How I’m Making A Change To Become A Healthy Vegetarian
As someone who has been vegetarian for several years now, I wouldn’t say that I am the healthiest veggie going, when my diet consists of pasta, cheese and chips on a regular basis, where fresh fruit and vegetables are abandoned in favour of quick and easy meal fixes. As I am always on the go it can be difficult to remember to get my 5 a day, or add more ‘healthier options to my diet’ as I am constantly reviewing restaurants, bars, or getting home late, by which time I am too tired to cook a proper meal. So arguably the fact that I have just written a guide on how to be a healthy vegetarian might come across as laughable but in actuality, I have written this article as much a reminder for my audience to enjoy a healthy lifestyle as a vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian as well as myself, guidelines that I am aiming to follow over the course of the upcoming months as I want to improve my physical and emotional wellbeing, which diet is closely linked to.
It can be all too easy to reach for the chips, oozing with melted cheese and lovingly doused with curry sauce, and while a treat is perfectly fine, I need to remember that all good things should be doled out in moderation, which means that there needs to be more emphasis on fruits and vegetables in my diet-which I do actually love- as well as all the savory and sweet treats that I so enjoy. But being a healthy vegetarian or vegan is not just about modifying your diet to include food and drink that is good for you but is also about ensuring that you get regular exercise and fresh air, making your mental health a priority as well as having blood tests and regular check ups to ensure that your health is ok, and that you don’t have an intolerance, allergy/allergies or a lack of nutrients in your vegetarian or vegan diet.
Whether that be vegan friendly blood tests done in a private laboratory, or ensuring that your ear care is in tip top condition, to prevent ear wax build up, being a vegetarian encompasses dietary requirements, healthcare costs and exercise routines just as much as a non-vegetarian does. From being mindful of how your diet affects your mental health to getting vegan tests to see whether you have any allergies to animal proteins , here are four helpful tips for being a healthy vegetarian.
Make Your Mental Health A Priority- Your Mind Is Just as Important As Your Body
It might seem strange listing mental health as something that you have to be aware of as a vegetarian, as mental health is something that should be made a priority regardless of whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or flextatarian. But as I am writing a guide on how to be a healthy vegetarian one of the most important things you can do is to remember that your mind is just as important as your body.While a vegetarian diet is proven to improve our mood and lower stress (as they are low in EPA and DHA which are omega 3 fatty acids, as well as a lower intake of arachidonic acid) at the same time, eating vegetarian meat substitutes like seitan, is an example of processed food that many vegetarians and vegans use to supplement their diet, which can be extremely unhealthy, as it is manufactured with unhealthy additives. For example a vegan or vegetarian hotdog is not necessarily healthier than a normal meat based hotdog, even if it is plant based as it has extra salt and is missing nutrients such as iron which is vital for functional mental health. What I mean by this is just as you would have ‘low mood swings’, highs and lows and feel down or sad with a purely processed meat based diet, the same can be said for a purely processed vegan or vegetarian diet too.
So look for fresh fruit and vegetables that are known to boost mental health and work on adding more fresh ingredients to your diet like tofu, jackfruit and banana blossom, instead of just using processed ingredients such as those found in Beyond Meat, as delicious as their burgers are. That’s not to say that you have to cut out meat substitutes entirely, as vegetarians like myself will use Quorn and soya proteins alongside our meals to add that ‘meaty texture’ to our foods. This is especially prevalent for vegetarians like myself who like the taste and texture of ‘meat’ but gave up meat for ethical reasons, whether that be for animal rights like myself, the environment or anything else. I gave up meat because I was concerned for the welfare of animals and was horrified by the treatment of animals which made me follow a vegan lifestyle in all but diet, which is predominantly vegetarian. While I see no difference in my health, it did make me feel conscientiously better. But despite my diet I often have periods of poor mental health with diagnosed depression and anxiety, which could also be linked to my poor diet and is something that I need to work on, as I know that my diet is not the best.
Some foods that are known to boost a positive mindset include carrots, dark leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, cucumber, apples, bananas, grapefruit, other citrus fruits, fresh berries and kiwis. But the best ‘diet’ to improve and boost our mental health according to Psycom is Mediterranean as a study that looked at the dietary habits of adults aged 65 and older living in the Mediterranean region found those who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet reported significantly less depression than those who didn’t stick to the diet. They were also on the whole more physically active, more educated and had fewer cases of diabetes showing that there is a combination of factors that might influence depression levels rather than just diet alone. This is because the Mediterranean diet is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes which brings more nutrients into your diet that is associated with lower levels of depression.
