The lent season is here; a 40 day period before Easter in which some of you may be fasting from meat. Others also fast from eating dairy products as well such as milk, cheese and eggs. Since it is the lent season I'd thought I'd bring up the subject since some of you may temporarily be eating vegetarian or cooking more vegetarian meals than usual.
I personally love vegetarian food. If I've had an animal protein in one of my meals, I make an effort to eat vegetarian for the remaining meals that day. You can make many creative meals without using meat. There are a variety of vegetables that you can use that will give you the same hearty feeling of eating meat such as eggplant, mushrooms and squash. Studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. Eating vegetarian will allow you to consume more vegetables, grains, and legumes in your diet, a healthy habit with a number of benefits.
It's important to know what to eat when eating vegetarian. I recommend avoiding high-carb foods and sweets which are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Instead turn to proteins such as whole grains, fish, and nuts. Eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables and stay away from foods that are high in saturated fat such as fried foods. Be sure to get enough Iron, B-12, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Zinc which you may lack if you are on a vegetarian diet. A few examples of vegetarian foods you can eat that contain these nutrients are...
Iron- parsley, whole wheat pasta, beans
B-12- oatmeal, fish (trout, snapper, salmon)
Vitamin D- eggs (high in cholesterol- limit intake to below 300 mg per day), tuna, dried shitake mushrooms
Calcium-milk, yogurt, broccoli, okra, spinach, almonds
Zinc- dark leafy greens (ex/collard greens), lentils, artichokes
You may struggle with what you normally eat on a daily basis. If you are not used to eating a meatless meal you may experience increased hunger throughout the day. It's a good idea to pack healthy snacks such as apples and bananas if you are on the go. Think of healthy substitutions and try new foods, keeping in mind to consume well balanced meals. If you usually eat a turkey sandwich for lunch try a veggie sandwich with a hummus spread. I like to stack mine high with delicious fresh or grilled vegetables along with leafy greens on wheat toast. If you're craving hearty pasta, try whole wheat pasta with a mushroom tomato sauce. I will sometimes skip the meat in one of my own meals and it will still taste wonderful. I will be dedicating the next month to sharing new vegetarian recipes. Here are the recipes added this month thus far...