Getting Necessary Nutrition from a Vegetarian Diet?
A common misconception about a vegetarian diet is that it simply cuts out the essential proteins found in meat. That is hardly the whole story. It is common knowledge that vegetarians do not eat meat, but that does not mean that they don't eat protein. While it can be more difficult for the untrained vegetarian to maintain a healthy balance of nutrition, it is not impossible. In fact, once you have learned accurate nutrition information, it may be even easier to fulfill your dietary needs on a vegetarian plan rather than a typical American diet.
Consider the Typical American Diet
The typical American home cook starts with a meat main dish in order to build their family meals. The protein is automatically included in every meal. Let's say the cook decides to use hamburger. It is versatile and easy to work with. The hamburger is quickly turned into spaghetti sauce. Now, the meal includes a somewhat fatty protein, some carbohydrates and lots of salt. While many may consider the tomato sauce to be a vegetable, it doesn't contain much nutritional value, but is high in sodium. Many cooks will add cheese on top and green beans and a piece of buttered French bread on the side. Now the meal contains something from every food group. It seems like a nutritious meal, but the carbohydrates are simple and the fat and sodium content is high. When the typical American decides not to cook, but to go out, their chances for nutrition drop even more. Few restaurants regularly serve vegetables with the high fat, high salt meals they serve. The main ingredient is almost always meat, but balance is difficult to find in a restaurant.
Consider the Typical Vegetarian Diet
Consider the same meal prepared by a vegetarian. The process as well as the focus of the meal changes completely. The starting point is no longer the protein, but the choice of what to have for dinner. Settling on spaghetti, our cook chooses fresh vegetables to make the sauce chunky. In order to ensure the protein content, black beans make their way into the mix. Add the French bread, cheese and green beans on the side, and the meal looks very similar to the first. The difference is that there is less sodium, less fat and no meat. The chunky sauce now has its focus and flavor grounded in vitamin rich vegetables instead of greasy meat. In a vegetarian restaurant, the diner will still find high fat and salt content on the menu, but they will also find more of a variety in vegetable options.
Even though it is possible to eat nutritiously whether you include or exclude meat from your diet, it can actually be easier to get balanced nutrition on a vegetarian diet. Meat can often hold the meal's focus, taking it from the importance of overall balance. Being willing to combine a wide variety of foods to achieve balanced nutrition will get you on track to a healthy eating pattern.
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