I’ve always loved January because it gives you an excuse to try something you’ve been thinking about for a bit. When we’re choosing our new resolutions every year, we get to focus on what we want to change or improve in our lives.
I adore New Year’s resolutions. They keep me going and inspire me to leave every year stronger and better than I entered it. One of my favorite resolutions is finding new ways to nourish and listen to my body. One of the most common diets people try is the vegetarian diet. So today, we’re going to tell you the ins and outs of the vegetarian diet and how to stick it in the healthiest way.
Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions always have to do with dieting. In 2020, 43% of Americans had the resolution to eat healthier. Forms of this resolution can look like exercising more, meal prepping, or packing healthier lunches.
While self-improvement is always encouraged, make sure you’re starting a diet for the right reason and not out of fear or shame. Diets should make you healthier – you should never start one because you were guilted into it. If you start a diet with the sole intention to lose weight, you might get disappointed. Everybody’s body reacts to food differently, so the key with changing up your diet is to listen to your body and celebrate it consistently.
If your resolution was to become a vegetarian, you might be a little daunted at the prospect of starting. I was a vegan for a year and a half and I never properly followed the diet, so I never reaped all the rewards of it; in the end, the diet was more damaging than helpful to me. The vegetarian diet is one of the more popular diets because it’s not as intrusive as other diets, such as keto or veganism, but it still has major health and environmental benefits.
The American Dietetic Association found that vegetarian diets often lower risks of death, heart disease, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and chances of type 2 diabetes. Those who practice a vegetarian diet are also less likely to get cancer or chronic diseases. These statistics are for the individuals who practice a healthy and ‘appropriately planned’ vegetarian diet.
The Beef with Vegetarian Diets
If the vegetarian diet is so amazing, why isn’t everyone on this health kick? Any diet you try will have a mixture of pros and cons; no diet in the world is 100% perfect for every person.
Americans consume an average of 274 pounds of meat per year. Our meat intake has increased by 40% since 1961. Women especially should consume about one-third less meat than men and 42% less beef. Vegetarianism is a perfect way to create a hard stop on the amount of meat we ingest.
Yes, when you cut out a major food group like meat, there will be some elements of your diet that are lacking. A big thing beginner vegetarians wonder about is where to get their protein. Women need 0.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day. So if you cut out meat, a huge provider of protein, where else can you get it?
Fortunately, despite popular belief, meat is not the only protein-heavy food. Vegans and vegetarians turn to vegetables like beans, peas, seeds, nuts, soy products, and whole grains to obtain the protein they need. There are also amazing supplements that can make up for any deficiencies.
Another concern is the lack of iron, which is prolific in red meat – but it also appears in certain fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts.
The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is also the key to any healthy diet — balance. If you don’t have balance in the foods you eat, no matter what you’re eating, you won’t be healthy. Eat in accordance with the food pyramid and if you notice a lack of vitamins or nutrition in your diet, seek ways to balance that out.
A vegetarian diet should focus primarily on vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein-rich foods, and oils and your daily caloric intake should be around 2,000 a day. Attempt to eat at least four cups of fruits and vegetables a day, as this food group will be your main source of calories.
Types of Vegetarianism
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You can make your vegetarian diet your own. There are many different types of vegetarianism that allow you to reap maximum benefits to your body and for your health:
Lacto-vegetarian diet: the most commonly used form of the diet. This excludes any kind of meat but allows you to eat dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian diet: excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products, but allows you to eat eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet: excludes meat, fish, and poultry, but allows dairy and eggs. Pescatarian diet: you can eat fish, but no other forms of meat or dairy.
Vegan diet: excludes any animal products whatsoever.
Should You Go Vegetarian?
In the end, your diet is your choice (unless your doctor or a health professional enforces it). If a diet makes you at all uncomfortable or it affects your mental health negatively, run.
Choosing a diet should be similar to catering to someone you love. If your loved one is uncomfortable when you do something, you stop doing it. The same idea goes for creating a diet. If your body reacts better when you feed it fresh greens and avoid dairy or meat, look into a diet that supports that.
If you’re not too keen on completely diving into a full diet, consider practicing plant-based eating two to three times a week when you first start out.
However, if you believe that practicing a vegetarian diet might help you mentally and physically in the long run, go for it. There are so many proven health benefits to cutting out meat and re-upping your fruit and vegetable intake. Not to mention, you become more reliant on other parts of the food pyramid when you cut out one section. It might be counterintuitive, but a vegetarian diet promotes a more well-rounded menu.
Have you tried a vegetarian diet? Do you have any suggestions as to how to maintain a healthy one? Comment below!
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