Tomato Spinach Chickpea Simmer<br>Photography by David Scott Credits: Tomato Spinach Chickpea Simmer<br>Photography by David Scott
These days, it seems most families have at least one member who is following a vegetarian diet. People become vegetarian for a variety of reasons, from ethical and environmental concerns to health concerns or even because it can be a less expensive way of eating.
What does it mean to be vegetarian?
There are different types of vegetarian, including strict vegans who eat no animal products at all. Some people, although not vegetarian, choose to eat less meat or no red meat but still eat fish or chicken. Most people fall in between these two extremes.
There is no question that many vegetarians enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Their diets tend to be lower in fat, higher in fibre and full of nutrient-rich, health protective fruits, vegetables and grains.
Some evidence shows a lower rate of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity among vegetarians. Other studies suggest that many vegetarians are more active, maintain a healthy weight and abstain from smoking and alcohol, factors which may also account for their good health.
But just because you're vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean you will enjoy all these benefits. It still takes some care and planning. Some research suggests it may be more what vegetarians do eat rather than what they don't eat that provides the health benefits.
Fruits, vegetables and grains are known to offer protection against disease. It may be possible that non-vegetarians who eat the same healthy amounts of these foods get a similar health benefit. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians still have to watch their fat intake to further ensure good health.
Keeping a balanced diet
When you give up animal products, you eat much less fat, especially saturated fat, but if you add back lots of other fatty foods (fried veggie burgers for example, or snack foods like chips, doughnuts or pastries) you will lose out on some of the benefits.
It's important to replace the nutrients you miss out on by eliminating animal products. The more restricted your diet is, the more care you must take. A lacto-ovo vegetarian (one who eats dairy products and eggs) generally has no trouble meeting her nutritional requirements, while a strict vegan (one who totally avoids animal products) must take greater care.
Page 1 of 3 -- Read on for more about the best sources for getting the nutrients you need, as well as 101 delicious vegetarian recipes
The following nutrients deserve some attention:
It's a myth that vegetarians don't eat enough protein. If you replace the animal protein with vegetable proteins such as beans, soy foods, tofu, nuts and nut butters, eat dairy products and eggs and/or properly combine grains, legumes and vegetables, you will get ample protein.
Healthy combinations include: legumes + grains (examples: peanut butter and bread; split pea soup and bread; rice and tofu; rice and red beans; falafel and pita); grains + nuts or seeds (examples: granola with nuts; pasta with pine nuts); legumes or any grain or vegetable + dairy products (example: macaroni and cheese).
Non-meat sources of iron include lentils, kidney, garbanzo, pinto and white beans, dried fruit, egg yolks and iron-enriched cereals, grains and pastas. Unfortunately, the iron in vegetables and grains isn't as well absorbed as the iron in meat.
But, if you eat these foods with a food containing vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries or peppers, it will be better absorbed. Also, tea or coffee with a meal can interfere with iron absorption, so it's better to drink juice or water. If you rely heavily on plant foods to get iron, you should eat even more of these foods to make up for the poor absorption.
If you eliminate dairy products, choose alternative calcium sources. There is calcium in tofu (make sure you buy the kind made with calcium), fortified soy and rice beverages, fortified orange juice, kale, dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and bok choy and nuts such as almonds and Brazil nuts.
Because the calcium in many vegetables, such as spinach and beans, is not as available to your body, it may be necessary to take a calcium supplement if you eliminate all dairy products and all calcium-fortified beverages. This is especially true for young women.
Besides fluid milk, vitamin D is found in fortified soy and rice beverages, some fortified orange juices, egg yolks and fortified margarines. This vitamin is also produced when your body is directly exposed to sunlight.
Non-animal sources include soy products such as tempeh, miso and tofu, soy and rice beverages, soybeans, beans, lentils, wheat germ, nuts and grains. Dairy products and eggs are good sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
This vitamin is found only in animal foods. A strict vegan should eat B12 fortified foods like fortified soy or rice beverages or look to supplements.
If you do decide to become vegetarian, become knowledgeable about your food choices. Include legumes, soy and lentils in your diet. Hummus, bean dips, lentil salads or veggie burgers are tastes to try.
Vegetarian food options
There are lots of interesting foods to buy like vegetable burgers, vegetarian burritos, meatless lasagna, lentil soups and falafel. Eat two to three servings of dairy products a day. Cheese, yogurt and milk add valuable calcium, vitamin D and protein.
