Being mindful of one’s nutrition is imperative to an individual’s health. Vegetarians should be more aware of their food intake to maintain a balanced diet.
Giving up meat does not necessarily mean that an individual is automatically maintaining a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Besides avoiding meat, it is still necessary to avoid junk foods and eat foods that are a part of a healthy diet. If a vegetarian diet is taken seriously, it can provide great sources of nutrition and can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
“If you are on a vegetarian diet and doing it well, it can be really high in antioxidants and can offer a better source of vital nutrients,” said Melissa Orteous, registered dietitian at LifeQuality Nutrition Consulting in Riverside.
“Generally speaking, people who eat healthy like that tend to have reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers.”
One of the toughest challenges for a vegetarian is maintaining protein levels without eating meat. There are many plant-based foods that can offer the same amount of protein as animal-based foods.
Vegetarian-friendly foods packed with protein are eggs, seeds and nuts, beans, lentils, dairy products, fish and soy products such as tofu.
Since not all vegetarians choose to eat fish, eggs and dairy products, it is important to consume protein from other sources. Beans, lentils and other legumes are a smart option because they provide the same source of protein as meat without the high levels of fat and cholesterol. They also offer plety of B vitamins and a good amount of fiber and iron.
“As a vegetarian, I maintain my protein levels by eating a lot of beans and lentils,” said Samantha Banks, sophomore health education major. “I also eat a lot of eggs and nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans.”
In order to understand if one is eating right while on a vegetarian diet, it is important to pay attention to the body’s energy levels and overall health. If one feels sick, run down and sleepy instead of energetic and active, then it is more than likely that the body is not getting enough nutrients.
The key to becoming a vegetarian is to be aware of the body’s nutritional needs and plan a diet that meets those needs. Make sure protein levels are maintained and strive for a good balance that provides the body with plenty of vitamins and nutrients.