There are many reasons that a person may choose a vegetarian diet and lifestyle. They range from dietary concerns about what’s in their food to moral issues surrounding animal treatment. Whatever your reason for choosing a vegetarian diet, don’t forget that it’s still possible to have an unhealthy diet as a vegetarian. Any diet, whether it’s plant or animal-based, is potentially unhealthy depending on these three things:
1. How much is eaten
2. How the vegetarian food is prepared and
3. What’s missing from the diet
Follow these guidelines to make sure that your vegetarian diet doesn’t become harmful to your health.
Be careful to watch your portion sizes when deciding how much to eat. No matter where extra calories come from, be it fat, carbohydrates, protein, animal or plant-based foods, they will be stored as fat on the body. You may be eating a low-fat vegetarian food but too much of it is still harmful. Consider visiting a Registered Dietitian to determine how many calories you should be consuming based on your age, height, weight, and weight management goals.
If you’ve chosen a healthy vegetarian food to eat, don’t ruin it’s health benefits by preparing it in an unhealthy way. Pay close attention to how much oil and what types of oil you cook with. Palm and coconut oil are plant-based but they do contain saturated fat which is potentially harmful to your health. Make a conscious effort to include the good fats in your diet. Some examples are:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Flaxseed oil
Vegetarians Are at Risk for Nutrient Deficiencies
Vitamin comes from the words, "vital" and "amino acid". The word vital indicates that something is necessary for life. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are used to make many different types of tissue in your body from muscle to your hair. Vitamins help the body carry out the functions that are necessary for life.
The body makes some of the vitamins it needs. The rest have to come from the food we eat. Each food offers a different variety and amount of vitamins and minerals. A deficiency in just one of them can spell harmful effects for your health. Talk to your doctor and your dietitian about how to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to live a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
HealthyGroceryList.com – Web resource for vegetarian recipes. The site will also generate a grocery list based on recipes you select.
The Chemistry of Amino Acids– Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, University of Arizona