October is Vegetarian Awareness Month! People adopt a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons including health, religious observance or moral and ethical concerns. Regardless of the motivation, there are numerous health benefits to adopting a plant-based (or even a mostly plant-based) diet!
There is more than one way to practice a vegetarian diet, each is distinguished by what is or is not included:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: includes dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.) and eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarian: includes dairy products, but no eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarian: includes eggs, but no dairy products.
- Pesci-vegetarian: includes fish.
- Semi-vegetarian: includes both fish and poultry.
- Vegan: abstains from all animal products and only includes food from plant sources. No eggs, dairy products or honey are consumed.
Why Celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month?
Have you wondered if a vegetarian diet offers benefits for you? Here are some of the benefits:
Plant-based diets are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other health-promoting phytonutrients. Research suggests that plant-based diets are associated with decreased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- More Bang For The Buck!
Meat is often the most expensive item on the average grocery list. Plant sources of protein like beans are readily available, shelf stable, versatile and cheap. Plus they provide fiber and other phytonutrients.
Far from being restrictive and humdrum, Plant based meals are full of antioxidant rich colors, flavors and textures. If you are new to preparing plant-based meals, start small and gradually add to your recipe repertoire. Even if you don’t adopt a completely plant-based eating pattern, Meatless Mondays or similar will encourage you to eat more plant foods which is something that even a dedicated meat eater can benefit from. Experiment with new foods and spices and don’t forget about nuts and whole grains.
- A Few Things To Keep In Mind…
The absence of animal products from the diet does not in itself result in a healthy diet. It is still very important to focus on what you actually include. Remember to include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds.
- Variety Matters! It is important to consume a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure you get important vitamins and minerals from your food. It is also important to consume a variety of plant protein sources. There are numerous “fake meats”, veggie burgers and other convenience products available which is great for convenience but they are often very high in sodium, fat or sugar just like any other convenience product. One more thing to keep in mind is that is important to consume a variety of calcium foods, especially if you avoid dairy, to ensure your bones are being taken care of. Bonus! All of that variety keeps it interesting!