Five Things Every Vegetarian Should Know
Nutrition Advice from Your Pawling Hannaford Dietitian
Plant-based eating is very popular and comes with many benefits. Today’s supermarket is complete with several options for vegetarians with numerous opportunities to seek vegetable-based protein and follow a balanced diet. That said, there are five diet considerations that every vegetarian should be keeping top of mind to ensure they are maintaining a healthy diet and meeting their needs.
You should seek B12.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that’s mostly found in meat and dairy foods. While vegans are at an even greater risk of developing a B12 deficiency, vegetarians are also at risk of becoming deficient and experiencing the broad number of conditions associated with lacking B12. Milk, yogurt, cheese, nutritional yeast and fortified cereals provide B12 and should be consumed regularly. While there are many supplements available, studies show that we have limited ability to absorb the vitamin via supplement. As is the case with many vitamins, our bodies prefer to consume food versus supplements.
Being vegetarian is not about avoiding meat – it’s about seeking vegetable-based protein.
Being vegetarian is not about “not eating meat,” but rather about choosing a diet based in vegetable-based protein. This shift in the lens that you view the diet through may not sound like a big deal, but it goes far toward ensuring a balanced diet rich in adequate protein. It takes a bit of work to locate the foods that will work best for you, and you will likely need to embrace new foods and cook more, but when your plant-based diet is appropriate you can safely follow it while also maintaining your overall health and wellness.
Choose a variety of plant-based options.
This brings me to this next point, which is to seek a variety of plant-based options. Conflicting messages about the amount of soy to have in your diet remain, which means that if you are having edamame, tofu or other soy-based products as part of your regular diet, then you should monitor just how much you consume. Pea protein, sunflower protein and proteins from nuts and other seeds continue to be popular and worth seeking or experimenting with.
Seek protein whenever you can.
High quality whole grain bread, pasta made from lentils, garbanzo beans or other beans, fortified cereals, and some grains like quinoa can all be sources of protein. Every bit throughout the day adds up to ensure that enough plant-based protein is consumed by the end of the day.
Keep other considerations in mind
While being vegetarian may be healthy, being vegetarian while still consuming a diet rich in sodium, unhealthy fats, and too many calories is not. It can be difficult to keep all our diet goals in mind, but it’s important for each piece of our eating “puzzle” to come together as a picture of balanced health and wellness. It’s not enough to avoid meat for dietary reasons, while still consuming a diet rich in high fat dairy products, sodium, excessive carbohydrates, and processed foods.
As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit Hannaford.com/Dietitians online for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours, or call (845) 855-0553 for more information. You can also follow me on Twitter (@AllisonStowell) or Instagram (@AllisonJStowell).
Peanut-Lime Pasta (2 Guiding Stars)
Whole-wheat spaghetti and peanuts make this dish rich in protein – and filling too! Look for a peanut butter that contains only peanuts – no added salt, sugar, or oils – for the best nutrition. For more vegetarian and vegan recipes, as well as information on the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program, please visit GuidingStars.com online.
3/4 lb. whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. snow peas
2 c. peas
1/2 c. natural peanut butter
2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. water
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 scallion, chopped
3/4 in. fresh ginger, grated
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. shelled, unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped
1. Steam vegetables until tender.
2. Puree together peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, scallion, ginger, sugar and red pepper flakes in a food processor.
3. Mix warm pasta with half of the sauce, stirring thoroughly. Add veggies and peanuts. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.