Ask Marilyn: tips on switching to a vegetarian diet?

Q: Can you give me any tips on switching to a vegetarian diet?


A: First of all let me congratulate you on choosing to go vegetarian. You are making a sound investment for your health. Some of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet include decreased weight, strong bones, low cholesterol levels, low blood pressure, and a lower risk of certain forms of cancer. These health benefits come from the smaller amount of unhealthy fat consumed in vegetarian food choices, as well as high amounts of fibre, and important vitamins.


It is typically believed that vegetarians do not get the right proteins and vitamins that are needed by their bodies, due to the fact that they do not eat meat. Luckily, this does not have to be the truth for you. By eating a wide variety of different vegetables, you will be able to meet the body’s requirement for both protein and vitamins.


Meeting your body’s need for protein is probably something that you are very concerned about if you are a vegetarian. There are several ways that you can get good amounts of protein.  Depending on how strict a vegetarian you wish to be, you may want to consider eating up to 7 eggs a week, which are a very good source of protein. Beans are another good source of both protein and fibre, both of which are very important to the body. Nuts, seeds, legumes and tofu are other great ways to meet some of the body’s protein requirements. 



Though cheese may taste good and is a fine source of protein, it is important to make sure that you only eat it in moderation. Cheese contains high amount of saturated fat, which is not good for your general health.  The same rule applies to whole milk and other dairy products. White products are another thing that you may want to avoid if you are interested in both remaining healthy and losing weight as a vegetarian. Taking advantage of the health benefits of whole wheat and grain products, including the high amount of vitamins and fibre which are included, is a great way to keep your body healthy. Quinoa is also a good food as although it cooks like a grain, it is actually a seed and is a good source of vegetable protein.  It contains high levels of minerals and is rich in vitamins and can be used instead of rice or pastas.  Quinoa is easy and quick food to prepare.  It has a protein content of between 12-18% and unusually for the vegetable world has a complete set of essential amino acids.  It is high in both magnesium and iron and is easy to digest and gluten free, with a good amount of fibre. 


In a nutshell, as well as making sure you get adequate protein vegetarian diets need to be well balanced to reduce the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies so do make sure you eat lashings of fruit and vegetables a day and nuts and seeds. Taking a multivitamin and mineral every day is a good idea whether you are a vegetarian or not.

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