Ensure That You Get Your Five A Day
Speaking of fruit and vegetables, it is important to ensure that alongside the treats that you enjoy (in my case I love vegan or vegetarian meat burgers with cheese and chips) that you try and get your five a day to be a healthy vegetarian with prime physical and mental health. Don’t be afraid to get creative either, if you are always on the go like myself, then start taking little snack boxes into work with fresh fruit and vegetables (i.e. berry skewers and crudites and hummus) in your bag that don’t take up too much space and are perfect as a pick me up. When out at restaurants always ensure that you get some fruit and vegetables into your meal, even at ‘carb heavy restaurants’ like Italian or Indian (which is my favourite) where you can opt for vegetable heavy dishes such as a simple buffalo mozzarella salad with fresh tomatoes and olives, as well as a vegetable pasta dish or for Indian chickpea, potato and paneer curry with fresh salads to still get your five a day. Remember everything in moderation after all. Adding five fruits and vegetables to your diet might some tough, even for a vegetarian like myself, as when we are working or always on the go, we might not feel like we have enough time to eat proper meals. But here’s the T, with careful preparation and a willingness to be healthier, a few lifestyle changes can make us a healthy vegetarian, vegan or anything in between.
For example your diet might look like this; poached eggs on toast with avocado, fresh salad and a cup of herbal tea or a smoothie, for snacks you can have fresh oranges, and salted nuts, as well as pitta and hummus, while for lunch you might choose to have a buddha bowl with feta, new potataoes, cabbage, leafy greens and a fresh fruit juice. Dinner might be Italian borlotti bean, pumpkin and farro soup to warm up on chillier days. Or another fruit and veggie heavy day might involve a pea, broad bean and asparagus shakshuka for brunch, a rainbow slaw and veggie olive wrap with mustard vinegarette for lunch and a kidney bean, carrot and potato curry for dinner with blueberry yoghurt cake with lemon glaze for dessert. And if you want more delicious and healthy vegetarian options to boost your 5 a day servings then check out the list below.
-Kale, tomato and poached eggs on toast
– Spicy Moroccan eggs with tomatoes, chickpeas and spinach
– Chipotle black bean chili with baked eggs and carrots
-Squash, goats cheese and rosemary pancakes
– Cardamom and peach quinoa porridge
– Berry acai smoothie bowl
– Edamame with sea salt
– Hummus and veggies
– Goats cheese, tomato and olive triangles
– Frozen fruit sticks with passionfruit and lime drizzle
– Berry skewers
– Spiced pea and potato rolls
– Berry Hearts
– Roasted red pepper and tomato soup with ricotta
– Veggie okonomiyai with eggs, cabbage, pak choi and spring onions
– Linguine with avocado, tomato and lime
– Cauliflower and squash fritters with mint and feta dip and a side green salad
– Spring tabbouleh
– Spicy avocado wraps with quorn chicken, lime chili, garlic and avocado
– Butter bean and tomato salad
– Cauliflower, paneer and pea curry
– Tofu and asparagus pad thai
– Spinach, sweet potato and lentil dhal
– Miso and chickpea burgers with mint and pomegranate slaw
– Morroccan chickpea squash and cavolo nero stew
– Thai green curry with tofu, broccoli, carrots and parsnips
– Gujarati cabbage with coconut and potato served with rice and dhal
Get Blood Tests Done To Check For Allergies, Intolerance and Deficiency
Whether you are a vegetarian or a vegan it is important to check that you are getting the right amount of nutrients and vitamins that your body needs, which can be difficult to ascertain if you are not a nutritionist. As someone who had no idea that she had allergies before getting tested when I became ill, sometimes getting tests done before you change your diet can be a motivator to change your diet the right way. For example let’s say you are a meat eater and immediately switched over to a vegetarian diet, this can be harmful as your body might exhibit withdrawal symptoms and react badly, which is why changing your diet takes time, especially if you are switching to a plant based diet.
