Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Day one meat free

My first day as a vegetarian was going really well ... right up to the point that I ended up in a seafood restaurant! I love seafood and also think being a piscine vegetarian is the healthiest diet. However it's not the point of this exercise ... so I'll try harder tomorrow!

As I said yesterday being vegetarian has lots of health benefits but there are a few pitfalls which you should be mindful of:

- Insufficient protein: it's easy as a meat eater to get sufficient protein but it can be difficult as a vegetarian. Protein is important for muscle repair, adrenal and thyroid function and blood sugar regulation and I try and have some protein with every meal and snack.
Here are some healthy vegetarian protein options, which are also healthy sources for meat eaters:
egg/egg whites, cottage cheese, protein powder (rice, whey, soya), tofu, seeds, nuts, nut butters, cottage cheese, quark, natural yoghurt, soy beans, quinoa, lentils and pulses.

- Too much cheese: for some reason most vegetarian meals in restaurants are laden with cheese and it's easy to end up eating it a lot as a veggie. This can mean you end up eating a lot of saturated fats and when combined with high GI carbs such as jacket potato is a serious recipe for weight gain.

- Iron: Meat is the main source of iron in the standard british diet and women in particular should be mindful of getting enough iron if they don't eat meat. Vegetarian sources include dark leafy veg, such as spinach and kale, nuts seeds, dried fruit and black strap molasses and it can also be taken as a supplement.

- Omega 3 fats: these are found in their most usable form in oily fish, so pure vegetarians (who don't want to take a fish oil supplement)should incorporate flax seeds and oils (a plant source of omega 3) into their diets.

- B vitamins, particularly b12 which is found in meat and seafood, can be low in a vegetarian diet. This group of vitamins is important for a range of functions including energy production, hormone regulation, nervous system and brain function. Vegetarian sources include eggs and dairy products for b12 and pulses and wholegrains for other b vitamins.

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