Thinking about eating vegetarian
. . .but don't know how to get started?
Is this a
You'll find the answer in this article.
Do you have high
cholesterol or heart disease? Has your doctor told you to cut
down on fatty foods and meat? Are you concerned though, that
you won't get enough protein if you don't eat meat?
If you've ever
thought about eating vegetarian style - or maybe you'd just like
to decrease the amount of meat in your diet and include more
plant foods instead but don't know how to get started - here
are some tips to get you going in the right direction.
There are two
types of vegetarians, vegan and lacto-ovo. Vegans eat strictly plant foods, no foods of animal
origin. Lacto-ovo vegetarians (lacto means milk and ovo means
egg) don't eat the flesh of an animal but do eat eggs, milk,
and milk products like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, plus plant
foods. (Note: An egg is not a chicken because it was never fertilized.)
If you're just getting started, converting to a strictly plant-based
vegan diet might be difficult, so I recommend beginning with
a lacto-ovo diet.
The average person
requires between 40 and 70 grams of protein per day which can
easily be obtained from plant foods alone. However, in this country,
most of us consume three to four times that amount entirely from
meat. I have found that the major concern of meat-eaters who
are thinking about eating vegetarian style is that they won't
get enough protein on a vegetarian diet.
of protein is composed of 20 amino acids that form a strand to make a "complete protein." If any one of these amino acids is missing
from the strand, a complete protein cannot be formed and the
strand then becomes an "incomplete protein." Foods of animal origin (meat, milk, and
eggs) contain complete proteins while plant foods are
composed of incomplete proteins.
protein in plants is incomplete, this does not present a problem
because all amino acids can be obtained by eating a variety of
vegetables and grains. This is called "complementary."
of a complementary protein is corn and beans. Corn is missing
the amino acid Lysine but is high in Methionine, while beans
are lacking in Methionine but are high in Lysine.
You may have
heard the terms "essential" and "non-essential" amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids,
there are nine that must be obtained from food because the body
cannot make them, so these are called essential. The non-essential
amino acids can be made in the body, so it's not essential that
they come from food. Because plants contain all 20 amino acids
including the essentials, you'll be able to obtain an adequate
quantity of protein with a strictly plant-based diet.
Are meat proteins
better than plant proteins? Absolutely not! Amino acids from plants
and meat are identical in chemical structure and used in the
body in exactly the same way.
When comparing vegetarians with meat-eaters, studies consistently
show that vegetarians are healthier. Vegetarians have a lower
incidence of many kinds of diseases such as coronary artery disease,
cancer, obesity, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, high blood pressure,
Here's how to calculate
your total protein needs for the day. The average male/female requires about 40 to 70 grams
of protein per day.
If you are normal weight:
Multiply your weight
in pounds by 0.454 to get your weight in kilograms (kgs). Multiply
this figure by 0.8 to get the total grams of protein you'll need
for the day. For example, if your weight is 175 pounds, then
175 x 0.454 = 79.45 kgs x 0.8 = 63 grams of protein per day.
Add 5% if you're trying to build muscle: 63 grams x 0.05 = 3
grams of extra protein.
If you are more than 10 pounds overweight - Multiply your
weight in pounds by 0.454 to get your weight in kilograms (kgs).
Multiply this figure by 0.7 to get the total grams of protein
you'll need for the day. For example, if your weight is 190 pounds
but you feel you are more than 10 pounds overweight, then multiply
190 x 0.454 = 86.26 kgs x 0.7 = 60 grams of protein per day.
Add 5% if you're trying to build muscle: 60 grams x 0.05 = 3
grams of extra protein.
Note: You may want to tally the total amount of protein
you eat each day by using the Nutrition Facts labels on packages.
But remember to count the protein in all of the food you eat
including vegetables and grain products, like bread, pasta, and
cereals. Most vegetables contain 2 grams of protein per 1/2 cooked
cup. Fruit is not a source of protein.
How do I begin?
the amount of meat you're eating and begin substituting with
soy, peanut butter, and cheese. All three are meat substitutes. Instead
of a beef burger, replace it with a soy burger and a slice of
soy cheese. Instead of a pizza with pepperoni and sausage, try
vegy pepperoni (it looks and tastes like the real thing!) or
just leave the meat off. A cheese pizza is suitable for lacto-ovo
vegetarians, but not for vegans. Be sure to read the list of
ingredients on food packages! You'll be surprised to
find many vegetable products with added chicken fat.
more fruit, vegetables, and grains in your diet. Grains are wheat, corn,
oats, barley, and rye. Some foods made from these are pasta,
bread, cereal, pancakes, waffles, and spaghetti. For a vegan
breakfast, add a sweet topping to pancakes consisting of fresh
fruit or canned fruit packed in syrup. When eating in a restaurant,
order Eggplant Parmesan instead of Veal Parmesan. Ask for potato
skins without the added meat and bacon and request a topping
of beans instead. Be sure to try some popular Mexican foods with
corn, beans, and rice
like a bean burrito wrapped in a corn tortilla with refried rice.
3. Where do
I find vegetarian foods? There are no special foods that are considered
can make any food product vegetarian simply by eliminating the
The pizza above is a lacto vegetarian pizza because it contains
no animal products other than cheese. Vegan pizzas made with
soy cheese can be purchased frozen, already made. By eliminating
hamburger from spaghetti sauce and replacing with meatless ground
soy or vegy meatballs, you now have a vegan sauce, and by adding
Parmesan cheese as a topping, you now have a lacto vegetarian
sauce. An egg salad sandwich with chips makes a great ovo vegetarian
lunch. Vegy burgers and vegy dogs can be found, along with many
other meatless products, in the cold foods and frozen section
of your grocery store. Instead of bacon or sausage, serve vegy
bacon or vegy sausage with your eggs in the morning for an ovo
is a list of plant foods that form complementary proteins:
Combine this food - - -
- - - with this
to make a complete protein
(beans, nuts, peas)
+Sesame + Soybeans + Wheat
+Rice + Wheat
+Sesame + Peanuts
+Peanuts + Wheat + Rice
(Wheat, Rye, Corn, Oats,
Rice, Millet, Barley - includes macaroni products, pasta, cornbread,
oatmeal, rice and bread pudding, cereals, soy-based foods)
(kale, spinach, etc)
+Sesame + Soybeans
Where do you get your nutrition
information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians
and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed"
by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist
(LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.
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