Anyone who tells you that a vegetarian diet cannot provide enough nutrients is lying to you.
This blog will tell you:
-How to create a balanced diet plan for vegetarian.
-Various nutrients you should include in your diet.
We have also provided well-researched titbits about vegetarian meals. Read and prove your point the next time a meat-eater picks on your vegetarian diet.
I am a vegetarian, and I can tell you it's not rocket science to find a balanced vegetarian diet. Creating a diet chart for vegetarians is super easy if you know the essence of vegetarian nutrition. This includes debunking the controversial opinion that vegetarian meals lack enough protein.
Let's get started with this blog on how to balance your diet as a vegetarian.
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Healthy diet for a vegetarian
Any diet loaded with veggies is good for you. Everyone agrees with that statement. But what if you remove the possibility of meat consumption with these 'veggies'? The scepticism of people will hit you right in your face.
'How can vegetables be enough?'
'Where will we get the protein from?'
'Ew, is that even tasty?'
'Isn't a vegetarian diet too low in calories?'
Most gym trainers give you information about healthy meat-packed diets to fill calories. But, seldom do they talk about vegetarian diets. (And, don't even talk about the vegans! Their diet is facing next-level battles in this perspective)
Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn did incredible research on the vegetarian diet. She found in a study that a plant-based diet can change more than 500 genes in 3 months. Such diets:
-Activates genes that increase immunity against disease.
-Deactivates harmful cancer-causing genes.
What most people, including many "trained" nutritionists, don't understand is that:
A vegetarian diet can be more impactful than a non-vegetarian lifestyle.
Not every diet needs to be low in salt, fat, or sugar to keep it balanced. It also doesn't need to have meat to make it super healthy. A veg meal doesn't mean your food lacks proper calorie consumption. Vegetarian diets can be delicious, healthy, and satisfying.
Here are some vitamin-rich meals you can try as a vegetarian.
#1. Get your platter of fruits and veggies ready
'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'.
Veg diets for weight-loss work exponentially well. Make that an apple, bananas, blackberries, cranberries, and walnuts. This meal has healthy calories and vitamin-rich content. Go crazy with frozen, canned, fresh, or dried fruits. You can mix these fruits to blend them into yummy juices to create a balanced diet. Fruits are the best sources to get vitamin and minerals.
Fill your lunch with a vitamin-loaded vegetarian diet packed with nutritional calories. Get your favourite veggies, and add minced garlic, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. You can try soy chunks to replace meat in your diet. This meal is full of fibre and is super delicious. Plus, you won't feel bloated or constipated after eating a bowl of your favourite veggies.
#2. Starchy carbohydrates= Good
Who doesn't love potatoes? They are delicious, yummy, and versatile. And guess what? They are also excellent sources of starchy carbs. Unlike the popular diet myth "say no to carbs", some carbs are essential for you. And don't worry about the calories. Those are necessities for energy. Not only potatoes, but you can also try pasta, rice, cereals, and even bread in your vegetarian diet. Yes, bread!
Not all carbs are bad carbs. Starchy carbs should be one-third of your daily diet. Replace regular items made of refined white flour with whole grain.
Why starchy carbohydrates? 'Isn't starchy carbs packed with unhealthy calories'? Starchy carbs in your diet are a great way to please those hunger pangs. Plus, they are a major source of energy and essential nutrients. For instance, these foods contain calcium, Vitamin B, fibre, and iron, along with starch.
#3. Dairy or dairy alternatives for calcium
Cheese and yogurt are staple foods for many cultures. What's more interesting is that these foods are rich in essential nutrients. Even if you don't eat meat, you can get protein, calcium, minerals, Vitamin A and B12. For something this delicious, the deal doesn't seem bad.
For lactose-intolerant people, the market has alternative foods. Stack your fridge with rice, unsweetened soya, and oats drinks. These food essentials are full of calcium, and you will love the flavour, too. Plus, if you still think you need more calcium, you can always add various foods. Tofu, green veggies, and leafy goodness make your plate rich in calcium.
Fun fact: The first vegetarian society came into existence in 1847. This society aimed to show people that people can have a healthy life without eating meat.
Want to make it even more healthy?
You can also choose low-sugar and low-calories to keep your diet super healthy. Go for low-fat butter, yogurt, cheese, and more such options.
#4. Make beans, pulses, and eggs your besties
Make a burrito packed with beans, peas, carrots cut in juliennes, eggs, and lentils for lunch. Add tofu, cheese, guacamole, and sour crema. It's a balanced diet full of fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It may be high in calories, but it is full of essential nutrients, making it a wholesome meal.
A single vegetarian burrito can contain approximately:
- Calories: 765
- Fat: 18 g
- Carbohydrates: 102g
- Protein: 27 g
Using the same ingredients, you can make a bowl low in calories yet high in nutrition. Add brown nutrients, nuts, and various types of edible seeds. It's a low-fat meal but with high potential to fill you. Plus, you will be craving less for that packet of lays.
#5 Introduce mycoprotein to your diet
Studies have shown that the mycoprotein Quorn is rich in protein. Hence, it plays a vital role in reducing serum cholesterol. The presence of 7S globulin in your diet can increase the person's metabolic rate.
Mycoprotein is from fungal protein. Meat is a great provider of mycoprotein. But, the nutrient is also available in
-certain texture vegetables
The daily dose of mycoprotein in your vegetarian diet can give you the right amount of amino acids. It can help your body build cells and improve immunity.
