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Follow healthy eating guidelines with these easy and light recipes. They are all heart healthy and fast to make!


Getting Adequate Nutrition with a Vegetarian Diet

by Catherine
(Ontario, Canada)

Adequate vegetarian nutrition

Adequate vegetarian nutrition

Question: During my years at the university, a friend and I decided to become vegetarian. It lasted about a week. We were starving. I tried it several times every now and then, but was never successful. I was starving and I was "weak from hunger". Of course, the biggest problem was that I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing. Vegetarian to me, meant "no meat" period. I didn't make any adjustments to my protein intake for instance. To be vegetarian then was "cool", so we tried it.

I've tried it a few more times since those early years for short periods while doing a cleanse, and I was really ready to get to eat at least some meat again by the end of the cleanse.

I think it's really difficult in our busy lives, to get optimum nutrition when following a strict vegetarian diet. Our lives are just so busy. I think I could go vegetarian if I had a personal chef who could prepare well balanced nutritionally sound meals for me. I eat very little meat now, and would probably be able to go vegetarian, should I choose to.

What would you suggest would be the best way to make the "final step" to becoming completely vegetarian? I am very concerned that I might be missing something from my diet, that the animal protein is providing.

I'm very careful about what I eat. I buy organic when I can, and I am under the ongoing care of a naturopath and I'm in great health. I'd like to kick the meat habit, but am quite concerned it might not be the right thing to do. It's like the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" What to do? Sorry to be so wordy!

Answer from Ina at Belsandia.com:

About your nutrition concerns in a vegetarian diet:

Thanks so much for your post Catherine, and I am glad that you want to lower your meat consumption even further, which will bring you additional health benefits. There is absolutely no reason for concern about getting adequate nutrition on a strict vegetarian (vegan) diet. As a matter of fact, your nutrition intake will vastly improve if you eat a balanced diet based on unprocessed whole foods. Not getting enough protein as vegan or vegetarian is a myth and it's all a matter of information! There are so many great plant food options that contain protein, that you neither need to worry about the quantity nor the quality of your complete protein.

Almost all grains and legumes have protein, and many vegetables do too.
Here is a list of the best protein sources in plant foods.

Studies have shown that Americans consume far too much protein as part of their standard animal-based diet. International guidelines suggest that 0.8gr of protein per kilogram bodyweight (0.36 gr per pound) are highly sufficient as daily protein intake. So if you weigh around 150 pounds you would need no more than 54 grams of protein per day. Even a well balanced vegan diet provides around 70 gr protein per day, and a vegetarian diet even more. It is much more important what you eat than how much you eat.

There is actually a risk with too high protein intake from our standard meat and dairy consumption: excess protein cannot be processed by the body and will be excreted. This puts your kidney into overdrive, which then uses calcium from your bones to process the excess protein. As a result, you lose precious calcium in a diet rich in meat and milk, and more people suffer from weak bones and osteoporosis in animal-food heavy countries, as compared to countries where the percentage of plant foods is higher. Hard to believe but this has now been proven. Read more here on Belsandia and on
Dr. John Mc Dougall's website.

As for calcium, all dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are great calcium sources. Dairy products are not required for adequate calcium intake, as you can see here.

Other nutrients that are often questioned in vegetarian diets are vitamin D and B12. You can get both safely from supplements. Vitamin D

is actually best obtained from regular exposure to sunshine.
Here are some food options.

How can you make the final step into a healthy, fully vegetarian diet?

Everyone has other reasons for becoming vegetarian or vegan. For some it is to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers (more about healthy diets here).

Others have seen the horrific conditions and animal abuse on factory farms, which now provide over 90% of the meat, fish, dairy, and eggs in developed countries.

And yet another reason for people to embrace vegetarianism is to lower their carbon footprint substantially, as the greenhouse gases produced by animal farming now contribute 51% to all greenhouse gas production in the US – more than all transportation means combined.

Which ever of these reasons speaks most to you – or maybe all of them at once – may determine whether you embrace a full vegetarian diet.
Once you have chosen to live in harmony with yourself and the world around you, vegetarianism comes naturally, as you won't feel comfortable any longer with contributing to senseless animal cruelty and environmental destruction.

About getting healthy vegetarian foods fast and cheap while living a busy life:

I understand that a busy life often stands in the way of eating healthy, and the fast and convenient choices often supercede the sensible food options that are better for your body. Luckily, nowadays it's really easy to get great vegan and vegetarian options in almost all grocery stores. You no longer have to compromise a healthy balanced diet for time and money savings.

Here are just a few tips to get healthy, balanced vegetarian nutrition without breaking the bank or spending extra hours per day:

Breakfast: a fresh fruit and a sugar-free, natural juice (fruit or veggie) are a great start. Then whip up a quick oatmeal with dried raisins and pumpkin seeds. Or make a whole grain cold cereal with cut fresh fruit, ground flax seeds, and any of the following milks: soy, almond, rice, oat, or hemp. The enriched versions of these plant milks also have vitamin B12 and calcium. This gives you a superb nutritious breakfast with lots of fiber and vitamins - without the saturated fat calories.

For lunch, reach for whole grain bread and try hummus as a sandwich spread. Top that with a dark leafy green like spinach, kale, mustard green, or at least romaine. Then add any other veggie you want and maybe some sunflower seeds. Spice it up with chili peppers or some fresh basil or mint leaves. If you don’t have time to make a sandwich, I suggest making a big pot of protein-rich vegetarian chili that you can freeze very well in small portions. The same goes for a tasty Indian vegetable curry or any other veggie stew, soup, or curry that you like. You can make large portions and eat a little every few days – it’s extremely cost-effective, fast, and highly nutritious.

For dinner, make your family’s favorites, like pasta, burgers, etc., but replace the white pasta with whole grain pasta - it has fiber and more vitamins, plus you eat less and feel full longer. Also replace all rice with brown rice and all bread with whole wheat and grain bread.

For burgers, hot dogs and cold cuts, try the soy and other protein meats that are great transition foods for meat lovers: gardein as chicken breast or tofurky as cold cuts on sandwiches it's very good and flavorful. You also get hot dogs, burgers, beef patties, etc., nowadays from all kinds of vegetable sources. You can always combine these with your favorite staples like potatoes, rice, or noodles, just buy these "whole" and non-refined. Potatoes in the skin have far more nutrition than without, but they should be organic. Even better are sweet potatoes if you like those.

Here is an overview of great vegetarian healthy meals and recipes that are fast and easy to make:

I hope this takes away some of your concerns and inspires you to try more vegetarian foods again. You will see further improvements in your health, and you contribute greatly to protecting the environment and save some animal lives along the way too.

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