Vegetarian diets are full of fiber, nutrients and much more, but it is also important to watch what you are eating. I listed a few tips for new vegetarians below to kick-start your new diet.
- Look for hidden additives: there are many additives that are added to products that come from animals, such as gelatin. Chicken stock is also added to many soups and bacon in some dressings in restaurants.
- Don’t label yourself: it is okay not to label yourself until you get used to eating a vegetarian diet. It is easy to accidentally eat meat when you first start and there is no reason to be hard on yourself when accidents like that happen.
- Experiment and try new things: There are so many vegetables and fruits to try that have different nutrients to enhance your diet. The different colors can give you hints as to what vitamins it contains. For example, carrots are orange because they have beta-carotene. Make a goal to try a different fruit or vegetable each week!
- Don’t rely on meat substitutes: Yes, they are fun and easy to eat, but they should not be a staple in your diet. They are processed, so it is important to read the ingredient label when you do eat them. Many meat substitutes contain soy, which is one of the most genetically modified crops in the United States. Try to purchase items that state “non-GMO.” They also contain high amounts of sodium to help preserve the food and enhance the taste. Most Americans already contain too much sodium, so it is ideal to read the label and choose items that are low in sodium.
- Take a B12 supplement: Vegetarian diets do contain most vitamins and minerals, however, B12 can only be found in animal products. If you are avoiding eggs and dairy products, it is extremely important to take a B12 supplement. Some cereals, bread, and meat substitutes are fortified with B12. This vitamin plays a role in the function of the brain and nervous system as well as cell, fatty acid, and amino acid metabolism. Low levels of this vitamin can cause anemia and nervous system damage.
- Natural protein: as a new vegetarian it is important to know that people will commonly ask you where you are getting your protein. So read about it, so you have a good answer because it gets very aggravating after a while. You can get protein from nuts, beans, quinoa, and much more! You can read more about complete proteins and the vegetarian diet HERE.