Do you love fruits and vegetables? What about beans and tofu? These items and so many more are part of a vegetarian diet.
October 1st marks the start of Vegetarian Awareness Month. Whether you define yourself as a vegetarian, are thinking about becoming one, or are simply curious about vegetarianism this is a great time to learn more!
What is a vegetarian? A vegetarian eats vegetables, like the word itself sounds, but of course that can’t be it! There are different types of vegetarianism, which we will define. What all vegetarian diets have in common is that that they do not deliberately eat red meat or poultry and do eat vegetables, fruit, grains, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Diet includes dairy products and eggs.
- Laco-vegetarian: Diet includes dairy products but omits eggs.
- Pesci-vegetarian: Diet does not include diary or eggs but does include fish and seafood.
- Vegan: The strictest of vegetarian diets that only includes food from plant sources. Honey is not allowed since it is made by living bees.
Why be a vegetarian? Like the definition of a vegetarian, this also requires a complex response. People may choose to be a vegetarian for one reason or many reasons. There are health benefits to eating a vegetarian diet and this may be the reason for some but others may also consider environmental factors. These can include the sustainability of growing crops and conservation of freshwater as well as decreasing pollution often caused by animal farming. Vegetarians may also be sensitive to the livelihood of animals and want to protect them from poor conditions, pain, and suffering. Saving animals from cruelty and exploitation (in the case of bees for honey) is a common theme in the vegetarian community.
Is a vegetarian diet healthy? There are certainly health benefits to eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables as well as fiber-rich beans and seeds. Eliminating high-fat red meats can also be considered healthy. This type of diet may reduce the risk of major illnesses like elevated blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and also limit exposure to foodborne illnesses. However, with these health benefits, there are also some considerations to take into account. A strict vegetarian diet often lacks calcium and Vitamin D needed for early development and bone health. Iron deficiencies are also common. Woman need to pay close attention to these concerns. Often a vitamin regimen and consuming fortified foods can help to bridge the gap.
How do vegetarians shop? If you would like to explore vegetarianism, first determine how strict your diet will be based on your beliefs; will you include dairy, eggs, fish, or none of these? Second, build a shopping list and head to your local Dan's Supermarket, start in the produce department and start filling your cart! Choose lots of different types of fruits and vegetables; consider a rainbow of colors for lots of vitamins and minerals. Did you know that canned veggies are just as nutritious? Our Family brand canned peas and corn make great additions to salads and soups. Select whole grains like brown rice, barley and wheat bread which contain small amounts of essential nutrients found in meat. Head to the nut aisle and fill up on whatever your heart desires! Don’t forget nut butters to spread on whole wheat toast, you can find Full Circle brand Almond and Peanut varieties in store or online at the Fast Lane. Be wary of canned beans as some may contain gelatin so opt for dried beans instead. Our Family has some great mixes and after soaking overnight they will be ready to cook and add to any meal.
Our friends at Produce for Better Health have lots of great recipes on their Fruits &Veggies More Matters website. Here is a delicious fun fall recipe to get you started: Plum Marinara with Butternut Squash Noodles
"This medical and/or nutritional information is not intended to be a substitute for individual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition."
Louise is one of the Health & Wellness Specialist’s at SpartanNash who is also a Certified Health Coach and Personal Trainer. Louise is passionate about living well and teaching others, especially children, how to make healthy food choices and be physically active.