If you aren't drinking milk, drink calcium-enriched soy or rice beverages. Eat your five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables, the more colourful, the better. Eating those rich in vitamin C (oranges, berries, kiwis, peppers) with fortified breakfast cereals improves the absorption of iron that's in the cereal.
Your food choices are personal and it's important to find the path that works best for your beliefs and your well-being. Whether you're a vegetarian or a carnivore, follow healthy eating guidelines and you'll increase your chances of good health.
Page 2 of 3 -- Read on for 101 delicious vegetarian recipes• Antipasto Salad
• Asparagus and Orange Salad with Ginger Dressing
• Avocado and Bibb Lettuce Toss
• Barley Salad with Tomatoes and Corn
• Beet and Arugula Salad
• Beet, Orange and Watercress Salad
• Crunchy Broccoli and Feta Salad
• Fennel, Mushroom and Walnut Salad
• Grilled Portobellos on Bean Salad
• Grilled Vegetable Salad with Tarragon Dressing
• Tabbouleh Salad
• Vegetable Tofu Salad
• Warm Broccoli Salad
Breakfast and Brunch
• Baked Breakfast Frittata
• Baked Persian Omelette
• Broccoli Scramble Quesadillas
• Corn and Leek Tart
• Grapefruit, Avocado and Watercress Salad
• Minty Warm Rice and Vegetable Salad
• Singapore Rice Crepes with Scrambled Eggs and Curried Vegetables
• Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Omelette with Feta
• Autumn Leek and Carrot Creamed Soup with Chive Oil
• Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup with Tofu
• Carrot and Lots of Garlic Soup
• Citrus Mushroom and Tofu Soup
• Lentil Vegetable Soup
• Lima Bean Tomato Soup
• Moroccan Red Lentil Soup
• Pear and Celery Soup
• Vegan Bean Soup
• Vegetable Miso Soup
• White Bean and Kale Soup
Appetizers, snacks and hors d'oeuvres
• Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise
• Asparagus Frittata Bites
• Balsamic Grilled Leeks and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
• Balsamic Mushroom Toasts
• Beets with Feta
• Biryani-Inspired Vegetable Rice
• Brie, Pear and Onion Strudel on a Bed of Greens
• Cheesy Spinach Squares
• Eggplant Bundles
• Feta-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
• Lacy Potato Latkes
• Mushroom Red Pepper Pleated Puffs
• Olive, Pepper and Asiago Pinwheels
• Rosemary Ricotta Crostini
• Zesty Pepper Roll-Ups
• Asparagus Goat Cheese Toss
• Aubergine and Pasta Charlotte
• Black Bean Quesadillas
• Braised Shallots and Squash Stew
• Bucatini with Roasted Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes
• Bulgur-Stuffed Acorn Squash
• Corn and Tomato Rice Casserole
• Cumin Carrot Tofu Patties
• Eggplant and Potato Ragout with Feta Topping
• Eggplant and Spinach Lasagna
• Golden Onion Tart
• Lemon Parmesan Linguine
• Lentils and Tomato Sauce with Pasta Shells
• Linguine with Broccoli and Cherry Tomatoes
• Mushroom Cheese Soufflé
• Mushroom "Steaks"
• Pasta Bow Ties with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
• Pasta with Lemon and Spinach
• Pepper Corn Paella
• Polenta with Mushroom Ragout
• Polenta with Sautéed Spinach and Red Peppers
• Potato-Crust Pizza
• Risotto Primavera
• Roasted Jerk Tofu
• Roasted Leeks with Fennel Tomato Concassé
• Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
• Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom and Pearl Onion Ragout
• Squash and Caramelized Onion Lasagna
• Squash and Kale Phyllo Pie
• Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Tagine
• Tex-Mex Corn Pizza
• Tex-Mex Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
• Tofu and Broccoli in Peanut Sauce
• Vegetable Curry
• Vegetable Penne
• Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls
• Vegetarian Tortellini Bake
• Wild Rice and Broccoli Casserole
Sandwiches, Burgers and Wraps
• Bean and Vegetable Pitas
• Bulgur and Mushroom Burgers
• Chickpea Burgers
• Curried Lentil Burgers with Coriander Yogurt
• Eggplant Pockets
• Egg Salad Sandwiches
• Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
• Grilled Vegetable Submarines
• Mushroom Cheddar Vegetarian Burgers
• Perfectly Plump Pinwheel Roll-Ups
• Tomato Croque Monsieur
• Vegetarian Hummus Burgers