When I made the decision to become vegetarian, I was afraid it would be too difficult choosing good quality foods and still have that fully satisfying feeling. It is not as difficult as you think, and there are plenty of foods to choose from, shopping doesnt have to take you all over town. Most local grocery stores will have the basics.
First you always want to make sure you are getting enough from the main food groups. There is actually a food pyramid for vegetarians to ensure that you get the adequate vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis. Here is a basic breakdown:
Whole Grains this includes whole grain breads, rice, pastas, crackers, and noodles. You should consume 6 to 12 ½ cup servings per day depending on age and calorie needs.
Legumes and Soy this includes lentils, split peas, and all soy products such as tempeh and tofu. Included are beans like kidney, garbanzo, navy and pinto. You should consume 1 to 3 ½ cup servings per day.
Fruits and Vegetables for vegetables this includes fresh greens, like collards, kale, cabbage and broccoli. Other vegetables like onions, tomatoes, squash, green beans, bell peppers, and any other vegetable in season. For fruits this can include, apples, cherries, strawberries, bananas, pineapple, peaches, and all other seasonal fruits. You should consume 6 to 9 ½ cup servings of vegetables per day and 3 to 4 ½ cup servings of fruits per day. This also includes fruit and vegetable juices.
Nuts and Seeds this includes almonds, walnuts, pecans and macadamia. Some seeds are pumpkin, flax and sunflower, you can also include nut and seed butters. Servings should be Ό cup for dry and 3 to 4 tablespoons per day of butters.
Fats and Oils this includes oils like olive, safflower, canola, sesame, and coconut. Other fats can include butter from dairy and soy spreads and margarines. Servings should be 2 to 3 tablespoons per day.
Dairy and Eggs this includes cow and goat milk, cheeses, sour cream and cottage cheese. The servings are usually 1 to 2 ½ cups of dairy. If adding eggs to your diet, 1 to 3 per week is good. You can substitute dairy for soy, rice and other fortified milks if you wish. Just make sure they have added calcium.
Sweets this should be very limited and only consume sweets 3 to 4 times per week.
Choosing from the food pyramid makes it easier than guessing and it ensures you are getting the right amount from each category. One thing you need to remember is to make sure you are getting plenty of vitamin B-12. If you are eating very little animal protein like milk or egg products you can take B-12 supplements you can find this at your local health food store. B-12 comes in tablet, capsule or liquid form, making it simple and convenient. Fortified whole grain cereals with added B-12 are also good.
Once you have made the transition and are using the food pyramid, you can feel comfortable that you are getting the necessary vitamins your body needs and at the same time living by your convictions. It is also recommended to get adequate water, eight 8 oz. glasses per day, sunlight 10 to 15 minutes per day to activate the vitamin D, daily exercise and adequate sleep at least 7 to 8 hours. This should complete your healthy new lifestyle.