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The Vegetarian Diet: it's easier than you think

Updated on August 19, 2014

I recently became a vegetarian, although it's been something I've wanted to do on and off for years. I never really had the guts to just do it until I began living with a vegan and realized how easy it is to cook delicious, healthy and nutritious meals without the use of animal products. I still eat eggs and dairy products the odd time, but most of the meals I eat at home are vegan. Since changing my diet, I have been really enjoying my meals and find it easier to maintain a stable weight. I have also developed a great interest in cooking and love trying new recipes or simply experimenting in the kitchen.

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Getting the right nutrition

The biggest problem people have when thinking about a vegetarian or vegan diet is where they will get their protein. Many of us think you need a lot of protein to function but in reality we only need it in small quantities. It is very easy to get your protein from leafy greens, and from meat substitutes such as tofu, seitan or tempeh. Seitan and tempeh can be difficult to prepare but you can get pre-prepared ones in many supermarkets. Some of my main protein sources at home are tofu, spinach, hummus, kale, nuts, quinoa, lentils, beans (Black beans, pinto beans), bok choi, collard greens, peas (Green peas, black-eyes peas, chickpeas), avocados, and broccoli. We also eat vegan burgers (Amy's brand are delicious) and sausages (Tofurkey are my favourite).


One of the biggest concerns I had when starting this diet was where I would get my calcium . I'd only every thought of it as coming from dairy products. Once I had done a little research however, I found that calcium comes from all sorts of sources including broccoli, bok choy, kale, okra, beans, almonds, some brands of tofu and soymilk. If you want a more extensive list, you can follow this link to The Vegetarian Resource Group's website:http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.htm.


Once I had been on the diet for about a month I began to notice that I was feeling hungry all the time. I did a little research to found out why this was and realized that I was suffering from a lack of fat in my diet. Changing from a carnivorous to a vegetarian diet had sparked a healthy eating frenzy in me and I was cutting out important sources of fat along with the meat. Although fat has a bad name in contemporary culture, it is an essential nutrient. Vegetable fats are much better for you than animal fats and so a vegetarian diet should include poly- or monounsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, coconut milk and avocados. The fats in these foods help to make you feel full and satisfied after a meal and can actually help with long-term weight control.

What to cook?

The biggest headache that came to mind whenever I thought about becoming vegetarian was what would I eat? I thought I would really have to think about my daily meals and spend long hours in the kitchen trying to cook nutritious dinners. Before I became a vegetarian, the only vegan meals I knew how to cook were pasta with tomato sauce, and vegetable stir fry. Once I started the diet though, I realized it was a lot easier than I thought and now I'm at the point where I can't believe I ever thought it would be difficult. Here are some ideas for simple, vegan meals:

1. Mixed oven roasted vegetables with quinoa.

2. Vegetarian pizza (minus the cheese, or with the dairy free kind) with a leafy green salad.

3. Pasta in an eggplant, tomato and spinach or kale sauce.

4. Vegan burgers in a bun with roasted sweet potatoes on the side.

5. Burritos with beans, rice and mixed vegetables (also add some homemade guacamole if you have the time to make it!)

6. Tomato, spinach and coconut dahl with naan bread

7. Chickpea curry with brown rice

8. Thai coconut, peanut and lime tofu with noodles or rice

9. Grilled portabello burgers

10. Roasted red peppers stuffed with quinoa, tomato and black beans.

11. Mushroom and spinach risotto

12. Stir-fry with leafy greens (Collard greens, kale, bok choi etc.)

13. Falafel with couscous


Salads

I've never been a big salad eater; I always did my best but never really enjoyed eating a salad. However, since becoming a vegetarian I have learned how to make really tasty salads that work as brilliant lunches. Here are some things to add to a salad to make them more interesting for your taste buds!

1. Roasted nuts and seeds

2. Candied Nuts

3. Avocado

4. Broiled tofu

5. Roasted peppers

6. Olives

7. Sprouted sunflower seeds

8. Nutritional Yeast

9. Raw Spinach

10. Chillis

11. Chickpeas and other beans

12. Cooked, cooled, quinoa

13. Arugula


Going vegetarian or even vegan is a lot easier than you might think but one of the most important things before changing your diet is knowing why you're doing it. If you are simply doing it for the heck of it, or to see what it's like then the likelihood is that you won't stick to it. If you are looking for some more information on why becoming a vegetarian or vegan is a good choice then check out the websites below.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz Makes Vegan Mac & Cheese

© 2012 Emer Kelly

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    • flagostomos profile image

      flagostomos 5 years ago from Washington, United States

      I did a vegetarian diet for a year and I will take to my grave that it is a superior diet. My biggest problem was maintaining it. I have a lot of Hispanic friends and it's hard to turn down carmen asada in a social situation. Keep at it,it gets easier with time.