Ideas for Adding some Variety to your Vegetarian Lifestyle

When you’re planning a healthy vegetarian diet, you’re only limited by your imagination. It’s important to incorporate a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits in different meals, including seeds and nuts. Variety is the spice of life, and it will help ensure your vegetarian diet is nutrient-dense, interesting, and fun! Aim for variety, even when you serve favorite entrees over and over again, by serving different side dishes, snacks and desserts.

Be creative in planning meals. Boost your consumption of beans and vegetables by eating these foods at lunch time rather than just for dinner. Make it a goal to serve a vegetable every day for lunch and two for dinner.  Plan a meal around a vegetable. A baked potato can be a hearty entree; serve it with baked beans, a sauce of stewed tomatoes or a few tablespoons of salsa. Or make a simple meal of sautéed vegetables and pasta.
 
Try new foods often. Experiment with a variety of grains such as quinoa, couscous, bulgur, barley, and wheat berries. Try fruits and vegetables that are popular in different international cuisines, such as bok choy.  Accentuate the positive. Focus more on healthy foods that fit into a vegetarian plan instead of foods to avoid.

If you’re unsure how to include a new food into your vegetarian diet, ask the produce manager at your local grocer or health food store for ideas on how to prepare it. The internet can be a great resource for new recipe and preparation ideas.  But be sure that you’re building your menu on a strong plant food base.  Make them the core of your diet.
 
Don’t stress about getting enough protein. As long as calories are sufficient and the diet is varied, vegetarians easily meet protein needs. Grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts all provide protein. Vegetarians do not need to eat special combinations of foods to meet protein needs. However, it is important to be aware of fat. Even vegetarians can get too much fat if the diet contains large amounts of nuts, oils, processed foods, or sweets.

Is Your’s a Vegetarian family?

If you’re considering moving to a vegetarian diet as an adult, you probably want to pass on this good nutrition and improved way of eating to your family as well. In fact, it’s your responsibility as a parent to nurture your children and help them develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

But that can be hard to do, especially in a culture where our children are bombarded with messages from fast food restaurants in the media. How do you teach kids to resist the siren song of Ronald McDonald? There isn’t a plate of vegetables on the planet that’s going to look as good to them as a Happy Meal!

You have to start slowly to change not only your own eating patterns, but your family’s as well. Like any other dietary endeavor, it starts at the grocery store. Begin stocking the refrigerator with healthy snacks like apples and carrots. Exchange good, chewy brown rice for white rice and processed side dishes, which are so high in fat and sodium. Make meat portions smaller and smaller and start incorporating more vegetables and grains in your family dinners.

Don’t make changes all at once. If you do give in and stop at a fast food restaurant, get fruit or yogurt in addition to or part of that meal. Make the changes so gradual that they’ll never notice their diets are changing. Kids are usually very sympathetic about animals, and it’s not too early to talk to them about eating in a way that isn’t cruel to animals.

You’ll be doing them a favor that will last them a lifetime. With childhood obesity at epidemic levels in the U.S., you will be setting up your children for lifelong eating habits that will help ensure a long and healthy life.