Healthy Guidelines For Vegetarian Eating
Posted on 06 November 2013 by Leonie Satori
When some people are faced with the prospect of having a vegetarian dining at their table, or even still when a vegetarian is faced with preparing their own meals, often the focus is on finding ‘meat substitutes’ that will enable the aforementioned vegetarian to remain ‘healthy’. However, when a truly healthy vegetarian meal is prepared, often the focus is on balanced and nourishing foods rather than substituting plant foods for animal products. The following guidelines are intended to focus on vegetarian nutrition, creating nourishing and tasty meals within a whole foods plant based diet.
Aim to eat fruits and vegetables when they are in season, foods that are in season are more nutrient rich and satisfying. Vegetarians have more colourful diets and the variety of fruits and vegetable combinations is endless, imagine yourself eating through a rainbow of foods each day to maintain a full spectrum of vitamins in the diet.
Include small amounts of nuts and seeds in with your daily meals: they are a good natural source of oils and minerals such as calcium. Some interesting ways to include them into your meals are by preparing your own nut butters, nut milks or by sprouting them overnight and including them in soups or salads. (Soaking nuts and seeds overnight in water allows the proteins to become more readily available, their enzymes are activated and they become easier to digest.)
To ensure that your intake of B group vitamins is maintained, include a variety of whole, unprocessed grains in your diet. Some tasty and nutritious grain alternatives include spelt, kamut (khorasan), millet, amaranth and quinoa.
Include a variety of different legumes, beans, lentils or peas in your diet. As with nuts, they are best soaked overnight or sprouted.
Eat sprouts, sprouts and more sprouts. Invest in a home sprouting kit and you will be able to have an endless supply of fresh, convenient and economical sprouts growing in your own kitchen. Sprouts are your best source of proteins and enzymes and are packed full of nutrients.
Tofu and tempeh contain valuable amounts of proteins and nutrients in an easily digestible form; they are an essential source of nutrition in a vegetarian diet and above all are tasty to eat.
Incorporate a good variety of leafy greens into your daily diet; they are a good source of vitamin A, folic acid and a great deal more nutrients. Parsley, beet greens, mustard and dandelion greens and Chinese vegetables can add colour and flavour to many dishes like salads and stir-fries.
Seaweeds also add valuable nutrients, flavours and minerals to the diet. Not only are they nutritious in themselves, but when combined with legumes, seaweeds make the proteins and nutrients in legumes more available in the body.
Micro algae such as chlorella and spirulina are excellent sources of protein, chlorophyll and iron, supplementation with such foods is most beneficial to those indulging in a healthy vegetarian diet.
Foods such as cheese, yoghurt, tahini, linseeds, mung bean sprouts, dried figs, sunflower seeds and almonds contain good amounts of calcium; include a variety of these foods in the diet to ensure optimum calcium requirements are met.
If you choose not to include any animal products in your diet (i.e. no eggs or dairy products) or even if your consumption of these products is fairly low it is advisable to supplement with vitamin B12 to ensure you do not become deficient in this essential vitamin. However, some good plant sources of B12 include brewer’s yeast, miso, tempeh, sourdough bread, spirulina and chlorella.
When preparing daily meals, consider the previous meal and incorporate different grains, vegetables, legumes and nuts to ensure a balance of nutrients are spread over a whole day.
Allow your taste buds to be exercised with new and interesting cultural foods. Many traditional cultures – Italian, Lebanese, Mexican and Indian are based on mostly vegetarian dishes, experiment and your senses with become enlivened with new vigour.
Variety is the key to a healthy vegetarian diet, once you discover how many more flavours and textures are available in plant based foods you will wonder how you ever lived without such luxurious pleasures.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her Naturopathic clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.
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