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What Is a Vegetarian Diet?

What Is a Vegetarian Diet?

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    The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from animal products like meat, fish, and poultry. There are many reasons people adopt a vegetarian diet, and these include health, religion, and ethical and environmental concerns.

    Vegetarianism is becoming an increasingly popular diet as people become more aware of the impact their food choices are having on the environment.

    Types of Vegetarian Diets

    There are many types of vegetarianism, so it is good to be aware of the different approaches to a meat-free diet.

    The Most Common Vegetarian Diets

    • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: no meat, fish, or poultry but eggs and dairy products are allowed.
    • Lacto-vegetarian diet: no meat, fish, poultry, or eggs but dairy products are allowed.
    • Ovo-vegetarian diet: No meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, but eggs are allowed.
    • Pescetarian diet: No meat or poultry, but fish, eggs, and dairy foods are allowed.
    • Vegan diet: No animal products, including eggs, dairy foods, and honey, are excluded from a vegan diet.
    • Flexitarian diet: Predominantly vegetarian, though at times including some meat, fish, or poultry.

    While the most common form of vegetarianism excludes all meat, fish, and poultry, there are other ways to be a vegetarian. Working out the best fit for an individual is key to succeeding with a new diet.

    How the Vegetarian Diet Works

    Guidelines

    • Eat a range of high-fiber plant-based foods
    • Choose low-fat or skim cow’s milk products
    • Drink the recommended six to eight cups of water per day
    • Eat plenty of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables
    • Maintain a healthy sleeping schedule
    • Aim to exercise regularly

    The Diet Plan

    The vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients the body needs. However, formulating a diet plan is the best way to keep track of dietary requirements as a vegetarian.

    Protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals are the foundations of any diet.

    It can be easy to overlook vital nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, and iron with any diet. These can all be sourced from plant-based foods and are readily available in a well-planned vegetarian diet.

    Fruit and Vegetables

    A healthy vegetarian diet includes at least five servings of various fruit and vegetables per day.

    Carbohydrates

    Most meals should have a carbohydrate component. Always opt for wholegrain varieties, and try a range of foods like rice, quinoa, couscous, and pasta.

    Starchy vegetables like potatoes are also excellent sources of carbohydrates. Change up meals to make them interesting.

    Healthy Fats

    Healthy fats can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, and milk products. Be sure to include a range of fat sources throughout the day and keep an eye on quantities.

    You can also buy foods like yogurt and milk in low-fat forms.

    To obtain necessary healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids, include foods like eggs, avocado, and chia seeds in meals throughout the day.

    Protein

    Animal meat is not the only way to source essential protein.

    To obtain all twenty essential amino acids the body needs, eat plenty of legumes, especially beans, grains, and pulses.

    Eggs are also a great source of protein and healthy fatty acids.

    Cooking Oils

    When cooking, aim to use small quantities of oils and spreads, ideally those low in saturated fats.

    Olive oil is a useful option in savory cooking, and coconut oil works well for baking. These two staples are easy to find in most supermarkets.

    Hydration

    Like any diet, the vegetarian diet should include lots of fluids. Water is the healthiest way to hydrate, and it is recommended to drink roughly 6 to 8 cups per day.

    Cost

    The vegetarian diet does not have to be expensive. Utilizing local markets and buying in season can help to reduce costs.

    Often, buying bulk dried legumes like chickpeas and lentils can help cut costs. Meal planning and food preparation for the week can be a great money-saving habit.

    Setting aside time to plan and cook meals in advance can reduce the need to buy expensive convenience foods.

    Dos and Don’ts

    Do:

    • Seek low-fat dairy options
    • Source healthy fats from nuts, eggs, and avocados.
    • Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day
    • Include regular exercise in a weight loss plan
    • Prioritize foods that will provide essential nutrients like B12, calcium, and iron

    Don’t:

    • Rely on heavily processed fake-meat products
    • Miss key nutrients like vitamin B12 and Iron
    • Fail to replace animal foods (high in protein) with equivalent plant foods
    • Forget that any diet needs to be well-planned to be effective

    Sample Diet Plan

    A diet plan based on the average vegetarian diet (no meat, fish, poultry) can be as simple or complex as needed.

    You can alter this diet plan to accommodate any plant-based diet, with a few simple changes. For example, the ovo-vegetarian may wish to opt for plant-based milk like soy or oat instead of cow’s milk.

    Breakfast:

    Cinnamon oatmeal with added banana and berries. Make with low-fat milk or water.

    See Also
    avocado, broccoli and vegetables on counter

    Lunch:

    Wholemeal tortilla wrap with falafel and seasonal vegetables. Add low-fat Greek yogurt for added healthy fat.

    Dinner:

    Wild rice buddha bowl with kale, chickpeas, and avocado.

    Snacks:

    Low-fat yogurt with fruit.

    Tip: Aim to include at least five servings of fruit and vegetables in meals throughout the day.

    Health Benefits and Drawbacks of the Vegetarian Diet

    Benefits

    There are many health benefits of plant-based diets like the vegetarian diet, including lower cholesterol, lower risk of cancer, a lower BMI (body mass index) on average, and improved heart health. Vegetarianism has also been linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

    The vegetarian diet can also promote weight loss and long-term weight management.

    It is also associated with reduced environmental impact, making it a good option for those seeking to minimize their carbon footprint.

    Drawbacks

    It is possible to develop a deficiency in any poorly-planned diet. If poorly planned, the vegetarian diet can lead to certain deficiencies, like iron and vitamin B12. While it is possible to obtain all essential nutrients from a vegetarian diet, it is also essential to track nutrient intake.

    Common deficiencies include:

    • Iron
    • Vitamin B12
    • Folate

    Some vegetarians find it is a difficult diet to maintain when eating out. Be sure to research local restaurants that provide plant foods. It is always good to have reliable places to dine with a menu that caters to various diets.

    Choosing a vegetarian diet does not have to restrict dining out options, but it can if it is poorly planned.

    The Bottom Line: Is The Vegetarian Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?

    The vegetarian diet has been linked directly with weight loss. While following a healthy lifestyle overall can help you lose weight, diet is crucial.

    A well-planned vegetarian diet can stimulate weight loss and long-term weight management. Vegetarians have a lower average BMI and are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

    Disclaimer: The information on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.
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