As someone who was raised eating vegetarian food, I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I love the flavours, texture and nutrition that comes from eating a quality plant based diet.
My mother was forever whipping up vegetarian versions of family classics such as ‘shepherd’s pie’ with lentils; ‘lasagne’ using vegetables instead of mince; ‘haggis’ with pulses in place of offal; or my personal favourite, ‘eggs florentine’. Layers of cooked spinach, brown rice and boiled eggs smothered in a rich cheese sauce was my idea of heaven!
Having been vegetarian for a large part of my life, I have always been asked how someone can thrive nutritionally without meat, eggs or dairy. If you follow a properly balanced diet that includes a range of pulses, legumes, fruits and vegetables along with nuts and seeds, plenty of good fats and non-dairy alternatives such as coconut, hemp or almond based products, you can still build muscle, be strong, have boundless energy with skin that glows.
What if you are not ready to remove all meat from your diet?
You don’t have to be a strict vegetarian or vegan to enjoy the benefits of a plant based diet. My little ‘flexitarian’ family tends to enjoy at least four plant based meals each week with the others being a combination of chicken, fish and red meat. I choose to feed my family this way as I believe the benefits of including less meat and more plants are vast.
- Plant based meals are budget friendly with pulses and legumes being cheap, filling and nutritious
- Eating less meat is associated with a lower risk of diet related diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease
- Plant based meals are high in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibre
- Eating more seasonal and local fruits and vegetables is better for the planet with less carbon footprint
- Plant based foods are just simply delicious
However, animal products are sources of very important macro and micro-nutrients that are not readily available in many plant based meals. So you don’t start feeling like a wilted piece of celery when you decrease the animal products in your diet, you will need to ensure you are including plant based foods that can provide the following nutrients:
- Protein, in particular complete proteins which contain all 9 essential amino acids the body requires for proper development and maintenance. Meat and dairy products are the most common sources of complete proteins.
- B vitamins (particularly B12)
Here are some great plant based substitutes to ensure you are getting all the macro and micro nutrients that animal products normally provide.
There are lots of very tasty, family friendly plant based meal recipes readily available today. It can be fun experimenting in the kitchen to create vegetarian alternatives to your normal meat based meals. Here are few recipes to get you started. I guarantee they will become family favourites, they taste that good!!
by Emma H for go natural foods