Vegetarian and vegan diet seem to be all the rage nowadays. While many Americans enjoy chicken and steak to this day, the popularity of meat-based lifestyle has gone down over the past few years.
Over 2.5 million people over the age of 55 are choosing a plant-based diet over meat and poultry. Some do it out of love for animals while others for the health benefits that come with a meat-free lifestyle.
Kathy McManus of Women’s Hospital says that research has shown benefits of vegan diet including lower cholesterol levels and reduced risks of cancer, diabetes and heart diseases which all lead to a long, healthy life.
If you’ve been thinking of making the transition to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, there are several ways you can approach it without making sudden, drastic changes.
You can start as:
- A semi-vegetarian who still eats some of the animal products such as chicken and fish while steering clear of red meat
- A pescatarian who only eats seafood while avoiding all other types of meat and poultry
- A lacto-ovo vegetarian who only eats eggs and dairy while skipping all meat, poultry and fish
- A vegan who follows the strictest form of a plant-based diet without any animal products, dairy or eggs
Watch your nutrition
Vegan diet can have its health benefits. However, it can also lack some key nutrients. Some of them include vitamin B12, iron, calcium and all eight essential amino acids that make up a complete protein.
If you’re a vegetarian, you can find most of these nutrients in eggs and dairy. But, vegans might need to consider plant-based supplements, especially for omega-3 fatty acids which are more abundant in seafood than in nuts and seeds.
Vegan can get their daily calcium intake through fortified plant-based milks, green vegetables, tofu and even fortified breakfast cereals. Fortified plant-based foods are also great source of vitamin B12 and iron, which help in keeping your blood cells healthy.
However, just because a vegan diet is healthy, doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to eat as many plant-based desserts and French fires as you want. If you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to skip foods high in sugar and saturated fats. Try to focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead.
Eating out as a vegan or vegetarian can be particularly challenging. However, doing your research before picking out a restaurant can make your life a lot easier.
You can even ask the chef to substitute tofu or beans for meat in a dish you like. And, if your options are really limited, order a few vegetarian appetizer or stick to the salad bar.