Living Vegetarian For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Switching to a vegetarian lifestyle offers benefits to your health, animals, and the environment. Ensure success by easing into a meat-free way of life, planning your vegetarian diet, and making tasty meatless meals at home.

Tips for planning vegetarian diets

If you’re considering a vegetarian lifestyle, get individualized advice from a registered dietitian who’s knowledgeable about vegetarian diets. And whether vegetarianism is new to you or you’ve been meat-free for years, keep these general guidelines in mind:

  • Eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts, and get enough calories to meet your energy needs.

  • Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as broccoli, collards, kale, fortified orange juice, nonfat cow’s milk or fortified soy or rice milk, almond butter, or sesame tahini.

  • Include daily servings of omega-3 fats, such as flaxseed, soybean or canola oils, walnuts, or ground flaxseeds.

  • Get enough vitamin D through sun exposure, eating fortified foods, or taking a supplement.

  • Include daily servings of vitamin B12 from such sources as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast, fortified plant milk or plant-based yogurt, nonfat cow’s milk or yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, or a B12 supplement.

  • Limit sweets and alcohol to ensure that you have enough room in your diet for foods containing essential nutrients.

Quick and easy meatless meals

Great-tasting, health-supporting vegetarian meals can be simple to make. Some favorite dishes have always been meatless, but you can omit the meat from even the most carnivore-friendly meals to come up with new vegetarian classics. Try some of these:

  • Bean burrito with steamed broccoli and fresh fruit salad

  • Black bean soup topped with minced onions, French bread rounds with pesto, chopped green salad, and a slice of cantaloupe

  • Cheese quesadilla, steamed mixed vegetables, brown rice, and apple slices

  • Cooked oatmeal with almonds and cinnamon, orange wedges, and black coffee

  • Hummus with toasted pita points, tomato and basil salad, and rice pudding topped with chopped walnuts

  • Lentil soup, carrot sticks, and a small green salad

  • Roasted vegetable pizza, home fries, and vinaigrette slaw

  • Vegetarian chili, cornbread, spinach salad, and a baked apple

  • Whole-wheat rotini pasta with marinara sauce, sautéed spinach, and a garlic roll

Simple recipe substitutions for vegetarians

If you’re a vegetarian, you probably know exactly how to eliminate meat from your diet. But if you want to cut back on other animal products — like eggs and dairy — you may be at a loss when it comes to appropriate recipe substitutions. Try these clever tricks for replacing animal products in your favorite recipes:

  • Use half of a mashed, ripe banana to replace one whole egg in recipes for pancakes, muffins, and quick breads.

  • Replace cow’s milk with equal amounts of soymilk or rice milk in puddings, smoothies, and cream soups.

  • Instead of beef broth or chicken broth, use vegetable broth in soups, casseroles, and pilafs.

  • Use plant-based or veggie crumbles in place of ground beef in taco and burrito fillings and spaghetti sauce.
  • Mash a block of tofu and mix it with a few teaspoons of lemon juice. Use this mixture in place of ricotta cheese or cottage cheese in lasagna, stuffed shells, and manicotti.

  • Replace hard-boiled eggs with diced tofu when you make your favorite egg salad sandwich filling.

Easing the transition to a vegetarian lifestyle

Switching to a meatless diet can be difficult if you’ve been raised with typical Western eating habits. Becoming a vegetarian is rewarding, so hang in there! As you strive for the vegetarian ideal, gradually cut meat out of your life, and use these tips to ease the transition:

  • Get educated. Read books, attend lectures and cooking demonstrations, and talk with experienced vegetarians for tips on making the switch.

  • Set realistic expectations. Mastering new skills and changing long-standing habits take time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you experience setbacks now and then.

  • Keep meals simple. The best recipes use short lists of familiar, easy-to-find ingredients and require no more than basic cooking skills.

  • Be low-key about your choice to go vegetarian. Explain your rationale to adults and older children who ask, but let others decide for themselves what they will and won’t eat.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Suzanne Havala Hobbs, DrPH, MS, RD, a vegetarian for more than 30 years, is a registered and licensed dietitian, an editorial board member for Vegetarian Times magazine, and a nationally recognized author on issues relating to food, nutrition, and health policy. She is also a clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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