Be a Happy Healthy Vegetarian

Just because you like strawberries and salads doesn’t mean you will thrive as a vegetarian.

Success as a vegetarian boils down to two primary things: Proper nutrition and a variety of appealing flavors. You know you have succeeded when you lose track of how long you have been a vegetarian along with the desire for meat and still feel healthy.

Be a Happy Healthy Vegetarian

The vegetarian lifestyle is not for everyone. It takes about a month to get used to the absence of meat. For several months I was on a quest for the most meaty plant-based protein. Then I settled into the flavors of fresh herbs and vegetables.

Throughout seven years, I had lost the desire for red, white and pink meat, but honestly, my health was suffering. Rarely, salmon, shrimp or halibut was consumed. Little thought went into nutrition when responding to carbohydrate cravings. I was fatigued with uncontrollable weight gain.

I eased back to plated barnyard domestic animals by eating chicken. Over another seven years, I was consuming steaks, shrimp and pork. But I prefer being a vegetarian. So I became a real vegetarian (not pescatarian) over 12 years ago.

Not All Vegetarians Are The Same

Vegetarian is not an all-encompassing word for grass-grazing fanatics. Some can’t stand the site of leather or animal-derived products. Others ease into vegetable diets. A person may begin by excluding red meat while introducing more vegetables into their diet. Some like the idea of Meatless Mondays or Fish Fridays. Vegetarianism may be sought due to various food allergies or dietary conditions. A person can experience gastrointestinal disturbances after eating hamburgers. The problem may not be the beef but the bun if one has celiac disease. Here is a list of the popular types of vegetarians/vegans—from casual to devoted. 

  • Flexitarian—someone who enjoys both vegetarian dishes and meat
    Think veggie cheeseburger topped with bacon and side of fried shrimp.
  • Pescatarian or Aquatarian—a person who abstains from all meat except fish
    Think tossed salad topped with salmon steak alongside sweet potato fries.
  • Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian—someone who avoids meat but eats eggs and cheese
    Think egg salad on a bed of field greens with warm parmesan-garlic bread.
  • Vegan—a strict vegetarian that avoids meat, fish, eggs and dairy products
    Think pasta primavera with tofu and roasted almonds.
  • Raw Vegan—unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115°F
    Think tossed salad topped with raw lentles, virgin olive oil and rice vinegar.
  • Macrobiotic—vegan foods with emphasis on sea and Asian vegetables
    Think seaweed salad with daikon and sprouts.
  • Fruititarians—fruits, nuts, seeds, without animal products, vegetables, grains
    Think fruit cocktail with walnuts.

Get Enough Protein

As a 6-foot-4-inch male, I require at least 90 grams of protein per day. So each meal should have a minimum of 30 grams fo protein. This presents a problem at typical restaurants.

A chicken salad or pasta meal might have 25 grams of protein. Removing the meat virtually wipes out all the protein—assuming there is a gram in the remaining grated cheese. It is better to asks for a vegetarian protein substitution. The problem is that substitutes like a tablespoon of quinoa or half an avocado only add a few grams in exchange for the twenty-something lost.

Vegetarian or vegan restaurants like Veggie Grill have much more nutritional balance. Entrees can contain between 25 and 41 grams of protein. But eating there three times per day is costly.

To keep from breaking the bank and take control of nutrition, successful vegetarians (and vegans) learn to cook nutritious meals. Take a weekend or month-long class at a nearby culinary school. Then memorize how much protein is in common plant-based protein sources.

Popular Plant-Based Proteins
# Food Protein
Seitan 25 g per 3.5 ounces
Navy Beans 20 g per 8 ounces
Tofu 12 g per 3 ounces
Peanut Butter 8 g per 2 Tbs
Quinoa 8 g per 8 ounces
Edamame 7 g per 8 ounces
Cheddar Cheese 7 g per 1 ounce
Egg 6 g per large egg
Mixed Nuts 4 g per 1 ounce
Avocado 3 g per 5 ounces

Eat Well

Why is protein so important to vegetarians? Without it, satiation is difficult. This increases consumption of carbohy­drates, which Leeds to weight gain.

Start the day with a smoothie that contains at least 30 grams of protein. Sip this with an omelette or frittata to curb unhealthy cravings for a few hours. Don’t shy away from vitamin and mineral supplements, drinking plenty of water throughout the day. In addition to protein, you need omega-3 (flaxseed oil), B-12 and collagen, commonly acquired from animal products. Snack on nuts and drink protein-fortified almond or cashew milk instead of fruit juice and sodas.

Consult your doctor before making any dramatic change in diet. You can be successful. For over a decade, I have been a vegetarian, enjoying many of the same types of food as meat eaters: Burgers, lasagna, spaghetti and faux meat­balls, stir fry, burritos, tostadas, pizzas, faux chicken with gravy, soups, stews, sandwiches and salads. Keep tabs on protein, learn creative cooking techniques and be a happy, healthy vegetarian. Explore great recipes on the ClinicalPosters vegetarian Burgers and Sandwiches board.

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April 22, 2019 by Kevin Williams

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