How to Be a Healthy Vegetarian

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Selection Of Fresh Vegetables

The Healthiest Diet

It’s hard to ignore the evidence mounting against factory-farmed meat: Raising livestock for food is one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for 20 percent of man-made greenhouse gases emitted each year. If all Americans skipped their daily eight ounces of meat one day per week, we could save more emissions over the course of a year than if we gave up traveling by cars, trains, planes, and ships combined.

There are the health benefits to eating less meat, as well. People who consume a plant-based diet weigh less, have lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers, and on average live longer than meat eaters.

So why aren’t we all vegetarians? Are we really that attached to meat?

Making It Fun

Tara Austen Weaver, author of “The Butcher and the Vegetarian”, claims there’s no other food to which Americans are so emotionally connected. For many of us, meat = fun and vegetarian = boring.

But for a growing number of chefs, cookbook authors, lifelong vegetarians, “flexitarians,” and hard-core vegans, refusing meat is not a limiting proposition. If you approach it the right way, it’s the opposite; it can be a world-expanding adventure.

How to Get Started

Eating less meat doesn’t have to mean subsisting on lettuce and carrot sticks alone. By choosing hearty meatless proteins, strong flavors, and meals with a stick-to-your-ribs quality (like this black-bean and chickpea chili), you won’t go hungry or feel denied.Our vegetarian strategy guide — which includes dining tips, meatless-protein options, and 11 veggie-packed cookbooks — will help you make the transition more easily.

Spring Vegetable Ragout

Ready to start cooking? Try this light vegetable ragout, for starters: You may be surprised at how flavorful it is. Sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with oil, and serve it over pasta, polenta, or tortellini to make it a main dish.

Spicy Cauliflower

Everyday cauliflower gets a flavorful kick from cumin and mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, and chiles. A cup of cooked chickpeas adds three grams of protein per serving.

Cold Peanut Noodles

This vegan dish is an excellent combo of whole grains, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. Garlic, ginger, and soy sauce add flavor, while a topping of bok choy and carrots provides a serving of vegetables as well.

Mushroom, Spinach, and Scallion Tart

Button and shiitake mushrooms give this vegetarian tart a meaty texture without the saturated fat.

Tomato Soup with Poached Eggs

This hearty soup makes a hearty meal at any time of year — and the poached eggs are a valuable source of meatless protein.

Shallot-Marinated Tofu

Extra-firm tofu, cooked until crisp and served with a miso dipping sauce, can be a satisfying substitute for meat.

Vegan Till Dinner

Food journalist and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman is a “less-meatatarian”: Before 6 p.m., he eats only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like tofu, pictured herestir-fried Thai-style); after 6, he has whatever he pleases.

“I noticed that the quality of the food most people were eating was getting worse, animals were being treated worse, the environment was suffering, and people — myself included — were getting fatter and less healthy,” he says.

The Price of Meat

Cut down on meat and reduce your carbon footprint: Here’s a look at the numbers.

    • Cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2.
    • Sixteen times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, and rice.
    • Twenty-eight percent of the world’s assessed fishery stocks are “overexploited or depleted,” according to a 2008 estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
    • Seventy-seven percent of U.S. soybeans and 46 percent of U.S. corn feed farm animals. That’s a lot of land.
    • Going vegan saves 1 1/2 tons of CO2 equivalents, compared with the average American diet.



Smart Food Shopping

Dr. Amit Mehta Articles Leave a comment , ,
Woman with Tablet PC Shopping List

We have the power of choice to decide which foods to buy at the grocery store. Making the healthiest food choices when shopping and eating out is a key to consuming a well-balanced diet.

Guidelines for a Healthy You

Healthy food choices are important for good health and well-being. Eating well means eating a variety of nutrient-packed foods and beverages from the food groups of MyPlate and staying within your calorie needs. This, combined with choosing foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and salt (sodium) will help to ensure that you are eating a healthy diet while helping to maintain a healthy weight. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly and in moderation.

For great information on how to meet these goals- both at home and when eating out, take a look at Let’s Eat for the Health of It (PDF|968 KB). This brochure is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (the federal government’s science-based advice to promote health through nutrition and physical activity). View the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans hereand visit for more guidance and tips for eating healthy.

Basic Healthy Shopping Skills

Keys for making your shopping the most healthful:

  • Know Your Store!
  • Bring a List!
  • Use the Facts!

Grocery stores have thousands of products, with most food items grouped together to make your decision-making easier. Many grocery stores have sections where foods are shelved much like the food groups of MyPlate.

The MyPlate food groups put foods with similar nutritional value together. These groups are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Milk (calcium-rich foods)
  • Meat and Beans (protein-rich foods)


Where are these food groups in your store?


Food Group Typical Store Location(s) Best Choices
Fruits Produce Aisle
Canned Goods
Freezer Aisle
Salad Bar
Variety! Fresh, Frozen, Canned and Dried Fruits.
Vegetables Produce Aisle
Canned Goods
Freezer Aisle
Salad Bar
Pasta, Rice & Bean Aisle
Variety! Fresh, Frozen and Canned (especially dark green and orange). Dry Beans and Peas.
Grains Bakery
Bread Aisle
Pasta & Rice Aisle(s)
Cereal Aisle
Whole Grains for at least half of choices.
Milk,Yogurt, & Cheese
(calcium-rich foods)
Dairy Case
Refrigerated Aisle
Non-Fat and Low-Fat Milk, Yogurt, Low-Fat and Fat-Free Cheeses
Meat and Beans
Soy,& Nuts
(protein foods)
Meat & Poultry Case
Seafood Counter
Egg Case
Canned Goods
Salad Bar
Lean Meats, Skinless Poultry, Fish, Legumes (dried beans and peas), Nuts.


Don’t forget that your local farmers market is a great place for finding healthy foods, Find a Farmers Market in Your State.

Resources for making healthy food choices:

And stick to it! Healthy decisions start at home. Planning ahead can improve your health while saving you time and money. Before shopping, decide which foods you need, and the quantity that will last until your next shopping trip.

Consider creating a shopping list based on the MyPlate food groups to include a variety of healthy food choices. Think about your menu ideas when adding items to your list. Write your list to match the groups to the layout of your store.

Have everyone in your family make suggestions for the shopping list. Kids (and adults too!) are more willing to try new foods when they help to pick them.

The Nutrition Facts that is! The Nutrition Facts panel on the food label is your guide to making healthy choices. Using the Nutrition Facts panel is important when shopping to be able to compare foods before you buy.

What are the facts? When reading the Nutrition Facts panel consider this:

Keep these Low: Look for More of these:
  • saturated fats
  • trans
  • fats
  • cholesterol
  • sodium
  • fiber
  • vitamins A, C, & E
  • calcium, potassium, magnesium & iron

** Use the %Daily Value (DV) column when possible: 5%DV or less is low, 20%DV or more is high.

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