The Healthy Vegetarian

Guest blogger Vanessa Morley is a registered dietetic technician and writes health blogs for Everyday Health.

People choose to embrace a vegetarian diet for a number of reasons especially to stay healthy. According to Everyday Health vegetarians live longer and healthier lives, but other reasons people choose vegetarianism is to lose weight, to save money or based on personal beliefs. Before you choose to change your diet, make sure to do your research. There are many healthy vegetarian options available, especially on the market today compared to twenty years ago, but if you aren’t in the know you could end up making pasta for every meal. Below are some healthy and delicious alternatives to meat, which you can start adding to your diet today, vegetarian or not.

1. Quinoa

Quinoa by Flikr user Gloria Cabada-Leman

Quinoa isn’t called a super food for nothing; it’s packed with protein (more than any other grain), fiber, essential vitamins and minerals–plus it’s gluten-free. Quinoa is also the only grain that is a complete protein; this means that it contains all the necessary amino acids that our bodies need. Quinoa is also very easy to use in the kitchen; just make a big batch of it and you’ll have it at hand to use in any recipe throughout the week. There are many recipes on different ways to utilize it for your meals, including a hot cereal for breakfast, a crunchy addition to your salads or a stuffing into vegetables, like bell peppers, for a delicious twist on a classic meal.

2. Soy Products

Edamame (soy beans) by Flikr user Camknows

There are a number of soy products on the market today for vegetarians, including tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy dairy products and ready to eat entrees. When choosing soy products, the more natural the product the better, which includes all the products I listed above besides the entrees. These products are minimally processed and allow you to make many different meals with them, while still getting the protein and calcium that may be lacking in your diet. Soy products are also very versatile in how they can be used in the kitchen including tofu smoothies, tempeh ratatouille and edamame dip. When choosing soy dairy products, look for products with no or low amounts of added sugar and products with soybeans as one of the first ingredients, and remember that just because it says it’s made with soy, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.

3. Legumes

Mixed legumes by Flikr user Vanhookc

Legumes include beans, peas and lentils, which are a great source of protein, fiber, iron and folate, and contain no cholesterol and little fat. There are a countless number of legumes that you can incorporate into your diet, by adding them to soups, salads, ethnic dishes, snacks, side dishes and more. Legumes are also a very inexpensive alternative to meat, which can help cut your grocery bill while improving your health. Make sure to thoroughly rinse canned legumes, specifically beans, before adding them to a recipe to lower the sodium content.

Becoming a vegetarian can open the door to many new and delicious dishes that you may have never tried before. Get creative in the kitchen and make sure to fill your plate with a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits as well. Being a vegetarian may not be for everyone, but experimenting with these meat alternatives could help you live a long and healthy life!

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