Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, and it is also one of the easiest diseases to prevent with diet and lifestyle changes. A vegetarian diet rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds, along with small amounts of dairy products and eggs is key to the prevention of chronic disease!
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What is a Vegetarian Diet?
A vegetarian diet is a meat-free and seafood-free diet that revolves around plant foods, and includes dairy products and eggs. On a vegetarian diet, there are ample foods to choose from, and no concerns about missing nutrients. A vegetarian diet revolves around legumes like black beans, lentils, and chickpeas; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, and wheat (if gluten is not a concern); starchy and non-starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, green beans, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, kale, arugula, and lettuce. Nuts and seeds provide essential fats, protein, and vitamin E; and healthy oils like olive oil provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and key anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Dairy products provide protein, fats, minerals, and beneficial probiotics (fermented products like kefir and yogurt). It is best to focus on fermented and cultured dairy like cultured cream cheese, plain yogurt, kefir, and soft and hard cheeses. These will be much lower in lactose (milk sugar) and easier to digest.
Foods excluded from a Vegetarian Diet:
- All meats and poultry, as well as wild game (pork, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, elk, etc)
- Fish and seafood
Foods you can eat on a Vegetarian Diet:
- Replace meat and seafood with legumes and whole grains, including organic tempeh and tofu
- Nuts and seeds, bean burgers or nut burgers
- Focus on fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes
- Dairy products, including cheese, milk, butter, and yogurt
- Eggs, including duck eggs and chicken eggs
What are the Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet?
A vegetarian diet contains all of the nutrient one needs; eggs and dairy provide the needed vitamin B12 that is deficient in a full plant-based vegan diet, and whole plant foods offer the fiber, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that the human body needs for optimal health. A vegetarian diet that revolves around whole plant foods is rich in potassium, plant phytochemicals, detoxification nutrients, and fibers and starches that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut.
If you experience any of these health conditions, then a Vegetarian diet may benefit you:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Cancer or genetic risk of cancer
Vegetarian Diet Benefits:
- High in fiber
- Helps to diversify your microbiome
- High in plant phytochemicals
- High in potassium
- High in calcium
- Reduction in all-cause disease mortality
- Increase quality of life
- Increase longevity
- Contains vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy
What can I eat on a Vegetarian Diet?
Focus on revolving your meals and snacks around whole plant foods. This will give you the full health benefits of this diet. Scrambled Eggs and a Green Smoothie can create a very quick and nutritious vegetarian breakfast. Make a batch of high-fiber Flax Muffins to have on hand for busy mornings. These Buckwheat-Hazelnut Pancakes are a nutritious treat on a lazy weekend morning. This bright and beautiful Berry Detox Smoothie is high in potassium, antioxidants, and detoxification nutrients. Make a habit of including smoothies like this into your weekly breakfast or afternoon snack routine.
The easiest way to create healthy vegetarian lunches, especially when you are short on time, is to make double batches of soups, stews, and grain salads for dinners, and then pack leftovers in jars or glass containers to use for your lunch the next day. You will save a lot of time and money this way! Try leftover Instant Pot Black Bean Soup or leftover White Bean and Potato Soup. This Black Bean Quinoa Salad makes a perfect, light plant-based lunch. Try making this Brown Rice and Cabbage Salad on the weekend to pack for lunches during the week. Add cooked chickpeas and crumbled feta for more protein.
When planning Vegetarian dinners, think of including one protein source, whether from eggs, legumes, dairy, or nuts and seeds; some type of raw or cooked non-starchy vegetable (lettuce, arugula, kale, steamed green beans, steamed kale), and a whole grain or starchy vegetable (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash). Try our Vegetarian Butternut Squash Lasagna along with an Italian Radicchio Salad, or Cashew Coconut Vegetable Curry with Brown Basmati Rice, or an egg main dish like Shakshuka with a Garden Salad. If you are short on time, try tossing together Black Bean Burrito Bowls using leftover cooked rice and canned black beans! Frittatas are always a quick and easy nutrient-dense dinner when time is in short supply! You can use up leftover veggies in your fridge this way too. Make up your own frittata recipe or use one of ours, like this Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata!
How do I Start a Vegetarian Diet?
- If you are not yet a member on this site, you can join now.
- Begin by stocking your kitchen with whole grains, dry beans, canned organic beans, raw nuts and seeds, and organic spices and dried herbs.
- Add some of our sample Vegetarian meal plans to your user profile or create your own!
- Schedule your meal plans onto your meal plan calendar and create shopping lists.
- Get inspired with new Vegetarian recipes added to this site weekly! Join our Nourishing Meals Community Facebook Group to get notified with new recipes and more! Everyone is welcome.