A healthy vegetarian-friendly plant-based diet plan consists of grains, nuts, pulses, seeds, vegetables, and fruits, and in some cases, dairy products, such as cheese (made using vegetable rennet) and eggs. Unlike a normal diet, a vegetarian diet contains less saturated fat, fiber, folate, and antioxidants, which are all great for the human body.
Aside from the moral and environmental advantages of cutting meat from your regime, a carefully-planned vegetarian diet may reduce your risk of chronic disease, promote weight loss, and so much more. This article provides a beginner’s guide to a well-planned vegetarian diet, including a basic meal program for one week. Let’s get started, shall we?
Closer Look at a Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet requires not consuming meat, fish, as well as poultry, but you knew that already. What you may not know is that there are many forms of vegetarianism, each of which varies in their limitations.
The most common types include:
- Lacto-Vegetarian Diet: Removes meat, poultry, fish, and eggs but allows dairy products.
- Vegan Diet: Removes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and other animal-derived products like honey.
- Pescatarian Diet: Removes meat and poultry but allows fish, dairy products, and eggs.
- Ovo-Vegetarian Diet: Removes meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products but allows eggs.
- Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian Diet: Removes meat, poultry, fish, but allows eggs and dairy products.
- Flexitarian Diet: Essentially, a vegetarian diet that allows occasional meat, fish, or poultry.
Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian diets are associated with several health benefits. Some of which include:
- Weight Loss: Shifting to a vegetarian diet may help you lose weight, at least in the short-term.
- Cholesterol: A systematic review published in 2015 revealed that people who follow a vegetarian regime are likely to have lower cholesterol levels.
- Heart Health: A 2014 study found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in people who switched to a vegetarian diet.
- Diabetes: People who follow a vegetarian diet may be less likely to have type 2 diabetes. One reason for this is the higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and more moderate consumption of unhealthy fats.
Foods to Eat
A vegetarian diet should incorporate an assorted mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats, as well as proteins. To replace the protein provided by meat, consider including a variety of protein-rich plant foods, such as nuts, legumes, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and seitan.
A few healthy foods to eat when following a vegetarian diet are:
- Vegetables: Asparagus, leafy greens, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots
- Fruits: Bananas, pears, apples, oranges, berries, melons, peaches
- Nuts: Walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, cashews
- Proteins: Tofu, tempeh, natto, seitan, eggs, dairy products
- Grains: Barley, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas.
- Seeds: Chia, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds
- Healthy Fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados
Foods to Avoid
Depending on your personal preferences, you may have to stay away from the following foods:
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey
- Meat: Beef and pork
- Fish and Shellfish: This limitation does not apply to pescatarians.
- Meat-Based Constituents: Lard, gelatin, isinglass, carmine, oleic acid and suet
- Eggs: This restriction applies to lacto-vegetarians and vegans
- Dairy Products: This restriction on milk, cheese, and yogurt applies to vegans and ovo-vegetarians.
My Meal Plan
To help get you started on your vegetarian journey, we’ve put together a one-week meal plan for a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet.
- Breakfast – Oatmeal with fruit and flaxseeds
- Lunch – Grilled veggie and hummus wrap with sweet potato fries
- Dinner – Tofu banh mi sandwich with pickled slaw
- Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic
- Lunch – Zucchini boats filled with veggies and feta with tomato soup
- Dinner – Chickpea curry with basmati rice
- Breakfast – Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds
- Lunch – Farro salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and feta with spiced lentil soup
- Dinner – Eggplant parmesan with a salad
- Breakfast – Tofu scramble with onions, sauteed peppers, and spinach
- Lunch – Burrito bowl with rice, avocado, beans, veggies, and salsa
- Dinner – Vegetable paella with a salad
- Breakfast – Whole-wheat toast with avocado and nutritional yeast
- Lunch – Marinated tofu pita pocket with Greek salad
- Dinner – Quinoa-black-bean meatballs with zucchini noodles
- Breakfast – Smoothie of berries, kale, nut butter, bananas, and almond milk
- Lunch – Red lentil veggie burger with avocado salad
- Dinner – Flatbread with grilled garden vegetables and pesto
- Breakfast – Sweet potato hash and kale
- Lunch – Bell peppers filled with tempeh with zucchini fritters
- Dinner – Black bean tacos with cauliflower rice
A well-balanced vegetarian diet with nutritious foods such as grains, healthy fats, and plant-based protein may offer numerous health benefits; however, it may raise your risk of nutritional deficiencies if inadequately planned. Be sure to pay special attention to a few essential nutrients and round out your diet with a mixture of healthy foods. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the advantages of vegetarianism while minimizing the side effects.