The challenges of a vegetarian diet
Being a vegetarian has several advantages both from a health and environmental perspective. However, the perceived challenges of being a vegetarian sometimes discourage people from making the switch. These so-called ‘concerns’ are easy to overcome and should not stand in the way of choosing to become vegetarian.
The most common concerns about a vegetarian diet are:
Concern: You can’t get enough protein
Reality: As long as you eat beans, legumes, nuts, seed, tofu or eggs you can get enough protein. You may be surprised to learn that vegetables have protein too! You can read more about this here.
Concern: You can’t get enough calcium
Reality: Plants contain calcium too! Broccoli, kale and Swiss chard all have calcium. As do black beans, chickpeas and soybeans. Most non-dairy beverages are fortified so read labels to see which ones are good sources of calcium.
Concern: You can’t get enough iron
Reality: Plant-based iron is more difficult for the body to absorb than animal-based iron. However, if you add some Vitamin C (think: oranges) when you are eating iron-rich food you will increase absorption. Some options include lentils, pumpkin seeds and lima beans.
Concern: You can’t get enough Vitamin B12
Reality: Vitamin B12 is very important and it may be difficult to get on a plant-based diet since it is mainly found in animal products. However, more and more products are fortified these days so check cereal and non-dairy beverage labels to see which ones contain Vitamin B12. If your favourite brands do not contain any, consider taking a supplement. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
Concern: You can’t eat out
Reality: Think all you’ll be eating in restaurants is salad and french fries?? Maybe if you go to a steakhouse you will but if you choose from the multicultural offerings in your city you can have black bean burritos at the Mexican restaurant, tofu stir fry at the Chinese restaurant, vegetable soba at the Japanese restaurant, hummous and falafel at the Middle Eastern restaurant, chickpeas and lentils at the Ethiopian restaurant…… I could go on but you can see how many options there are. Don’t forget the usual standby – pizza and pasta.
Concern: You have to spend hours in the kitchen prepping
Reality: Making meals from scratch does take some time but there are lots of ways to make meal preparation faster and easier. Plan your weekly meals before you go grocery shopping, buy canned beans and canned tomatoes, pick one day per weekend to chop and dice to get ready for the week ahead.
Concern: All you eat is tofu and salad
Reality: Tofu and salad can both be part of a healthy vegetarian diet. But, as you can see there is so much more to eat. Right?
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