What You Need To Know Before Adopting a Vegetarian Diet?!

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What You Need To Know Before Adopting a Vegetarian Diet?!

I’ll discuss in this Article what a vegetarian diet is and isn’t, what nutrients may need to be supplemented, and social factors to take into consideration before becoming vegetarian, including rude comments and eating out.

What a vegetarian diet is, and isn’t?

A vegetarian diet is one that mainly consists of plant-based material, but may include dairy and eggs. Vegetarians exclude meat, fish and fowl from their diets. This includes cattle, seafood, chicken, turkey and any other animal or instinct. As many vegetarians say, “if it had a face, it’s not okay to eat”.

Vegetarianism is often confused with pescetarianism, but the diets are not the same. Pescetarians may include fish and other sea creatures in their diets; vegetarians exclude fish and other sea creatures from their diets. It is also not the same thing as pollotarianism, which may include poultry and seafood, but exclude red meat. It is also not veganism, which is purely plant-based, and completely eliminates meat, dairy and eggs.

Why people choose a vegetarian diet?

There are many reasons why one may become interested in adopting a vegetarian lifestyle.  For some, it is for health reasons; a vegetarian diet may be lower in cholesterol, triglycerides, and saturated fats. There are some studies showing that vegetarians live longer on average than non-vegetarians. For others, it is for animal rights and welfare. Some environmentally-conscience people adopt the diet as a means to help control environmental destruction, including clear-cutting, emissions and waste. Yet for many, it is a combination of all three, or more than three factors combined.

Which Nutrients you may be neglecting with a vegetarian diet?

A vegetarian diet can be wholesome and healthy; however several things need to be taken into consideration. Vegetarian diets tend to be very low in Omega 3 and B12, so you should always try to supplement these two. You can get vegetarian DHA at many pharmacies. Eggs and dairy contain B12, but unfortunately not always enough to keep up with the demands of the human body.  Some vegetarians may also have trouble keeping up with iron, as it is most plentiful in meat, particularly red meat. The human body absorbs iron best when it is contained in meat, so you will have to increase your iron intake by about 50% if you’re getting it from plant-based foods. However, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem meeting your iron daily allowance. Legumes, such as red beans, are iron-dense, and many vegetarians consider legumes their best food friend.

Overall, a well-planned, balanced, supplemented vegetarian diet can be extremely healthful, and help you to achieve your health goals. It is endorsed by most dietetic organizations and medical organizations.

Social factors to take into consideration when turning into a veggie…

Adopting a vegetarian diet may be difficult for you already without input from other people. Some people are, unfortunately, not very tolerant of lifestyles that differ from their own, as it may be seen as a threat to what their own ego values. Some people may have guilty feelings about eating meat, and when you mention you don’t, automatically become defensive as if you’re suggesting they don’t either. It’s a defense mechanism, and unfortunately you cannot do much about this except explain calmly that it’s your choice and you’re not forcing anyone to adopt the lifestyle that you’ve just adopted.

Others will go out of their way in an attempt to get you to give up the diet. They may constantly and without solicitation or provocation tell you something along the lines of “in the bible, God said meat-eating was a good thing” or “you cannot get all of your nutrients from a vegetarian diet” to even “animals on factory farms aren’t treated that badly!” Some people may genuinely just not know that a vegetarian diet can be healthy, or that animals on factory farms experience cruelty, and they think reminding you of this is in your best interest. However, there are also others that seek to control their environment; everyone must conform to their wishes and desires or it is seen as some attack on them. There isn’t much you can do about such controlling people except put your foot down and tell them their unsolicited intrusion is rude and not welcomed.

You will also need to plan ahead if you want to eat out.

Most dishes, unless you’re eating at a vegetarian restaurant, contain meat in them. Most restaurants have some vegetarian options, but not all do, and what choices they do have tend to be limited. You can ask the chef to cook you up a vegetarian meal to your liking, but this is not always an option. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and East Asian restaurants tend to have a lot more vegetarian choices than others.

If you’re eating at someone’s home as a guest, you may have to let them know that you do not eat meat. Do not expect them to cook you something vegetarian though, as they may not know how to; instead, offer to bring a vegetarian dish of your own.

Marc Dressen, MSc
Personal Trainer in London

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