Lately, it seems like information on diet changes daily, and that may confuse our decisions when it comes to eating well. But, there is actually a whole lot more we know about how to eat healthy. Eating well can help us control weight, feel better, take fewer medications, improve overall health, and even reverse some chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers. A vegetarian diet is the key to healthy eating.
A vegetarian eating pattern is based on plant foods and unprocessed forms that includes whole grains, variety of vegetables, fruits, dairy or dairy alternatives, protein-rich food like beans, lentils, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds. It not only offers healthy caloric and nutrient needs, but also has many health benefits such as:
Lower risk of certain type of cancers
Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
Lower risks of some health conditions such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis
Prevent and reduce risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Reduce the risk of developing renal disease in type 2 diabetes
Decrease saturated fat intake
Improve weight management
Increase life expectancy
Reduce medication intake
In spite of many benefits that vegetarian diet can offer, many of us still have a difficult time to choose what best to eat for the benefit of our body. A survey done in Australia, on the consumption of a vegetarian diet highlights two main obstacles that prevent the survey participants from choosing vegetarian diet. One is the enjoyment in eating meat and the other is the unwillingness to change usual eating habits. Thus, the difficulty of choosing a meatless meal over a carnivorous one is a common problem for Australians, Americans, and many people in the world. This is especially true when we, Americans, have a culture of going out with friends, families and eating restaurant food. Although there are many hurdles that can prevent us from choosing a vegetarian diet, it does not mean that we cannot do it. Simply, we have the power over the desire to choose what to eat right by making small changes. For example, when we eat out, we can make a special request to substitute for meat with non-meat items, such as adding vegetables, tofu, beans, or pasta in place of meat. Here are more examples of choices that we can consider when eating out:
Request burritos or tacos with bean, rice, vegetables, and cheese without meat
Switch meaty burgers with veggie burgers or grilled Portobello mushrooms
Likewise, when eating at home, we can still enjoy meatless meals by simply changing our favorite dishes to be plant-based meals like:
Replace tofu in place of meat in chili beans
Vegetable lasagna like eggplant, tomato sauce, and/or cheese
Soy hot dog, soy-based sausage patties
Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce, etc.
Whether you decide to switch to a vegetarian diet or simply want to eat meatless meals more often, vegetarian or plant-based diet will open up a new world of wholesome foods and flavors. Being a meatless eater does not mean that we have to sacrifice the pleasure of a good meal or to have less of a good time when going out to a restaurant. Once we have developed our palate for meatless food, we will enjoy the vegetarian meals just as much as the carnivorous meals that we eat now. Except, vegetarian meals offer many benefit to our health.
Believe it or not, you can do it, and it will surprise you!
By Cammie Nguyen