Recently, mother-of-two Neeta decided to make changes in her diet. She went off meat and included more grains and vegetables in her food. The decision was not due to any medical condition. She decided to stay away from meat, as she was no longer enjoying it. Now, her meat-loving family is worried that her nutritional requirements may not be fulfilled with her vegetarian diet.
Life is all about choices and when it comes to food, it is important that you should eat what makes you feel better. We will tell you how to go meatless without missing out on the nutrients your body requires.
Here are the 7 things you should know if you are not eating meat:
- White or red meat, including mutton, poultry and seafood are major contributors of important nutrients to your diet, especially if they are consumed regularly. These meats are high in proteins, fats, fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A and K, folic acid, heme iron (iron that comes from animal protein) and some essential minerals too. If you do not consume meat or plan to go meat-free, replace it with foods that have a similar nutrient profile.
- Many people stop eating animal protein to lose weight. There is a good chance that you can lose some weight by keeping meat away from your diet. However, you need to replace it with some healthy vegetarian options.
- Sportspersons, expecting women or lactating mothers need an additional supplement, in case they are not eating meat. Apart from them, people who are allergic to certain foods or elderly people with health problems may need supplements. If you go off meat, you may need to supplement your diet with proteins, iron and sometimes vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid. Your doctor may recommend these based on your current health and activity status.
- Make sure you include low-fat milk and milk products in your daily diet for protein, calcium, and vitamin A requirements. Pulses, nuts, seeds and soy can also fulfil the protein demands.
- Another important nutrient that vegetarians could be deficient in is iron. Firstly, make sure that you absorb the iron from the food you consume. Increase your intake of food rich in vitamin C for more iron absorption. Consuming foods with vitamin C, along with iron-rich foods help facilitate better absorption.
- Certain foods that are rich in iron include soy and soy products like tofu; lentils, dried beans, cashews and pine nuts; flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Oats, quinoa, and amaranth leaves are also good sources of iron. If you are still eating eggs, increase the intake, as they are a rich source of both protein and iron.
- Consume walnuts and flax seeds every day to get your share of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you still crave for that meaty flavour in your food, try the following vegetables to satiate your cravings:
- Mushrooms are a good replacement for meat. A good source of protein and a host of other nutrients, meat lovers also prefer mushroom because of its meaty flavour.
- Tender jackfruit is great for barbecue sandwiches, stir-fries, or any dish that uses red meat.
- Eggplant is another vegetable that has a rich, meaty taste and is quite versatile.
- If you season and cook it right, cauliflower can be an awesome replacement for meat in any dish.
Just like any other change, going meatless may not be easy. Go for it, if you have made up your mind to become a vegetarian. It’s a lifestyle choice and would help you in the long run.
The author is a nutritionist and founder at Nutrify.
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