Becoming a Vegetarian

by Elizabeth

Elizabeth's question...

I have been considering becoming a vegetarian and I wondered how to go about it. Do you think it is a good idea? What do I eat instead of meat?

Suzy's answer...

Great question, Elizabeth! The vegetarian lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular and it is important to understand what it will mean to pursue a meatless diet.

It is possible to be healthy while pursuing a vegetarian diet, but it is very important to plan your diet carefully, especially at the beginning, until you grow accustomed to the choices you need to make to get all the nutrients you need.

There are some great studies out there, including a very recent one done by Loma Linda University in California, that suggest that vegetarians live longer than meat eaters. However, this assumes that you are eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet and not just eliminating meat in favor of junk food and other empty calories.

The first thing I would suggest is that you educate yourself about the nutrients you need to be healthy, particularly those that may be affected if you choose a vegetarian diet. The information you need is readily available on this site. Click on this link to go to our vegetarian nutrition page.

You should also be aware of the social implications of eschewing meat. Keep in mind that you live in a largely meat-eating society that builds most meals around a meaty main dish. Eating out and being a dinner guest can be challenging, especially in certain areas where vegetarians are less common. This is not an insurmountable problem, but just another consideration when choosing a vegetarian diet. Click on this link for more information on the potential social factors of being a vegetarian in a meat-eating world.

I assume when you say "vegetarian" you do not mean "vegan." This is an important distinction, since if you include eggs and/or dairy products in your diet, the nutritional implications will be different than if you are eliminating all animal products.

I don't know the reason that you are considering becoming a vegetarian, but I hope you will take the time to learn what you need to know to be a healthy vegetarian. A plant-based diet has much to recommend it, since you will probably be eating more fiber, phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals than when you were eating meat. However, you need to be sure to get enough good quality protein and to include a variety of whole foods from all the food groups in your diet.
Click on this link for more information about vegetable sources of protein.

I hope this helps you make your decision, and that even if you don't become a vegetarian, you will include some meatless meals in your regimen. I agree with author, Michael Pollan, who said, "Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Thanks for visiting our website.

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Suzy Staywell


Vegetarian Diets and B12 and Iron Supplements
by: Don

Elizabeth, Suzy has the topic of vegetarian conversion well laid out, and with links. There's two major nutrients that should be taken as supplements if you are going to go vegan or vegetarian: 1) vitamin B12 and 2) non-heme iron such a ferrous gluconate. You will get very little or no B12 on a vegetarian diet, and you will be going from rich sources of heme iron to foods that are a source of some non-heme iron.

I recommend raising your intake of dietary fiber slowly because ideally, you should raise your intake from 5 to 15 grams of dietary fiber to 25 to 40 grams of dietary fiber. If you try to rush forward to an ideal intake, it can cause stomach upset.

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