We need a variety of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to stay healthy and strong and we get these things from an array of foods. If you are leaving meat out of your day, your week or your life, you can still get these nutrients from other sources. This article will discuss how to still eat a balanced meal and get all the nutrients you need on the days you avoid meat.
Although there are a variety of ways to eat vegetarian, all types focus on eating a mostly plant-based diet. Decades of research show a relationship between eating less meat and a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer, so there are good reasons to reduce meat consumption. Those who decide to follow a vegetarian diet may still include fish, while others will avoid meat completely and include eggs and dairy products. Those who consume a vegan diet do not eat animal products of any kind.
Meat provides a variety of nutrients that are important for good health, however it is possible to get these nutrients by choosing a variety of non-meat foods. Include foods from at least 3 of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide in each of your meals.
· Choose vegetables and fruits of all shapes, sizes and colours
· Include grain products at each of your meals – choose whole grain most often
· Choose dairy foods like milk, yogurt, cheese or other calcium-rich foods like soy, white beans, rhubarb, spinach or salmon and sardines (if eating fish)
· Choose meat alternatives like beans, lentils, nuts, and tofu
Example Meal: Spinach and feta omelet with toast
2 eggs + 12 grain toast + feta cheese (30 g) + spinach (1/2 cup)
(protein) (grains) (dairy) (vegetables & fruit)
Plan your meals around wholesome protein sources (meat alternatives) like eggs, milk (cow or soy), yogurt, beans, lentils, nuts, nut butter, sunflower seeds, tofu and tempeh. These meat alternatives provide loads of nutrients like iron, calcium and B12 that can be low in those that follow a meat-free diet. Next add quality grain products like quinoa, couscous, pasta, rice, whole grain bread, cereal or other grains.
Not Just Salad
Whichever type of vegetarian you are, it is important to choose a variety of nutrient-rich foods to eat throughout the day. There are many common and tasty foods you can have while leaving meat out of your diet. Here are some examples:
· Pizza with roasted vegetables and goat’s cheese
· Spinach and feta frittatas with sweet potato fries
· Meat-free chili or minestrone (made with beans, lentils and pasta)
· Broccoli stir-fry with sesame tofu and noodles
· Black bean burritos with salsa and guacamole
· Spaghetti with tomato sauce and edamame
· Hard or soft tacos with vegetarian ground round
Stay tuned to the blog for more food ideas and recipes!
Check out the Vegetarian Food Guide to help you plan a balanced day
Check out the benefits of eating vegetarian from the ADA: