Becoming a Vegetarian-What You Should Know

What You Should KnowBenefits of Being Vegetarian

If you’re interested in becoming a vegetarian, here’s some information to help you better understand this major lifestyle change in your eating habits.

Defining a Vegetarian

A vegetarian is an individual who doesn’t eat meat, seafood, poultry, or any products containing these foods.

There are three types of vegetarians:

Vegan:A vegan who doesn’t eat animal products or any sort. This includes the above meats as well as dairy foods and eggs. A vegan might even avoid honey. Some vegans take their vegetarian lifestyle further by refusing to wear wool or leather.

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Lacto vegetarian: While avoiding meat, a lacto vegetarian eats dairy foods, but not eggs.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian: This type of vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, yet will eat dairy foods and eggs.

Regardless which vegetarian lifestyle a person chooses to follow, there’s always a reason a person decides to become a vegetarian. For some people, becoming a vegetarian is based on religious reasons. Others choose this eating lifestyle for the sake of their health.

Other reasons for people’s choice of becoming a vegetarian are as follows:

· Animal lovers don’t want to sacrifice the lives of animals for the sake of a meal.

· Environmentalists don’t want to take resources from the environment.

· Vegetarian food can be cheaper than animal based foods.

The Benefits of Being Vegetarian

Since vegetarian food derives from plants, it can be beneficial to your health. It’s the reason for the following health risks being lowered:

· High blood pressure

· Heart disease

· Type 2 diabetes

· Obesity

· Certain cancers

· Gout

· Kidney stones

Additionally, a vegetarian diet means less calories, sodium, cholesterol and fats (both saturated and trans fats).

Its goodness also includes a higher level of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and other nutrients that are combative in fighting off some diseases.

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Beware!

Although becoming a vegetarian can be healthy, it must be done right in order to be beneficial. In other words, just because you’re eating as a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re getting all the nutrition you need.

For example, eating only carbohydrates such as pastas, cereals and breads will not provide you with enough protein, minerals and vitamins. Furthermore, some carbohydrates aren’t even healthy.

Even eating too much dairy food can be problematic. This eating plan results in too much unhealthy fat – unless you’re eating non-fat or low-fat foods.

So to get the nutrients you need, plan your meals carefully.

Examples of Vegetarian Foods

Here are some vegetarian dishes that you can enjoy:

· Black beans and rice

· Bean burritos

· Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

· Macaroni and cheese

· Vegetable lasagna

· Lentil soup

· Minestrone soup

· Vegetable stir-fry with tofu

· Pasta with tomato or pesto sauce

· Pizza with vegetable toppings

· Veggie burgers

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Vegetarian foods you should try

Quick Easy Chinese Vegetarian Cooking

1. Tofu

Why it’s great: Plain tofu has a lot going for it. It’s a terrific source of protein, zinc, iron, and it even contains some cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids. It also gives you more than 100 milligrams (mg) of calcium in a half cup. But the same amount of calcium-enriched tofu gives you up to 350 mg (about one-third of your daily needs) plus roughly 30 percent of your daily vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium—an extra bone-building punch that many people need. Look for enriched soymilk, too, which is also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Tip: “Tofu can be substituted for the same amount of meat, poultry or fish in almost any recipe,” says Sass. Firm tofu works best because it holds its shape when you sauté it or grill it.    

2. Lentils

Why they’re great: Lentils, like beans, are part of the legume family, and like beans, they’re an excellent source of protein and soluble fiber. But lentils have an edge over most beans: They contain about twice as much iron. They’re also higher in most B vitamins and folate, which is especially important for women of childbearing age as folate reduces the risk for some birth defects. For new vegetarians, lentils are also the perfect way to start eating more legumes because they tend to be less gassy.

Tip: Lentil soup is just the beginning. Add lentils to vegetable stews, chilis or casseroles. Toss them with red onions and vinaigrette. Stir them into curries; cook them with carrots. Experiment with different varieties—red lentils (right) cook up very fast and can be turned into bright purées.    

3. Beans

Why they’re great: A cup of beans a day gives you about one-third of your iron and protein and roughly half your fiber. Even better, most of that is soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. One cup also provides a good amount of potassium, zinc and many B vitamins, and some calcium too. Just one alert: Rinse canned beans well—they can be soaked in salt.

Tip: It was once thought that to get a complete protein, you needed to combine beans with grains (rice, pasta, bread) at the same meal. “Now we know you just have to eat them during the same day,” Sass says. Toss beans and vegetables with whole wheat pasta; make soups and chilis with several varieties; add a sprinkling to grain salads. And for a different taste treat, look for canned heirloom varieties.    

4. Nuts

Why they’re great: They’re a nifty source of quick, totally palatable protein. In addition, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamias and Brazil nuts are rich in zinc, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Some, like almonds, even provide a decent amount of calcium (about 175 mg in a half cup). There’s also some great nut news: “Recent studies show that even though nuts are high in calories, eating them does not lead to weight gain,” says Sass. In fact, people who eat nut-rich diets tend to weigh less than those who don’t, say researchers at Loma Linda University and Purdue University. Peanuts may even help weight loss. Why nuts don’t make you fat—and may even help you lose weight—isn’t clear. “It’s possible that nuts make you feel so full that you’re less likely to overeat other foods,” says Sass. Other experts suspect that the labor-intense job of digesting nuts burns off calories. There are also hints that nuts increase the amount of fat that passes through the digestive tract, which might explain nut-linked weight loss. More research is obviously needed!

Tip: Different nuts give you different nutrients. For example, a half cup of almonds provides about four times as much fiber as the same amount of cashews. Cashews, however, contain about twice as much iron and zinc as almost any other nut. Pecans and walnuts tend to land right in the middle for most nut nutrients—potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Sprinkle them in salads, or keep a bag of mixed nuts in your desk or backpack. Garnish smooth soups with crunchy whole nuts, stir chopped nuts into muffins and add crushed nuts to pie crust.    

5. Grains

Why they’re great: Some enriched whole-grain cereals are fortified with hard-to-get vitamin B12—some even offer 100 percent of a day’s requirement in one serving—as well as iron, calcium and many other nutrients. Keep in mind that if you don’t eat eggs or dairy, you’ll have to take a B12 supplement to make sure you’re getting enough. As a group, cereals and other whole-grain foods (whole wheat breads and pastas, brown rice, etc.) are also high in other B vitamins, zinc and, of course, insoluble fiber, which not only helps whisk cholesterol out of your system but may reduce your risk of colon cancer and other digestive disorders.

Tip: Because different grains provide different nutrients, vary the types you eat. “It’s easy to get into a rut of, say, just making brown rice all the time. It’s better to mix up the grains you eat, including oatmeal, bulgur, wild rice, whole rye and pumpernickel breads,” says Sass. Also try some of the ancient grains—spelt, farro, kamut—which are now sold at most whole foods markets.     

6. Leafy Greens

Why they’re great: Unlike most vegetables, dark leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard and collards contain healthful amounts of iron—especially spinach, which has about 6 grams or about one-third of a day’s supply. They’re also a great source of cancer-fighting antioxidants; are high in folic acid and vitamin A; and they even contain calcium, but in a form that’s not easily absorbed. Cooking greens and/or sprinkling them with a little lemon juice or vinegar makes the calcium more available to your body, says Sass.

Tip: Always try to eat iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C because the C helps your body absorb the iron. With dark leafy greens, this comes naturally—just toss them into salads with yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mandarin oranges or any citrus. Or if you prefer your veggies cooked, sauté a couple of cups of greens in some seasoned olive oil with sweet peppers, garlic and onion.

Quick Easy Chinese Vegetarian Cooking

   

7. Seaweeds

Why they’re great: Besides being a terrific source of iron and phytochemicals, many seaweeds—such as alaria, dulse, kelp, nori, spirulina and agar—are good sources of minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron and chromium, as well as vitamins A, C, E and many of the Bs. Talk about superfoods!

Tip: Add chopped dulse to salads or sandwiches, sauté it with other vegetables or use it in soups. Use nori sheets as the wrappers for vegetarian sushi. Toast kelp, and crumble it on pasta or rice, or add it to noodle soups. Browse through Japanese or Korean markets to find seaweeds to sample.    

8. Dried Fruits

Why they’re great: They’re good, super-convenient sources of iron—and if you combine them with some mixed nuts, you’ve got a packet of iron and protein you can take anywhere easily. In addition, dried fruits—think apricots, raisins, prunes, mangos, pineapple, figs, dates, cherries and cranberries—provide a wide array of minerals and vitamins as well as some fiber. And even kids love to snack on them.

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Tips: Sprinkle them on salads, use in chutneys, stir into puréed squash and sweet potatoes, or blend with nuts and seeds to make your own favorite snack mix. Chopped up, dried fruits make healthful additions to puddings, fruit-based pie fillings, oat bars, cookies, hot and cold cereals—you name it.

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How to Become a Vegetarian

If you’re still interested in becoming a vegetarian, here are some tips to help get you started:

· Consider what type of vegetarian you want to be.

· Start off slowly. Give your body time to adjust to stop eating meats and whatever others foods you want to eliminate.

· Read more information on being a vegetarian.

Get New Cookbooks and Easy Recipes

Browse your local bookstore for a great vegetarian cookbook or find a vegan/vegetarian recipe app or site.Look for one that not only appeals to you but also contains a variety of recipes that are simple enough for everyday use.

Be Patient

You may find it easy to go vegan overnight, while others struggle just omitting red meat when becoming vegetarian.

Everyone really is different, but rest assured that with time, your cravings will subside. Remembering your goals and reasons for becoming vegetarian or vegan will help you when you are tempted to give in.

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Explore New Plant-Based Foods

If you want to become a vegetarian, you’ll want to explore new foods.Although most large grocery stores stock soy milk and veggie burgers, try browsing in your local health food stores and farmers markets to see what new foods you can find.

There’s always something new to try, and the staff can help you find what you’re looking for or give advice on which products are best. Make it fun and exciting to become vegetarian with recipes like cabbage steaks.

· Discuss your vegetarian plans with your family. Discover if they’re also interested in changing to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Consult a dietician. He or she can provide you with some food ideas.

Consult your physician. Although becoming a vegetarian is healthy, it’s still best to talk to your doctor before making any decision on your own in regards to your health.

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