I know that in my case when I briefly tried a vegan diet my body was unable to cope, because dairy forms a large part of my diet and was something that my body missed. But there are some of us who have to switch over to a vegan diet because we are allergic to animal proteins and dairy, which might be difficult to diagnose unless you get comprehensive testing done. While you might get tests done at the doctors, those of you who have allergies or an intolerance like myself will be testament to the fact that getting those tests are easier said than done. And don’t even get me started on those who question your allergies as though you are making them up, simply because they don’t understand what an allergy actually is.
Which is where Health Labs comes in, a fast and private form of lab testing that can test everything from food allergies to fertility and pregnancy testing. You might be questioning why you would turn to a lab when you have doctors but the lab not only cuts down on unnecessary hidden costs but also gets rid of the middle man and allows you to see what intolerance you may have which is especially helpful for a vegan or vegetarian diet.This is equally applicable if you are a meat eater who might be allergic to dairy, or certain animal proteins i.e a shellfish allergy, which the Vegan test will closely look at, to give you a comprehensive insight into whether a vegan diet might be a better fit for your allergies. Or it can help you to cut out the dairy products or anything else that is affecting your health, as many of us can have allergies for years and be unable to determine what food or drink is causing us to have these symptoms. For example I am a vegetarian with allergies to aubergine, courgette, mushroom and caffeine, which took a long time to diagnose, but once the results were given I was able to cut out those ingredients from my diet.
If you are interested in running vegan tests to see whether you have an intolerance or allergies then use my code FADEDSPRING25 for 25% off all vegan testing.
Keep Active And Get Those Steps In
Admittedly I am not a gym bunny, and the same can be said for many of us who might see the gym as a chore. That being said exercise does not necessarily need to be so regimented and clear cut; from Zumba to swimming, there are more exciting ways of keeping fit than picking up weights in the gym. Not that there is anything wrong with working out at the gym as many people do enjoy working out in that type of environment, but for me personally I prefer exercise that seems more ‘fun’ and energetic like dance classes, zumba, swimming, walking and of course good ol’ sexercise. Not only can exercise reduce your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% but it can also lower your risk of early death by up to 30%, as well as boosting self-esteem, mood,sleep quality and reducing the likelihood of you having stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimers disease.
Given the overwhelming evidence it seems obvious that we should all be physically active, with the NHS citing that to stay healthy, all adults regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not should try and be active everyday and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities. Reducing our sedentary behavior can be difficult in a modern society conditioned by technological demand, but no matter how old or young you may be, staying active is so important. Below I have listed some physical activity ideas that can help you keep fit and have fun at the same time.
Calories Burned – 65 calories per mile are burned for an 120 pound person
Even something as simple as fast paced walking can be a great way of staying active, and also boosts your mental health as you get fresh air along the way. The scenic vistas are just an added bonus. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat and boost muscle power and endurance.
Calories Burned- 69 for women and 101 for men
It goes without saying that for many of us getting frisky under the covers is a lot of fun. So it should come as no surprise that sex is a form of exercise, especially as you alternate between positions and use your arms and legs to get down and dirty, which naturally boosts your libido. Plus having sex defends your body against germs and viruses, improves your bladder control, lowers your blood pressure and reduces the risk of having a heart attack because it keeps your estrogen and testosterone levels in balance.
Calories Burned- 500-1000 calories per hour of Zumba
Zumba is energetic and vigorous which means that while it can be hard work to keep up with the instructor, at least you will be having fun along the way. It might be high energy but Zumba is good for core strengthening and flexibility gains because there is a lot of hip and midsection movements, as well as boosting your heart health with its aerobic benefits. It is also anaerobically beneficial as it helps maintain a good cardiovascular respiratory system and helps you de-stress.
Calories Burned– swimming breaststroke will burn between 300 and 560 calories per hour.
Swimming is not only a great way to have fun and keep fit at the same time but it is also a social activity with the ability to make new friends and boost your mental health in the process. Whether you choose to swim competitively or as recreation, swimming is great for becoming a healthy vegetarian as it burns a lot of calories, reduces stress, builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness, helps maintain a healthy weight, heart and lungs, as well as improving flexibility and coordination, balance and posture.
Calories Burned- 334-535 calories per hour
Tennis is a great way of keeping fit as it is a good sport to maintain your health, fitness, strength and agility. It not only increases aerobic capacities, but it also lowers resting heart rate and blood pressure, as well as improving metabolic function, lowers body fat and increases bone density and reaction times.
What Are Your Tips For Keeping Healthy As A Vegetarian?
Please note this is a collaborative post but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by monetary compensation.