Episode 55 – The 8 Step Vegetarian Cheatsheet
Episode 55 – The 8 Step Vegetarian Cheatsheet
It’s an exciting time! This weekend’s social event is approaching!
You and your partner are happy because your close friends are coming over for dinner. It’s the first time you’ll share your community with each other. But there’s one slight “problem.” Your partner is vegetarian and you don’t know anything about what it takes to be vegetarian.
To add to your “stress” your partner’s friends are also active vegetarians. While your relationship is strong, you want to go the extra mile (that’s why you’re reading this article right ) to keep abreast on vegetarianism to, not only help with the meal preparation but also to escape the fear of potentially disrespecting anyone at dinner (read: getting the awkward silence at the dinner table).
Welcome to the 8 step vegetarian cheatsheet!
While the above scenario could be socially awkward and may even be a relationship breaker, it’s time to flip that around. Let’s take a moment to learn about vegetarianism so you become a social hero and chalk the night up as another relationship maker.
Today, let’s explore the “rules” of vegetarianism some important questions to ask, valuable micronutrients to focus on as well as key foods that you need to know. Let’s get started on my vegetarian cheatsheet.
Vegetarian based diets can be very healthy! They are typically lower in saturated fat and higher in dietary fibre because they are based around plant foods. There are different types of vegetarian diets including:
- Vegan – This is largely based around plant foods and products
- Lacto – This is where dairy food may be included in the diet
- Ovo-lacto – This is where both dairy food and eggs may be included in the diet
- Pescetarian – This diet may include fish and seafood but not other animals
So, when discussing being a vegetarian with someone, it’s good ask a question like, “what type of vegetarian are you?” so you can start to appreciate what foods may and may not be eaten.
Becoming a vegetarian may seem like hard work at the beginning. A healthy vegetarian diet requires careful planning to make sure it is both well-balanced and varied in food selection to meet nutritional needs. Nutrients that may be lacking in a poorly planned vegetarian diet may include:
- Protein – for muscle, brain and organ repair and growth.
- Iron – for red blood cell production. These help with oxygen delivery.
- Zinc – for cell reproduction and repair.
For those on stricter vegetarian diets such as vegan diets, these vitamins are generally at risk as well.
- Vitamin B12 – required for normal blood and nerve function
- Calcium – for bone and muscles
It’s important to know this list of nutrients so that you can help to build healthy meals around them. A good question to ask later on at the dinner table may be, “how do you plan a vegetarian diet to make sure you’re hitting all your nutrients and make the meals taste so good at the same time?”
What are the 6 other steps to my vegetarian cheatsheet? Read on below.
Good sources of non-meat based protein include:
- Dried beans and peas
- Soy protein
- Ready-made nut, soy or wheat-derived meat alternatives
- There’s also vegetarian sausages, patties and “deli-type” slices that can replace meats like salami and ham
- Quinoa and other grains can be mixed with legumes and beans.
Go for energy dense foods
The good and bad thing about vegetarian diets is they are packed with fibre. This is good if you want to lose weight, but not so good if you want to maintain or put weight on.
If your partner or their friends are losing too much weight on a vegetarian diet, it’s good to look for energy and nutrient dense food options such as fruit juices, dried fruits, nuts, peanut or almond butter, honey, jams or even beans, pasta and rice based options. These foods are quite energy dense and can be easily added to your meals or even as snacks alone. For the lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarians, energy dense food options may include milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, and fish such as salmon and tuna.
- Low-oxalate green vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy may also be handy
- Spinach and kale
- Soy yoghurt or custard
- Fortified breakfast cereals and snack bars may be other useful options
- Calcium-fortified milk options such as soy or almond
For the Lacto-ovo vegetarians,
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese are the quickest options
Keep Vitamin B12 in check
It’s important to make sure your vitamin B12 is on point. This can be quite easily checked with your doctor. While dairy foods and eggs are generally ok, for the stricter vegetarian it may be useful to consider vitamin B12 supplementation.
Align your Iron
There are two basic types of iron in the diet:
- Haem iron
- Non-haem iron
Haem iron comes from animal products such as red meat, chicken and eggs, whereas non-haem iron can be found in fortified breakfast cereals and breads, legumes, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
The only thing to include with non-haem iron food sources are vitamin C based foods and drinks like tomato, oranges, lemons, grapefruit or even lime. This is to ensure the non-haem iron can be absorbed more readily into the body.
Zinc plays a role in metabolism by helping enzymes work effectively in the body. It also helps with the creation of protein and DNA expression. While fish and seafood such as, tuna, prawns and oysters are a useful source of zinc for the pesco-vegetarian, legumes, grains and cereals that are natural and unprocessed (that is, have the bran and germ) intact will have a higher source of zinc than refined cereals. Leafy and root vegetables are also a source of zinc. If you’re a lacto-ovo-vegetarian milk, eggs and cheeses will contain some zinc.
Secret Vegetarian cheatsheet success!
Your partner and friends will be impressed no doubt! It’s great you’ve gone the extra mile to keep abreast on vegetarianism. Not only can you now help with the meal preparation but you’ll also escape the fear of the awkward silence. Get ready to chalk the night up as another relationship maker with your new found vegetarian nutrition know-how!
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Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness.
Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness. International Athlete, Elite Performance Manager for the Philippine Volcanoes rugby teams, qualified Dietitian / Nutritionist and qualified educator. Chris Everingham combines more than 10 years of experience and education together to deliver the best strategies to grow your mindset, rewire your habits and transform your life.