Meat is a very prominent part of a non-vegetarian person’s diet. The traditional meat, potatoes and vegetables are still the standard dinner, and something that most Dutch families eat every night. And I have to admit that I have been eating meat all my life. But I have been rethinking the amount of meat I eat, and when I changed my diet altogether, cooking mostly vegetarian recipes, I found myself much healthier, with more energy and also with a better feeling about myself.
The reason for changing your diet could be the environment, animal welfare or your health and BMI. And erasing meat even if just for a few days per week will do great things. It is proved that vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart diseases, colorectal, ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, obesity and a high blood pressure. This is because a healthy vegetarian diet is typically low in fat and high in fibre. However, do remember to balance your intake of fatty snacks, fried foods, whole milk dairy products and eggs.
For the people who do want to change something in their diet and start eating less meat I will list some important nutrients that they should keep an eye on, because they are mostly found in meat. Some nice vegetarian recipes from Jamie Oliver will be listed with every nutrient, which will give you an example of what to eat!
1 – Protein
There are plenty of plant-based protein options, even though they contain less protein than animal-based products. That is why it is good to combine multiple protein sources in one meal. Some good sources of protein include lentils, beans, tofu, soybeans (edamme) low-fat dairy products, nut, seeds and eggs. The first of the vegetarian recipes I really love is Jamie’s noodle stir-fry with tofu. It contains both nuts and tofu, so loads of proteins!
2 – Calcium
It is recommended that an adult between the age of 19-50 consumes at least 1000mg of calcium every day – which is about 3 cups of milk or yoghurt. You can meet your calcium needs by eating enough low-fat and fat-free dairy products, like milk, yoghurt and cheese. There are also many plant foods like spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli, beans and dried figs that contain calcium. Lets continue our list of vegetarian recipes. This broccoli soup with cream is the best of both worlds. Double the calcium!
3 – Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Sadly, there are few foods, which are naturally high in vitamin D. Some examples are fatty fish, like salmon, (canned) tuna and eel and egg yolks. Did you know that you need about 10 minutes of sunlight everyday for your body to make the adequate amount of vitamin D? After the 10 minutes you should apply sunscreen! If you do not receive enough sunlight it is advised to take supplements. Not every vegetarian also leaves out fish from their diet, make the choice for yourself, it is up to you. Just make sure you keep feeling healthy and have enough intake of the needed nutrients, like vitamin D!
4 – Iron
Dark green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, dried fruits, prune juice, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are good plant sources of iron. If you consume foods that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, you will better absorb iron from these products. And another tip, cook food in iron pots and pans and you will increase your iron intake! The last of the vegetarian recipes I will share with you is Jamie’s frittata with broccoli, peas and sundried tomatoes. A great and easy lunch of diner dish!
5 – Vitamin B-12
Lucky for you keeping your B-12 level is fairly easy. Just remember to eat enough dairy products and eggs!
If you cook a vegetarian meal about three or four days a week you can proudly call yourself a flexitarian, or a semi-vegetarian. And of course for the die-hards among us, you could of course give up eating meat all day, every day and call yourself a full-proclaimed vegetarian. I dare you all and start this Monday as the first meatless Monday of many! Please share all of your experiences from your new flexitarian or vegetarian life and all of your recipes in the comments below.
Kristie de Jong
Is a rather new flexitarian
Loves eating that many vegetables
Would like everyone to eat at least one vegetarian meal every week
Kristie de Jong