A vegetarian diet isn’t necessarily healthier than that of a meat eater. Eating processed vegetarian food and snacks low in nutritional value may result in nutrient deficiencies and negate the health benefits generally associated with being vegetarian.
Whether you are thinking of becoming a vegetarian or are already eating a plant-based diet, you may want to consider some of the key priorities for ensuring you get your foundations right:
B12 is an essential vitamin which helps to keep your energy levels up and a healthy level of red blood cells. It is primarily found in animal protein foods so get your intake through eggs, dairy and soy or consider a supplement if you are not eating these foods regularly. As a vegetarian it would be helpful to check your levels of B12 at least once a year.
You don’t need to rely on meat substitute foods for your protein. Incorporate a variety of beans, lentils, organic soy, dairy, nuts, seeds and quinoa into your cooking for variety and to also improve your intake of other nutrients such as B vitamins and fibre.
These are essential fatty acids that you need to get from your diet to help manage inflammation. If you do eat fish, aim to eat three portions of oily fish a week to meet your needs, but if you prefer plant based sources ensure you regularly add in the following foods: walnuts, hemp seeds, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil and chia seeds.
Iron is an essential mineral involved in many of the body’s functions and is particularly important for energy production. Meat is rich in iron but there are plenty of plant foods that are very good sources including lentils, beans, soy, leafy greens and wholegrains contain good levels too.
What to do next
If you want to make sure you are covering all your bases on a vegetarian diet, book in for a consultation:
1) to review what you are eating
2) to take away food recommendations targeted to your individual health needs
3) to have recipes provided that are tailored to your food likes, nutritional needs and lifestyle
4) get practical advice on food preparation and how to fit it into your routine
5) plus you can also opt for functional testing to check nutrient levels in order to establish your baseline, before moving forward with your new plan.