Vegetarian Diet

What is Vegetarian Diet?

There are different types of vegetarian diets. What kind of vegetarian do you want to be? Most choose a lacto-ovo approach, turning their backs on meat, fish and poultry, but still eating dairy products and eggs. (Lacto-vegetarians, meanwhile, also nix eggs, whereas ovo-vegetarians also nix dairy; vegans exclude all animal products.) For the lacto-ovo camp, the government’s 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines can help you develop a healthy plan. You can figure out how many meatless calories you should eat (Appendix 2, page 77) and where they ought to come from (Appendix 5, page 86) to get all the nutrients you need.

A daily 2,000-calorie diet, for example, should include 2 cups of fruit, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 3 cups of dairy, 6 “ounce-equivalents” of grains and 5 1/2 ounce-equivalents of protein. The fine print will tell you how much actual food is in an ounce-equivalent. For grains, one ounce-equivalent is a slice of bread or a 6-inch tortilla; for protein, it’s an egg or quarter-cup of cooked beans. As with any diet, boredom is avoided through variation – like incorporating different-colored veggies and sources of protein to get the nutrients you need.

Pros & Cons

  • Nutritionally sound
  • Heart healthy (if you plan it right)
  • Might miss the meat
  • Can be lots of work

How does Vegetarian Diet work?

You don’t have to go cold turkey. You could start by preparing a couple meat-free dishes each week, and gradually make more substitutions – tofu in stir-fry instead of chicken, say, or grilled veggie burgers instead of beef. If your aim is also weight loss, amp up your exercise routine and eat fewer calories than your daily recommended max. To make the transition to a vegetarian diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends these tips:

Every week, ramp up the number of meatless meals you already enjoy, like spaghetti with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry. Include greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and collards in your daily meals.
Try some favorite recipes without meat. For instance, make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans.
Look for ways to vary your vegetarian diet regimen by checking the internet for menus, buying or borrowing vegetarian cookbooks or checking out the growing number of vegetarian restaurants to try new dishes.

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