People decide to become vegetarians for different reasons. Some do it because they believe that will improve their health, some avoid animal products so they can lose weight, and some go vegetarian as a protest against animal cruelty.
Whatever the reason is, vegetarianism is a legitimate lifestyle and it does take some getting used to. Before turning vegetarian, it is important to understand what vegetarianism really is and how to organize the diet in order to stay healthy while avoiding animal-based foods.
Types of vegetarians
Vegetarianism is a term used to describe a lifestyle that is based on a diet free from animal products. There are different types of vegetarianism. The strictest one is veganism. Vegans do not eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, not even honey. Their diet consists only of plant-based foods, like vegetables, fruit, grains, seeds, nuts and others.
Lacto vegetarians include dairy products like milk, cheese, cream, butter, yogurt and ice cream, but they still avoid meat, fish and eggs.
Ovo vegetarians eat eggs but do not eat meat, fish and dairy, while lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat or fish but allow themselves dairy and eggs.
There is also the so-called pesco vegetarianism, which allows fish and seafood, but most vegetarians do not recognize this as a legitimate vegetarian lifestyle.
After deciding which type of vegetarian diet and lifestyle is the most appropriate individually, a person who wants to become a vegetarian should first see a doctor and have a thorough check-up. In case there are no health problems or nutrient deficiencies, the new lifestyle can start.
There are certain nutrients, like protein, iron, vitamin B complex and several more, that may be lacking in the vegetarian diet. Those nutrients need to be replaced with adequate plant-based sources. For example, the protein from meat should be replaced with protein from legumes, especially soy and beans.
Iron found in plants is less absorbed in the human organism than the one found in meat, which means that a vegetarian should increase the consumption of plant sources of iron in order to meet the recommended daily intake of this nutrient.
It may seem that the vegetarians do not enjoy their food and that their diet is rather dull, but this is certainly not true. Because their food is somewhat limited, they have to combine and improvise, enjoying in delicious and nutritious recipes.
In addition, meat can be replaced with alternative food types. That way vegetarians can enjoy burgers, soups and casseroles that are both healthy and delicious. For example, a veggie burger can be made with ground soy, rice, mashed vegetables, beans, lentils or nuts.
There are also ready-made vegetarian dishes that are available in larger grocery stores and supermarkets, and most restaurants offer one or more vegetarian dishes on their menu.