Growing up becoming a vegetarian always interested me. I have never been one who really liked meat; I know it’s weird. In college I would frequently make a meal without meat and my roommates would look at me weird. I would never think twice about a meatless meal. October is Vegetarian Awareness Month and I challenge you to have a meatless meal once a week.
There are a variety of types of vegetarians. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat fruit, vegetables, dairy and eggs only excluding meat. Lacto-vegetarians do not eat any meat or eggs, but do consume dairy. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but not dairy product and meat. Vegans exclude all animal products including honey, gelatin and dairy products. Fruitarians only eat fruit, nut and seeds. Pescetarians avoid meat, but eat seafood. Flexitarians only eat meat on occasion.
Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol reducing the risk of developing heart disease. The vegetarian diet can also be lower in iron, calcium, protein, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with a variety of foods a vegetarian diet can meet all the recommendations of these nutrients.
Iron is essential for healthy red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body. Plant sources of iron, non-heme iron, are harder to absorb than heme-iron, which is found in meat. Non-meat sources of iron are iron-fortified breakfast cereal, cooked spinach, chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, broccoli and blackstrap molasses. Iron is more readily absorbed when consumed with vitamin C. Foods high in vitamin C are strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli.
Calcium is important to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Most American’s get their calcium from milk and dairy products, which presents a problem in Americans following a vegan, fruitarians or ovo-vegetarian diet. Sources of calcium are calcium fortified orange juice and green leafy vegetables like turnip greens, collard greens, kale and broccoli.
Protein is important for healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Good sources of protein are nuts, nut butters, beans, seed, lentils and whole grains. Quinoa, a whole grain, has all the essential amino acids making it one of few plant-based complete proteins.
Vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in animal products, but can be found in fortified cereals.
Zinc is essential component of many enzymes and plays a roll in cell division and the formation of protein. Zinc can be found in fortified cereals, dried beans, nuts and whole grains.
Omega-3 fatty acid which is important in a heart healthy diet is found in fish and eggs. Other sources of omga-3 fatty acids are canola oil, walnuts and ground flaxseeds.
With a diet in a variety of fruits and vegetables a vegetarian diet can meet all of your dietary recommendations. Here is one of my favorite meatless recipes:
Black Bean and Corn Quinoa
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
1 tsp Food Club Canola Oil(NuVal 24)
1 onion, chopped (NuVal score 93)
3 garlic cloves, minced (NuVal score 91)
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa (NuVal score 91)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp Food Club Salt
1/4 tsp Food Club Ground Black Pepper
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (NuVal score 91)
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (NuVal score 99)
1 avocado, diced (NuVal score 89)
In a saucepan, over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and garlic; sauté until lightly browned. Mix quinoa into saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in corn and black beans; cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and avocado.
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 398, Fat: 9 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 297 mg, Carbohydrates: 64 g, Fiber: 15 g, Protein: 20 g