For the last four years of my life, I have dedicated my eating habits to that of a vegetarian… Meaning meat is not a part of my diet. At the beginning of this transition, I noticed my energy levels were plummeting and I was tired when I shouldn’t have been. For a while, I wasn’t sure the cause. I slept all the time and drank an even more insane amount of coffee than I already had. When I mentioned this problem to my parents, my dad informed me it was most likely due to my change in diet.
As a vegetarian, It’s easy to simply avoid meat and even easier to forget that those yellow and white potatoes, pastas, and cheeses aren’t giving your body the nutrients it needs. As my parents often remind me while I shovel Goldfish in my mouth, my body needs more nutrients. Here is a list of some things you should keep in mind while eating vegetarian:
Just like I mentioned before, not getting enough protein in your diet can have some serious side effects. Most people get their protein from meat but other sources of protein are beans, legumes, nuts, and soy products like tofu. Remember, just eating cheese will not fill this void!
2. Eat like the French
On average, the French eat their meals in 135 minutes, while Americans devour their food in about 74 minutes. Taking more time to eat your food will not have you eating less (as you’ll be able to notice as your stomach grows full sooner), but you’ll also have a greater appreciation for the taste of that food. Not to mention, eating is a great time to socialize with friends and family. Eat slow, socialize more, bloat less… It’s a win-win-win.
3. Keep your strong bones, eat foods high in calcium
Calcium is our friend. Remember those old commercials claiming milk gave you the strength of the Hulk? They aren’t totally dramatized. Okay, maybe they’re mostly dramatized, but your body does need calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are good options for gaining calcium. If you’re lactose intolerant or a vegan (remember cheese?) you can receive calcium from soy milk, tofu, soy nuts, kale, and broccoli.
4. Eat seasonally
No, I don’t mean just four times a year, that’s torture. What I mean by “eat seasonally” is to pay attention to when the fruit and vegetables you’re eating are naturally harvestable. Usually these fruits and vegetables are cheaper when they’re being harvested. Here are a few examples of fruits and vegetables that are harvested in each season:
Winter: broccoli, cabbage, kale, potatoes
Spring: carrots, kiwi, lettuce, strawberries, spinach
Summer: apples, avocados, blue/black/raspberries, cherries
Fall: celery, edamame, green beans
NOTE: Some of these delicious options fall under multiple seasons, like kale.
5. Take your vitamins
More specifically, pay attention to iron, zinc, and B12. Iron, which helps blood flow, can be found in spinach, peas, raisins, and more. Zinc helps keep your immune system functioning. It can be found in the many different beans and milk products. B12 helps with brain function AND blood flow, it is extremely important. Since it’s mostly found in animal food, vegetarians can get it from milk products, eggs (if you make that exception), and most veggie burgers.
Fiber helps with your digestive system and is usually very filling. Apples are an easy and yummy choice of fiber. There are also many fiber based cereals available like, Raisin Bran, Kashi, and, you guessed it, Fiber One.
7. Pay attention to carb intake
This is probably one of the most challenging keys to eating like a proper vegetarian. Although carbohydrates are super important for health, they’re also bad for health. The importance is to know the difference between good and bad carbs. The most important bad carbs to avoid eating are in soda, potatoes, desserts, white bread, pasta, and rice, artificial sugars, and candy. The good carbs can be found in corn, bananas, green peas, and bran cereals.
So, the next time you’re standing in front of your refrigerator wondering what you should eat, opt for something that will be more beneficial than a bag of chips, I promise your body will thank you. Now that you know how to eat like a better vegetarian, go out in the world, pet a pig, let him know he is safe and, most importantly, so is your health.