What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
The vegetarian diet has gained widespread popularity in recent years.
Some studies estimate that vegetarians account for up to 18% of the global population.
Apart from the ethical and environmental benefits of cutting meat from your diet, a well-planned vegetarian diet may also reduce your risk of chronic disease, support weight loss and improve the quality of your diet.
This article provides a beginner’s guide to the vegetarian diet, including a sample meal plan for one week.
The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from eating meat, fish and poultry.
People often adopt a vegetarian diet for religious or personal reasons, as well as ethical issues, such as animal rights.
Others decide to become vegetarian for environmental reasons, as livestock production increases greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to climate change and requires large amounts of water, energy and natural resources.
There are several forms of vegetarianism, each of which differs in their restrictions.
Foods to Eat
A vegetarian diet should include a diverse mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and proteins.
To replace the protein provided by meat in your diet, include a variety of protein-rich plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, tofu and seitan.
If you follow a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, eggs and dairy can also boost your protein intake.
Eating nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will supply a range of important vitamins and minerals to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet.
A few healthy foods to eat on a vegetarian diet are:
- Fruits:Apples, bananas, berries, oranges, melons, pears, peaches
- Vegetables: Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots
- Grains:Quinoa, barley, buckwheat, rice, oats
- Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts
- Seeds:Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds
- Healthy fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocados
- Proteins: Tempeh, tofu, seitan, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina, eggs, dairy products
Foods to Avoid
There are many variations of vegetarianism, each with different restrictions.
Lacto-ovo vegetarianism, the most common type of vegetarian diet, involves eliminating all meat, poultry and fish.
Other types of vegetarians may also avoid foods like eggs and dairy.
A vegan diet is the most restrictive form of vegetarianism because it bars meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and any other animal products.
Depending on your needs and preferences, you may have to avoid the following foods on a vegetarian diet:
- Meat:Beef, veal and pork
- Poultry:Chicken and turkey
- Fish and shellfish:This restriction does not apply to pescetarians.
- Meat-based ingredients:Gelatin, lard, carmine, isinglass, oleic acid and suet
- Eggs:This restriction applies to vegans and lacto-vegetarians.
- Dairy products:This restriction on milk, yogurt and cheese applies to vegans and ovo-vegetarians.
- Other animal products:Vegans may choose to avoid honey, beeswax and pollen.
Vegetarian diets are associated with a number of health benefits.
In fact, studies show that vegetarians tend to have better diet quality than meat-eaters and a higher intake of important nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium.
A vegetarian diet may provide several other health boosts as well.
Main Benefits are:
- May Enhance Weight Loss
- May Reduce Cancer Risk
- May Stabilize Blood Sugar
- Promotes Heart Health