The V Word

peas-161638_640 First of all,  let’s set a rough definition of a vegetarian diet.

There are a few different types of vegetarians (and the list of specifics seems to grow every day!). The standards are lacto-ovo (eggs and milk), lacto (milk products), vegan (someone who avoids animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin, leather etc.)

Under each of these headings, there are many different subsets such as raw food vegans.

The reasons for the lifestyle and dietary choices of vegetarians varies as widely as the people themselves.

If you might be considering trying a vegetarian diet, or even just a few meatless meals, here are some things you might like to consider:

1) People who avoid animal products (even just for part of the day) often have much lower rates of obesity. The diet is also associated with reduced risk of type II diabetes, lower body mass index (BMI) and lower incidents of heart disease and colon cancer.

2) Much like a standard meat heavy diet, the vegan food world has its fair share of flashy, overpriced junk food. But, with a little planning and prep, a vegetarian diet can be incredibly budget friendly. A diet centered around grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds is usually significantly cheaper than the meat alternatives. Buying seasonal produce or growing your own vegetables is also another way to save some money.

3) I promise you’ll get enough protein. It’s very easy to get more than enough protein on a healthy vegan diet. There are many vegan athletes and weightlifters who can prove that. According to the standard diet guidelines, a 140-pound woman should have 50 grams of protein a day. In vegan terms that amounts to a cup each of cooked spinach (5  grams), half of a cup of cooked lentils (9 grams), 1 cup of soy milk (8 grams) and ¾ a cup of tempeh (30 grams). That’s not even including the various other fruits, vegetables and grains you may include in your day.

4) It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. People are often put off of the vegetarian diet by the perception that vegans are all fundamentalists who will cover you in red paint the instant you put a piece of cheese in your mouth. While the reasons for the choices vary, most vegetarians can understand that it’s a gradual process for most people. I completely agree, giving up certain comfort foods is HARD. But, hopefully on this site (and many like it), you can gather recipes to replace your old favorites. Start with a Meatless Monday. Giving up meat even once or twice a week can have many of the same benefits to your health and environment as giving up meat altogether.. and who knows? One day might just lead to two days, or seven or 365.

Want to know more?

A short guide to vegan protein

Common vegan baking substitutions and hints

More vegan resources