Recently I have been ranting and raving about eating organic and vegetarian food like it is an easy thing to do.
I officially became a vegetarian a few years ago and trust me, it was not easy! With that in mind, this week I thought I would talk about not why we should eat vegetarian meals but how.
Fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts, legumes and spinach are the six essential parts of a vegetarian diet. If you stick to these six categories you will get the adequate nutrition your body needs. Doing this while staying away from sweets and saturated fats may even cause you to lose a pound or two.
Let’s begin at the farmers market or Whole Food’s. Here you won’t need to worry as much about the labels but more about the nutritional value of your food.
Here is what your list should look like:
Fruit: Fresh fruit is great but buying dried fruit is better. Dried fruit is a good source of iron and will last longer in your kitchen. Citrus fruits are also good for adequate consumption of vitamin C. It is important to get adequate amounts of vitamin C in your body because it helps heal torn tissue in the muscles and skin and repair cartilage in bones and teeth.
Vegetables: Dark vegetables like broccoli provide calcium and all vegetables fill your body with the essential amino acids that it needs to form proteins and build muscle. Try to keep your vegetables raw as much as possible; cooking vegetables causes a significant amount of nutrients to escape.
Grains: Whole wheat and unrefined grains are also full of essential amino acids.
Seeds and Nuts: These little suckers are full of the essential amino acids and zinc which is important for sustaining healthy skin and helping the body fight infections.
Legumes: Dried beans and peas are a rich source of zinc and iron, so you do not become anemic. (Ladies!)
Spinach: Every vegetarian should eat a lot of spinach because it is packed with calcium, iron and protein. It’s damn good for you, even if you’re not a vegetarian. Plus Pop Eye eats it and he looks pretty good.
Here is a vegetarian food guide pyramid, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic, to refer to when thinking about planning your meals.
On the pyramid you will see everything I mentioned except for fats. This is because fats are a whole different thing to deal with.
In general, fats such as saturated, monosaturated and polyunsaturated are good for you because they are necessary for cell membrane structure. You can get many of these fats from things like olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil.
As I mentioned earlier though, it is best to stay away from saturated fats that are most prevalent in animal sources. These guys will raise cholesterol levels in your blood stream. A small amount of cholesterol is good for the metabolism but large amounts will put you at risk for heart disease. So if you decide to continue to eat meat, just do it less and in smaller servings.
It is pretty simple to replace the chicken in fajitas with firm tofu and to take the ground beef out of your chili. I encourage you to lower that ecological footprint and give it a try!