Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthier?
Well there’s a question that can’t be answered in one word! There are multiple reasons people choose a vegetarian diet, whether it’s for religious, ethical or health reasons – or often after watching a tv documentary on meat showing the ‘scary’ side of it.
When it comes to your health and lifestyle, the best diet is the one you can stick to and enjoy. When it comes to meat I personally believe a lot of people who are regular meat eaters could do with a little less and some more plant-based foods, as well as vegetarians considering having the odd piece of meat to complement their diet.
So making a vegetarian diet healthier follows the same principles I would suggest to a meat eater – eat more natural foods over processed. The majority of people could do with eating more veggies and, funnily enough, this includes vegetarians. It’s an easy accident to cut out meat and swap it for processed versions of the same alternative, for example “meat free chicken” – in this example you could have swapped a quality food for a poor quality one. Have a look at the ingredients of a Quorn product then have a look at the ingredients of an organic chicken breast. Of course this works both ways; cheap sausages are a very unhealthy option compared to pure natural quinoa.
Another common trait where people’s diets may lose a good balance can be missing out on complete proteins, especially if a large quantity of your protein used to come from animal products. Protein is an important nutrient as it builds the cells in your body – not just muscles, like many may think. Therefore it is important to add in the plant-based options and a wide range of them to allow your body to function properly. Nuts, seeds, eggs, lentils quinoa, beans, legumes and fish are fantastic sources and are also a great alternative for meat eaters to include in their daily meals.
Another great thing I hear of regularly is the ‘cheesy option’ which is where every meal is covered in cheese – which I get, as cheese tastes amazing and in small amounts cheese is fine – however if you are looking for a balanced meal overloading on this lovely treat can increase your fats to an unhealthy level.
If you want to go vegetarian for weight loss (and as I stated earlier the best diet is the one you can sustain), then if meat-free works for you fantastic, stick with it. A vegetarian diet for weight loss works in the same manner as all others, by a calorie deficit. Meat can be high in calories and reducing this and including more vegetables and plant-based proteins can be a winner for you. This will work if you don’t end up swapping it for giant pasta bowls covered in cheese or keep the old snacking habits of crisps, chocolate, cakes and biscuits, as these are all meat-free but will not help you on your goal to a slimmer waistline.
So yes, a vegetarian diet can be healthy if you choose natural foods over processed, eat plenty of the green stuff and are active – these being the same recommendations I would suggest to anyone looking for a healthier lifestyle.