#6. Get a taste of unsaturated oils and spreads
Some of the best-unsaturated oils include:
Unsaturated oils are way more healthy than cooking in butter or lard. It's also low in calories and keeps your heart healthy. The taste of the food you make will be the same, and you won't have to feel guilty about daily indulgences.
#7. Food rich in iron and zinc
Iron is a must for RBC (red blood cell) creation. Without it, you may face many complications. Lack of iron can cause anaemia, stomach ulcers, and difficulty during childbirth. Of course, certain meat and fish products are rich in iron. But vegetarian food is no less effective.
Add peas, lentils, cereals, beans, and wholegrain items to your daily diet. Look for veggies like beetroot that are not only tasty but also super rich in iron. (Plus, beetroot has an exotic colour that makes the dining experience rich).
Remember, you will have to consume iron-rich foods twice more than a meat-eater. Sometimes, your body may find it difficult to absorb iron from plant sources. In such cases, intake a Vitamin C-rich food item. For instance, add Vitamin-C-rich foods like lemons, strawberries, and tomatoes with beetroot.
Likewise, zinc is not easy to absorb when taken via plant-based items. It helps in cell division and the formation of essential proteins in the body. Add foods like lentils, soy, whole grains, legumes, wheat germ, and nuts to get your daily zinc dose.
Vegetarian vs non-vegetarian diet
It's important to accept the truth at first:
Meat can have more amount of certain nutrients. Plus, non-vegetarian food absorbs nutrients more efficiently. It means, compared to plant-based meals, certain nutrients from non-vegetarian diets come easier.
Most non-vegetarians mention this when they want to have the upper hand. You must have heard some non-vegetarians give these reasons to prove that non-vegetarians live a healthier lifestyle.
BUT, this does not mean that the non-vegetarian lifestyle is more healthy.
To cover the difference, vegetarians need to consume twice more food. Whether you are a veteran or a newbie, track what you eat as per the nutrients you intake.
Fun fact: Here is a list of famous vegetarian personalities-
Leonardo da Vinci, Brad Pitt, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Ozzy Osbourne.
We have some researched data to rebuff this claim and explain the benefits of being a vegetarian:
- FactRetriever reported a 20-year study done in China. It compared the lifespan of plant eaters vs meat eaters. The study observed nations with higher and lower meat consumption rates. It revealed that countries with a higher population of meat-eaters faced higher death rates. Countries with higher plant-eating populations have a more healthy lifestyle.
- FactRetriever further reported a critical study. It revealed that the human body is fit for vegetarianism. For instance, our molars match a herbivore animal. This means both comparisons have flat and blunt teeth). Scientifically established, such molars are for grinding rather than bone-gnashing.
- Studies debunked the popular myth that a vegetarian diet doesn't provide enough protein. The reality is quite the contrary. A vegetarian diet lacks only slightly as compared to a meat diet. Consuming plant-based food in more significant amounts can cover this difference.
- ADA (American Dietetic Association) studied that a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier. The study observed that a vegetarian diet causes lower rates of death. It has fewer chances of causing health issues like
-high blood pressure
-type 2 diabetes
So many excellent reasons to follow a vegetarian diet!
But, wait, that's not all!
Fun fact: Dairy alternatives are far less in calories but equally, if not more, nutritious.
What about certain conditions like pregnancy? Is a vegetarian diet healthy for pregnant women? The answer is yes, and the section below explains why.
Vegetarian diet during pregnancy
Studies have shown that a veg diet can be healthy during pregnancy.
For a vegetarian pregnant person, the essential food should be:
-A healthy, protein-packed vegetarian diet that can provide various types of amino acids. This includes dairy, soy, vegetables, kale, and more.
-A healthy iron-rich vegetarian diet. Include beans, beetroot, cabbage, flaxseeds, and canola oil.
-A B12-vitamin-rich vegetarian diet that includes Lacto-ovo sources like eggs and dairy products.
-Vitamin-D-rich foods like milk and tofu.
With proper planning, vegetarian diets can be very successful for healthy pregnancies. Plus a vegetarian diet will cause fewer gastrointestinal problems in pregnant mothers.
Omega-3 fatty acids in a vegetarian diet
Getting a vitamin dose daily through vegetarian diets is easy. But, there are certain other tricky nutrients.
One of the major concerns in a vegetarian diet is the source of Omega-3 fatty acids. For most non-vegetarians, fish and fish oil are prime sources of Omega-3. The nutrient is excellent to keep a healthy heart and develop positive health.
Vegetarians can get omega-3 fatty acids from ingredients like eggs. (But, a vegan diet may face a tougher challenge since it excludes animal-based products). Eat a plate of scrambled eggs for breakfast, and you are good to go.
Want to know more about Omega-3 fatty acid sources?
Don't worry. Here's a list of foods that are healthy food vegetarian packed with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Get Omega-3 fatty acids via:
-Flaxseed or linseed oil
A vegetarian meal plan is great for those who suffer from heart disease. But, sometimes, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids may not be enough to keep the person healthy. A vegetarian diet may be rich in vitamins and minerals, but some conditions require us to take more care. In such cases, having oily fish is better. Please consult the doctor before you set a vegetarian diet for a heart patient.
For the rest of us who want to keep our hearts healthy, try these in your vegetarian diet:
-Eat at least 5 portions of veggies and fruits as snacks per day.
-Subtract saturated fats and add unsaturated fats.
-Fortified meals to keep track of the salt you take per meal.
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