Nutrition and Food

How to Start a Vegetarian Diet – Are You Up for the Challenge?

Posted on

Type “becoming a vegetarian” into your favorite search engine and you are guaranteed to see a plethora of news articles, medical journals, lifestyle blogs, and social media sites filled with suggestions.  Let’s keep it simple – condensed results for you in an easy-to-follow article:

First, let’s review the benefits.  Switching to a vegetarian lifestyle can help improve personal health , sustain the environment, support animal welfare, and save money.  Whatever you believe, there is always a reason to consider trying a vegetarian diet.

If you’re reading this, then you may have thought about becoming a vegetarian at one time.  For whatever reason you couldn’t start then, we challenge you to take the venture now!  Vegetarianism is more accessible than ever, even for the busy professional. 

Here are four steps to make it happen:

Step 1 – Let’s be honest…

Before skydiving for the first time, would you calmly hop in your car and drive to the nearest airport?  Probably not; you may consider a few things like risk, personal health and cost, prior to jumping.  Similarly, if you want to become a vegetarian, consider the following:

  1. What foods do you enjoy and what don’t you like?
  2. Are you an adventurous eater or do you to stick with what you know?
  3. Do you eat in restaurants or at home?
  4. Do you cook or buy ready-to-eat meals?

Understanding your preferences will help make this work.  For example, don’t expect to become a vegan chef overnight if you don’t like cooking.  You may enjoy some ready-to-eat options instead while you ease yourself into cooking a few meals. 

Step 2 – What do you know?

There are different types of vegetarianism.  Here are the most popular:

  • “No food with a face” – Quoted from TV character Phoebe Buffay of Friends , this type of vegetarian avoids food with a face, or simply put animal meat. The technical name is lacto-ovo vegetarian, which includes eating animal byproducts like dairy and eggs, but not the animal flesh itself. 
  • One fish, two fish… – A pescatarian fuses the health benefits of fresh fish with nutrient rich plant-based foods. A pescatarian avoids all land animals like beef and poultry and may also exclude byproducts like eggs and dairy.
  • Animal hugger – Also known as vegan. This version completely omits animal product from the diet including byproducts like eggs, dairy, honey, and foods with Red40 coloring. 
  • What the heck is a flexitarian? – A newer term, the flexitarian  consumes meat less frequently and in smaller amounts. For example, a flexitarian  may eat plant-based foods only, but will eat meat on special occasions like holidays.

Which one sounds good?  Choose the best fit for you and set it as your goal.

Step 3 – Let’s eat!

Enough thinking, let’s start eating! 

Tip 1 – Make your favorite already-vegetarian dishes:

Do you like sandwiches like grilled cheese and PB&J, veggie lasagna , rice and beans , tossed green salads and other potato, pasta and fruit salads, minestrone soup, or mac ‘n cheese?  If you do, good news!  These are already meat-free dishes!  

Tip 2 – Embrace “gateway” meat products:

While some people turn their noses up at the processed nature of faux meats, this option can be an efficient way to add protein and make a meaty dish vegetarian without losing the flavor and texture of the dish.  These products can be found in most grocery store chains, in the natural food and frozen food isles:

Tip 3 – Substitutions for Vegan-friendly dishes

Avoid dairy and eggs by using plant-based ingredients instead.  Items like applesauce, bananas, nut milks, flax seed, and coconut can be substituted while cooking and baking.  In addition to great taste, your foods may be healthier!  Check out conversion charts available online.

Step 4 - Nice to meet you!

To be a successful vegetarian, introduce yourself to new meals and ingredients.  Plant-based dishes can be delicious, easy to find, and healthy.

 

Take the Challenge

Starting a vegetarian diet can be easy to do, and can be a gradual process.  It’s helpful to have a support system in friends and family. 

To help you get started, we challenge you to take the 3-day B.Komplete Vegetarian Challenge!  All you need to do is try three breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners that fall within the type of vegetarian you want to become.  Use the recipe sources in this post or stick to your already vegetarian favorites.  Then, let us know how you did by leaving a comment below! 

Not willing to commit yet?  Try out Meatless Monday.  A now global movement, this  organization encourages people to “once a week, cut the meat.”  Their website has a vault of resources to help you commit to reducing overall consumption of meat.

 

Nutrition and Food

Organic versus Conventional – Which Should You Choose? Part Two

Posted on

Lets continue the conversation on some of the main factors that consumers like you consider when making purchases at the food store. If you didn’t read Part 1 of the series addressing the safety and cost of organic and conventional foods, you can view it here.

Nutrition

Working to improve your health through the food that you eat? Then you want to eat the MOST nutritious versions available, right? It’s more bang for your buck!  The food & nutrition industry has been testing both organic and conventional foods for many years. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a definitive answer of which type is nutritiously superior.  In the early 2000’s, you could find articles that were claiming a significant nutritional disparity between select organic and conventional foods. Only a few years later, there had been new research saying the exact opposite. In 2009, the American Society of Nutrition posted an article  concluding there is no significant difference between organic and conventional foods. Again in 2012, a hotly debated report from Stanford University stated that there is a lack of strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional foods.

 Today’s research deviates from those studies, showing that there IS a nutritional difference in some organic foods. Reports are showing up to 40% higher in antioxidant activity  in organic fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are comprised of nutrients like Vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids and minerals like selenium and the health benefits of antioxidants are evident.

 What does this mean? It’s apparent that there is more research needed.

 If good health is important to you, then we suggest continuing to choose your favorites until further solid evidence is discovered. Want better nutrition now? Remember VARIETY! Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat meats and dairy will give you a wide spectrum of your daily needed nutrients.

Environmental Impact

Soil erosion, decline in crop production, fertilizer runoff, and pesticide resistance are concerns that some take into account when deciding between organic or conventional foods. The USDA has many resources on how farmers can protect and enhance the environment but there are still problems that worry shoppers.

Scary reports of lake and river “dead zones” occasionally surface after finding considerable deterioration of wildlife and vegetation. This fuels new environmental studies to identify the true offender and will often include testing of new farming techniques and products that can help protect instead of harm.

Consider this: all types of farming impacts the surrounding environment. Organic farms can use natural fertilizers and pesticides that can cause runoff problems. However, the USDA says that organic farming differs from conventional farming because they strive to preserve natural resources and biodiversity with their farming techniques. There also are organizations like the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania that dedicate themselves to researching and testing better ways for American farmers to grow organic foods without harming the environment.

If preserving the environment is important to you, then you may want to consider choosing organic foods. Environment-friendly tip: buy local! As we mentioned in Part 1, think about supporting smaller farms that are local to your home or workplace. This reduces the need to truck food products all over the country, which can produce a considerable amount of fossil fuel emissions.

 Don’t know where to find a local farmer market? Visit here and input your zip code or download an app for your mobile device (we tried Farmstand).

So, What Should You Choose?

The bottom line is that, as a consumer, you have to decide what’s important to you. Whether you’re concerned with safety, cost, nutrition, environmental impact or something else that wasn’t mentioned, you should always choose what’s best for you and your family. Watch for new research on the areas that are important to you. And in the meantime, purchase and eat healthy food that you love!

Photo Credit:

http://abcn.ca/category/diet-exercise/

http://farmersmarketannex.com/fmablog/?p=271