegetable eaters than it does meat-eaters. Third, relating to more recent times, humans that frequently eat meat are more of an increased risk for disease than their healthy vegetarian colleagues drawing the conclusion humans were meant to eat plant based diets and not animals.
Up until the mid-1900’s, Americans ate more vegetables than meat. The meat consumed was done more on a local level due to the fact that without cold storage and efficient distribution yet, it was hard to get the meat to the people without it spoiling. To do so, meat had to be preserved in one of several methods which drove up the price and time to market.
The earliest vegetarian in recorded history was the Greek mathematician Pythagoras. In fact, early vegetarian diet eaters were called Pythagoreans because word vegetarian had not been created yet. Other well-known names practicing eating primarily plants are Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and George Bernard Shaw. The term “vegetarian” was actually coined by the British Vegetarian Society in the mid-1800’s and comes from a Latin root word that means “source of life”.
A healthy vegetarian diet was first established in the United State with the 1971 release of Frances Moore Lappe’s bestseller “Diet for a Small Planet”. In her book she promoted more meatless meals in an effort to reduce the amount of resources it took to raise animals for food. At that time livestock were consuming 80% of the grain produced in the U.S. Her theory was that if America reduced meat consumption by 10%, there would be enough grain to feed the world.
However, vegetarianism was met with much speculation. The prevailing thought was it was impossible to get enough protein from eating just plant-based products. Through the rest of the 70’s and well into the 80’s, the myths prevailed until the release of John Robbin’s book “Diet for a New America” in 1987. Part 2 of his book restarted the vegetarianism movement when he provided proof how dangerous animal diets were and conversely how safe and healthy vegetarian diets were.
In the 1990’s several documents were published highlighting the health value of plant-based diets including a paper by the American Dietetic Association endorsing the health benefits of healthy vegetarian diets and the adoption of the Food Pyramid by the U.S. government. It showed Americans should eat mostly grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and less meat.
While a few of the myths are still around in limited numbers today, vegetarianism and the newer vegan diet have gained and continue to gain popularity and by all accounts are here to stay.
Are You Consuming Too Few Calories on Your Healthy Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetables form the majority of a plant-based diet. They are extremely rich in healthy proteins, nutrients and minerals. They are also packed with high levels of dietary fiber. This means that when you eat vegetables, you feel full longer. It is because of this process that a vegetarian diet can lead to weight loss, and a healthy body weight regulation. This can become a problem however.
Because you feel full and satisfied after eating plant-based foods, you tend to eat fewer calories throughout the day. This can lead to you not eating enough calories on a regular basis, causing a decline in health.
How Many Calories Should I Be Eating?
If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you expend, and you will lose weight. Depending on your body weight goals, you can simply regulate your daily calorie consumption to deliver the results you're looking for. So, how many calories should you be eating in a healthy vegetarian diet?
Personal daily calorie consumption depends on your gender, your weight, age and your level of activity. A 6 foot tall, 200 pound, 45-year-old male that gets very little physical activity each day will maintain his current weight if he eats about 2,000 cal each day. A slightly active 35-year-old woman that stands 5' 5" tall, and weighs 140 pounds, needs to consume roughly 1,300 cal each day to maintain her current weight.
To find out just how many calories you need to be eating to stay healthy, perform a web search for "calorie calculator". There is an easy to use (and free) calorie calculator located at CalorieKing.com. You just enter your height, gender, weight and activity level, and your daily calorie count is automatically displayed. You can also download calorie counting and tracking fitness applications to your smart phone, tablet or computer.
Then it is simply a matter of recording everything you eat each day. After a week or so of logging your calorie consumption, you can plan your meals so that you are eating the correct number of calories to help you gain weight, lose weight or maintain your current weight. Adhering to a healthy vegetarian diet can help you lose weight quickly. Just remember that an extreme calorie reduction can be unhealthy. Any approach to nutrition that has you consuming less than 1,100 to 1,200 cal a day for an extended period of time is not healthy.
7 Ways to Make Vegetarian Dishes More Interesting
It is a well-known fact that everyone can stand to add more vegetables into their diets. There are numerous health benefits to adding vegetables into our diets, but vegetables tend to become bland. What do we do when all of our ideas for adding vegetables become mundane, and we just don't want to eat them anymore?
1. Grill Your Vegetables – In the summer time when you are out using the grill anyway, grilling your vegetables is a great way to add more flavor to them. You can even toss your favorite grilled vegetables in a light vinaigrette to give it an additional boost of flavor, choose a vinaigrette with lemon or kinds of vinegar in it to add a boost of flavor.
2. Add Some Cheese – Moderate amounts of cheese sauce can make broccoli and cauliflower rich and delicious while bits of cream cheese or feta go great in green beans, spinach, and kale. You can even add cheese to the most bitter of vegetables, like Brussel sprouts! Another option to a cheese sauce for your broccoli is a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is low in carbs and calories. Remember, you don’t want to smother your vegetable diet in cheese, because a little bit goes a long way!
3. Use Some Seasoning – Using fresh herbs and bold spices are a great way to add depth and flavor to even the simplest of vegetarian diet. Cumin and chili powder are amazing with roasted sweet potatoes for a Mexican-flavored side dish. Get creative with your herbs and spices and you will be amazed at some of the flavor profiles you can come up with.
4. Roast Your Vegetables – Roasting your vegetables brings a new flavor, and a crunch, to those vegetables, you are used to eating steamed or raw. Roasting your vegetables still allows you to get all of the healthy nutrients from them that you would if you steamed them, and they are much more delicious. You can roast any vegetable, from cauliflower to kale, carrots to tomatoes.
5. Buy The Babies – The flavors of most vegetables intensify as the plant matures, and this is why the baby versions of these vegetables tend to have a higher taste appeal. Younger vegetables also tend to be more tender which will change the texture of the vegetable you are eating as well. Baby versions of a vegetable diet can also be a little more fun as you can leave them whole and still have them be bite sized.
6. Sautee Or Stir Fry Your Vegetables – Steamed vegetables are the most commonly consumed vegetables, but why not sauté your vegetables with some oil for more flavor? You can also use other flavors such as bacon, shallots, walnuts, or cranberries for additional flavor. Putting your vegetables into a stir-fry is a great way to mix different plants and make your plate colorful and fun.
7. Dip It – There are many vegetables that go great with a fun dipping sauce. Not to mention, dipping your vegetables in a sauce makes them more inviting and flavorful. You can roast your favorite vegetables as "fries" and eat them as a finger food with a healthy dip (that can also have hidden vegetables in it!)
These seven ideas are by no means the only ways you can make your vegetarian diet more healthy and interesting. By being a little adventurous and being creative, you can come up with plenty of different ways to eat vegetables that are going to transform them from bland and boring into something fun and exciting.