No, not all vegetarians are healthy, just like not all meat-lovers are a steak knife away from a heart attack. However, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there are definitely advantages to vegetarianism, such as limited risks of:
- Heart disease
- Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers
Why? A healthy vegetarian diet is typically lower in fat and higher in fiber. In addition, a meat-free approach to eating often leads to particularly healthful behaviors that result in a more functional and fitter body.
This said, there are actually a few ways that you can reap the health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle without actually giving up that steak. Or the bacon. Or the…you get the idea.
Spice Your Plate Up
Spices and herbs can be your body’s best friend. Why? They’re an ideal way to add flavor to dishes with no additional fat and calories. By varying your spices, you can turn a so-so dish into one that’s so unique and so flavorful that you’ll actually be excited to eat the healthy stuff on your plate. Even the broccoli.
Many spices and herbs also have nutritional value, such as fennel seeds, which aid in digestion, and ginger, which has significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Plants Have Protein, Too
Again, you don’t have to give up meat. But, why not try plant-based proteins, too, such as beans – they not only are high in fiber and protein, but they’re also great sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support a healthy body.
Nuts are also great sources of protein. Just be sure to go easy on the portion sizes, since nuts tend to have higher fat and calorie counts.
Veggies, Veggies & More Veggies
Did you happen to notice the “Veg” in “vegetarian?” While it’s true you that could eat cookies all day long and technically be a vegetarian (even a vegan, actually), the very word “vegetarian” connotes the idea of eating vegetables. Since vegetarians can’t eat meat, they often substitute plenty of fresh, flavorful veggies as their main course.
You already know that vegetables are filled with vital nutrients and such that your body cannot function its best without. So why not eat more of them? Or, at the very least, try to at least get in more servings every day. How? Try to add at least two veggies to every dish.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to be a truly healthful vegetarian if you eat out all the time – you can never be 100% sure that some meat-based or processed product hasn’t found its way into your food. Plus, when you become a vegetarian, you tend to become more conscious of what you’re putting into your body. As a result, many vegetarians find themselves cooking more, since it gives them more control over what’s in their food.
Plus, experts agree that cooking more can help you control the extra fat and calories from restaurant food – because you can’t really control that, either.