A lot of people decide to embark on a vegetarian diet and try and stick to the vegetarian food pyramid. It really is not as easy as it first seems. It goes a lot deeper than just planning your meals without the meat or picking the pepperoni off of a pizza. There are extra steps that you need to start taking when becoming a vegetarian to ensure that your body is getting all the protein, nutrients, and vitamins that it so desperately craves.
A truly healthy vegetarian diet needs to be planned and revolve around the vegetarian food pyramid. In order to succeed and be healthy you must ensure that your diet consists of plant-based foods such as:
You also need to ensure you get some healthy fat and cholesterol into your body. This is why following the pyramid can be so helpful in many situations. If you follow the pyramid, make wise decisions, and eat foods in the right amounts, then you will be well on your way to vegetarian success, and possibly a much healthier lifestyle.
Difficulties of a Vegan Diet
You may find it more difficult to follow a vegan diet. Many many people prefer to go vegetarian as it is easier to get used to the changes. If you go the vegan route then you are going to need to find healthy alternatives for common ingredients such as butter, cheese, milk, and eggs.The more restrictive of a diet that you choose, the harder it is to consume all the nutrients you need. A vegan diet often eliminates your ability to get any vitamin B-12 into your body for instance. Here are a list of some of the nutrients that you may have a tough time consuming, and how you can use non-meat products to get them into your diet plan.
Protein is the building block for life in many ways, and you need it in order to keep muscles, organs, bones, and skin healthy. If you do not go the route of a vegan, then you can use dairy products and eggs to get a lot of protein. There are other sources as well such as meat substitutes like tofu, which provide vegetarian protein and foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lentils.
You might be surprised to learn that dark green vegetables are actually a very reliable source of calcium. Foods such as kale, broccoli, and spinach can give you a lot of calcium and keep your teeth and bones strong. You can also find tofu enriched with calcium to give your body a dose of calcium and protein at the same time.
Vitamin B-12 is necessary for your body to create new red blood cells. This vitamin is usually only found in animal products such as milk and eggs, but you can also find some vegetarian enriched cereals and soy products, or take a supplement.
Iron is also crucial in the production of red blood cells, but there are more sources of it than vitamin B-12. You can get iron from foods such as:
- dried beans
- whole grains
- leafy vegetables
- dried fruit
Foods that are rich in vitamin C can also help your body better absorb the iron contained in other foods.
The key for a vegetarian diet, and all diets, is to stick to a wide variety of foods and a balanced diet. The vegetarian food pyramid gives us a great glimpse at which nutrients our body’s need and the correct amounts to give it throughout the day. Sticking solely to certain food groups, or foods, does not allow your body to take in the variety of nutrients and supplements that it needs. If you are looking to upgrade the healthiness of, or start out on, a vegetarian diet, then make sure you get a good idea of what the pyramid offers and how to spread out your diet.