There are plenty of reasons to switch to a vegetarian diet – it’s better for the environment, for your health and for your wallet. But it can be tough if you’re used to eating meat and fish to make the change to a primarily plant-based diet, especially when it comes to getting the right nutrients. You don’t want to become deficient in anything, so knowing which foods will give you the right vitamins and minerals will help to ensure good health. These are the main things to consider when becoming vegetarian.
Make sure you get your protein and iron
You might be concerned about protein and iron as a veggie, but there’s no need to be – you can get all the nutrients you need from a balanced vegetarian diet. Non-meat sources of protein include tofu and meat replacements, as well as nuts, pulses and leafy greens. You get the added benefit of healthy fats with the likes of almonds, cashews and pistachios. Dairy also has a good amount of protein in it, such as yoghurt, milk and cheese.
Add in Vitamin D and B12
Vitamin D plays an important role in the body, supporting your immune system defenses, muscle and bone health, and helping with calcium absorption. But in a diet sense, you’re more likely to get it from meat, oily fish and egg yolks. While the latter will still be a part of your diet, it’s a good idea to add in vitamin D supplements to ensure you’re getting the right amount of this essential nutrient every day.
The same can be said of Vitamin B12, which can be tricky to get without meat in your diet – a supplement can help ensure you’re not lacking in the key nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Check your ingredients
You might not be used to checking ingredient labels on the food you eat, but as a vegetarian, it should become part of your shopping routine – at least until you’re used to which foods are safe for you to eat. For example, sauces like Worcestershire sauce can include anchovies and certain desserts or sweets can include gelatin or other animal fats. These are used to alter the consistency, such as giving a jelly-like texture. If you’re unsure, or if the product doesn’t have a vegetarian-friendly label, check the ingredients to be sure.
Experiment with replacements
Just because you’re not eating meat or fish anymore doesn’t mean you have to suffer with a plate full of side dishes for the rest of your life – there are some great meat replacements on the market now to experiment with.
Brands such as Quorn and Linda McCartney have replacements for everything from mince and chicken pieces to pies and sausages, but you can also try cooking with tofu or tempeh which can be marinated and added to dishes for a protein-rich meal that’s delicious. So, whether you’re cooking spaghetti Bolognese, a Sunday roast or a full English breakfast, you can still enjoy your favorite meals, meat-free.