Are you thinking of going vegetarian and wandering what your options will be?

There is a growing trend of many celebs and the population in general moving more to a plant based diet. The benefits are numerous due to plant based foods not having cholesterol and saturated fat, however the diet does need to be balanced to attain all nutrients and amino acids & keep a check on the carbs as well to watch the waistline.

There are a few options available to being a vegetarian –

Vegetarian diets vary in the extent to which they exclude animal products:
• Semi-vegetarian: Someone who’s cutting back on his or her intake of meat, in general. A pollo vegetarian avoids red meat and fish but eats chicken. A pesco pollo vegetarian avoids red meat but eats chicken and fish.
These terms stretch the true definition of a vegetarian, and only the term semi-vegetarian is actually used with much frequency.
• Lacto ovo vegetarian: A lacto ovo vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, and poultry but includes dairy products and eggs. Many vegetarians fall into this category. Lacto ovo vegetarians eat such foods as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk, and eggs, as well as foods made with these ingredients.
• Lacto vegetarian: A lacto vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, and poultry, as well as eggs and any foods containing eggs. A lacto vegetarian would, however, eat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
• Vegan: Technically, the term vegan refers to more than just the diet alone. A vegan is a vegetarian who avoids eating or using all animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, any foods containing by-products of these ingredients, wool, silk, leather, and any non-food items made with animal by products. Some vegans avoid honey.
One adaptation of a vegetarian diet is a raw foods diet – this consists of eating a diet that consists primarily of uncooked foods.

The fruitarian diet consists only of fruits; vegetables botanically classified as fruits, such as tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and avocados; and seeds and nuts.

The key to a healthy vegetarian diet — like any diet — is to enjoy a variety of foods. No single food can provide all the nutrients your body needs. The more restrictive your diet is, the more challenging it can be to get all the nutrients you need. A vegan diet, for example, eliminates natural food sources of vitamin B-12, as well as milk products, which are good sources of calcium.

With a little planning, however, you can be sure that your diet includes everything your body needs. Pay special attention to the following nutrients:

• Calcium helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Milk and dairy foods are highest in calcium. However, dark green vegetables, such as turnip and collard greens, kale and broccoli, are good plant sources when eaten in sufficient quantities. Calcium-enriched and fortified products, including juices, cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt and tofu, are other options.

• Iodine is a component in thyroid hormones, which help regulate metabolism, growth and function of key organs. Vegans may not get enough iodine and be at risk of deficiency.

• Iron is a crucial component of red blood cells. Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit are good sources of iron. Because iron isn’t as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that recommended for non-vegetarians. To help your body absorb iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli, at the same time as you’re eating iron-containing foods.

• Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health. Diets that do not include fish and eggs are generally low in active forms of omega-3 fatty acids. Canola oil, soy oil, walnuts, ground flaxseed and soybeans are good sources of essential fatty acids. However, because conversion of plant-based omega-3 to the types used by humans is inefficient, you may want to consider fortified products or supplements, or both.

• Protein helps maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Eggs and dairy products are good sources; ensure that you eat enough meet your protein needs. You can also get sufficient protein from plant-based foods if you eat a variety of them throughout the day. Plant sources include soy products and meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

• Vitamin B-12 is necessary to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. This vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it can be difficult to get enough B-12 on a vegan diet. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may go undetected in people who eat a vegan diet. This is because the vegan diet is rich in a vitamin called folate, which may mask deficiency in vitamin B-12 until severe problems occur. For this reason, it’s important for vegans to consider vitamin supplements, vitamin-enriched cereals and fortified soy products.

• Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D is added to cow’s milk, some brands of soy and rice milk, and some cereals and margarines. Be sure to check food labels. If you don’t eat enough fortified foods and have limited sun exposure, you may need a vitamin D supplement (one derived from plants).

• Zinc is an essential component of many enzymes and plays a role in cell division and in formation of proteins. Like iron, zinc is not as easily absorbed from plant sources as it is from animal products. Cheese is a good option if you eat dairy products. Plant sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and wheat germ.

If you’re not following a vegetarian diet but you’re thinking of trying it, here are some ideas to help you get started:

• Meat Free days. Each week increase the number of meatless meals you already enjoy.
• Learn to substitute. Take favourite recipes and try them without meat. For example, make vegetarian pasta by leaving out the chicken/ beef and adding soya or butter beans. Or make fajitas using extra-firm tofu rather than chicken. You may be surprised to find that many dishes require only simple substitutions.

If you need help creating a vegetarian diet that’s right for you, call our registered dietitian on (012) 997 2783 or email info@easyhealthwellness.com.