I see many vegetarians in my practice. Although I am not vegetarian I respect those that are and see it as my job to help them be responsible about being vegetarian.
This week’s LA Times Article by Jeannine Stein was a great representation of what can happen with vegetarianism gone wrong. The article Vegan But not Always Healthy showed a family who defaulted to snack foods and ate very little protein on a regular basis.
What does it mean to be a responsible vegetarian? Being diligent about getting your protein and other nutritional needs met so your health is not compromised is responsible vegetarianism.
I am not a fan of fake or processed food.Many vegetarians default to packaged soy and other protein sources. These foods contain multiple ingredients and are far from healthy.
How can you be a healthy responsible vegetarian?
- Get your protein needs met – consume organic eggs, grass-fed or European cheese, nuts/seeds, nut butters, beans, cottage or ricotta cheese and plain yogurt. A combination of these foods can easily meet your needs, which vary depending on your age, size and activity level
- Consume calcium rich foods – this can be easy to do if you are eating cottage/ricotta cheese or plain yogurt as they are high in calcium
- Consider omega 3 supplements The three omega 3’s – ALA, DHA and EPA and essential to lowering inflammation in the body and assisting with hormone balance. They also feed the brain so the rest of the body functions well. ALA can be easily met with 1 tablespoon per day of ground flax seed.? DHA and EPA can be found in fish oil supplements. If you prefer not to include these, there are vegetarian DHA supplements
- Eat your veggies (1 dark green leafy and 1 orange/yellow/red per day)
- Consume 2 servings of fruit per day
- Make sure to get your healthy fats – avocados, nuts/seeds, olive and walnut oil
- Avoid processed foods in packages with multiple ingredients
If you are vegan, it requires even more diligence and a consult with an R.D. could help prevent any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that can arise if your nutritional needs are not met.
Health is not about being vegetarian or not vegetarian. Health is consuming whole real foods that your great-grandmother would recognize. Foods that don’t have a label or less than 5 ingredients are the healthiest.
So the next time you’re at a dinner, maybe say “I’m a flexitarian.” People will wonder what you’re up to!