Vegetarian diets are on the up and up, and Nestle predicts vegetarianism will continue to grow and amplify followers.
And while increasing the intake of plant-based foods does show favorable outcomes, including a lower body weight and risk of chronic conditions, health concerns are also addressed.
However, implementing these tips for healthy eating as a vegetarian helps ensure nutritional and health needs are effectively being met with such a growing dietary pattern.
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
Broadly speaking, a vegetarian diet is an eating pattern that excludes animal products and includes plant-based foods, including grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds.
There are various forms of vegetarian diets, including:
• Lacto vegetarian: Omits red and white meats, fish, and eggs, but will consume dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
• Ovo-vegetarians: Does not eat red or white meat, fish, or dairy products, but consumes eggs and egg products
• Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Does not eat red and white meats, fish and shellfish, but consumes dairy and egg products.
• Flexitarians: Also known as semi-vegetarians, flexitarians primarily consume a plant-based diet though will enjoy meat from time-to-time
• Pollotarian: Does not consume red meat, fish, and other animal meats but chooses to eat chicken and other poultry
• Pescatarian: Does not consume red or white meats but consumes fish and shellfish
• Vegan: Goes without all animal products, even in the forms of honey, gelatin, wool, leather, and other animal by-product ingredients or products
Despite the vegetarian diet chosen, it is important to note vegetarian is not necessarily synonymous with healthy. Because in reality, a plant-based diet can still inherit products laden of refined flour, sugar, and oil, including a bag of chips or sleeve of cookies.
Regularly consuming such "vegetarian-friendly" foods can increase the risk of weight gain and negate the physical and mental benefits of following a plant-based diet.
However, these tips for healthy eating as a vegetarian can ensure adequate intake of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, antioxidants, and plant compounds.
Tips for Healthy Eating as a Vegetarian
1. Consider Consulting with A Registered Dietitian
Whereas vegetarian diets source valuable nutrients from plants, cutting out meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, and fish can compromise other valuable nutrients.
Without a well-planned and balanced diet, there is worry of developing nutrient deficiencies, including of protein, iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
While placing the focus on whole foods can mitigate from such risk, consulting with a Registered Dietitian can help create a nutritional plan to protect from developing such deficiencies.
They can also recommend supplementation as needed, including with dosing and reputable brand recommendations.
2. Know the Sources of Protein for Vegetarians
With protein being one of the three core macronutrients, and largely sourced from animal meats, it is important to know the sources of protein for vegetarians to ensure adequate intake.
If following a more flexitarian diet, meat-free protein sources include:
• Eggs: 6 grams per 1 medium egg
• Salmon: 17 grams per 3 ounces
• Shrimp: 19 grams per 3 ounces
• Tuna: 25 grams per standard can
• Dairy milk: 8 grams per 8-ounce cup
• Greek Yogurt: 20 grams per 1 cup grams (beware of added sugars)
• Cottage Cheese: 13 grams per ½ cup
If completely omitting all animal products, include the following plant-based protein for vegetarians:
• Almonds: 6 grams per 1 ounce, or about ¼ cup
• Black beans: 19 grams per ½ cup
• Lentils: 9 grams per ½ cup boiled
• Peanut butter: 8 grams per two tablespoons
• Peas: 8 grams per 1 cup
• Quinoa: 4 grams per ½ cup cooked
• Soybeans: 22 grams per 1 cup boiled
• Tempeh: 31 grams per 1 cup
• Tofu: 20 grams per 1 cup
3. Experiment with Vegetarian Dishes and Recipes
Especially if new to a vegetarian diet, it may be new territory to step into a plant-based diet. However, remember to enjoy this newfound journey and have fun throughout the process!
There are a number of ways to try to vegetarian dishes, including asking restaurant servers about vegetarian entrees offered and exploring he grocery aisles for new vegetarian-friendly foods.
Also have fun experimenting with different recipes in the comfort of home. If needing inspiration, give healthy vegetarian meals and treats a try:
• Tofu scramble to kickstart the day
• Banana walnut pancakes during an easy-like Sunday morning
• Vegan hummus wrap for a nutrient-dense lunch
• Chickpea burger in exchange for a traditional beef patty
• Avocado ice cream when that ice cream craving hits
• Sweet potato brownies to healthily satisfy that sweet tooth
4. Practice Vegetarian Meal Prep
Practicing meal prep is timesaving and ensuring, helping busy health goers maintain a balanced diet. There are various ways to practice vegetarian meal prep ideas include:
• Making overnight oats for a grab-n-go breakfast
• Pre-slicing veggies and pairing with hummus for a convenient snack
• Batch cooking rice and quinoa to keep on hand
• Rationing out ¼ cup of mixed nuts into baggies for a grab-n-go snack
• Stocking homemade granola bars for a quick, energy-dense pick-me-up
• Prepping vegetarian mason jar salads for workday lunches
• Preparing vegetarian chili in a slow cooker for an easy meal
5. Try Out A Vegetarian Diet Delivery Program
Whether worried about weight gain, overwhelmed with a busy schedule, or perhaps a careful blend of both, consider giving a vegetarian diet delivery program a try!
With a vegetarian diet delivery program, receive chef-prepared, plant-based menu options that offer balanced nutrition to promote overall wellness and weight loss.
Truly, receiving vegetarian meals to doorsteps across the nation has never been so nutritious, delicious, and hassle-free!
6. Keep Hydrated
In addition to highlighting tips for healthy eating as a vegetarian, the importance of keeping hydrated should also be noted.
Water is essential in a number of ways, and it is the preferred source of staying hydrated. Drinking water can help manage weight by regulating hunger and controlling cravings.
What’s more, plant-based proteins are also rich in fiber. And when upping the fiber, water intake should follow to help support bowel regularity and health.
As a general reference, consume at least eight, 8-ounce cups of water per day. Tips to ensure adequate hydration include:
• Drinking a glass of water before and with meals.
• Keeping water conveniently on hand, including in the car and at the office on hand to prompt its intake.
• Purchasing and using a large water bottle, aiming to fill it at least two to three times per day.
• Ordering water at restaurants. Not only are they free from calories, but tend to be free of charge!
• Drinking a full cup when making coffee, preparing dinner, or taking any medication or multivitamin.
• Taking and filling a water bottle to the gym.
• Consuming foods high in water content, including cucumber, watermelon, soups, popsicles, and smoothies.