The total vegetarian diet includes only foods from plants. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts. The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. Most vegetarian diets are low in animal products. They are also usually lower than non-vegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
Becoming a vegetarian is more of a way of life rather than just what one eats. The best way to move away from meat and become a vegetarian is to take things one step at a time.
Most studies show that vegetarians face about 30 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than do those who eat meat, fish or poultry. Some of the benefits attributed to vegetarian eating may be related to other lifestyle choices. As a group, vegetarians often keep physically active, don't use tobacco and avoid or limit alcohol.
Planning a vegetarian diet doesn't need to be complicated, but it should be nutrient-dense. The key to ensuring the body receives all its nutritional needs is to eat a wide variety of foods.
N.B The best way to do that is to get advice from a nutrition expert.
A Basic Vegetarian Eating Plan
All the nutrients you need can quite easily be obtained from a vegetarian diet. As mentioned before, research shows that in many ways a vegetarian diet is healthier than that of a typical meat-eater. Nutrients are usually divided into macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats & oils), and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals). We also need regular fiber and 6-8 glasses of water per day.
Vegetarianism is certainly a healthy option but only if your vegetarian diet plan is balanced. As far as meal planning is concerned, here is a very rough guide to what you should eat every day on a balanced vegetarian diet.
- 4 or 5 servings of fruit and vegetables
- 3 or 4 servings of cereals/grains or potatoes
- 2 or 3 servings of legumes/pulses, nuts & seeds
- 2 servings of milk, cheese, eggs or soy products
- A small amount of vegetable oil and margarine or butter
- Some yeast extract, ideally fortified with vitamin B12.
Vegetarianism - Recent Trends
Vegetarianism increased strongly in the early 1990s. It peaked at 3.25 million in 1997, a year after the brain wasting disease CJD was linked by scientists to mad cow disease, when some 2,000 people a week were said to be giving up meat. But the most recent figures from the Realeat Survey, which has recorded eating habits since 1984, show only 2.24 million Britons now claim to be vegetarians, the lowest since 1990.
Source for Recent Trends: Daily Telegraph (London) 2003