For health, environmental, and/or animal welfare reasons, there is a rise in people choosing to adopt a more plant-based diet. Whether you are planning on cutting out animal protein entirely, cutting back some, or just looking for new ideas for menu planning, looking at vegetarian resources can help you create a fun and diverse meal plan.
You don’t have to peg yourself into any one category in order to enjoy or adopt more a more plant-based diet. But, as for the labels, broadly speaking, these are the types and labels for those choosing a plant-based diet.
Vegan- This person will abstain from all animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and other products made from or made with animals (this could include honey and gelatin and types of sugars depending on how they are processed)
Vegetarian- This person will abstain from animal proteins such as meat, poultry, and fish. (This category can sometimes be labeled lacto-ovo vegetarian if the person consumes both milk and eggs, or lacto vegetarian if the person consumes milk products but not eggs).
Pescatarian- This person will eat fish, but abstain from meat and poultry.
Other- Some people choose to refrain from red meat, including beef, pork, etc but do eat poultry such as chicken and turkey.
Flexitarian- This person is not a vegetarian by regular definition but is intentionally decreasing the amount of animal protein in their diet and choosing more plant-based meals. You can do this however you want. Some people only eat meat on special occasions, some limit themselves to a few times a week or less. It’s really entirely up to you!
It is important that your diet varies so that you get a good balance of nutrients. Often times, when people change eating styles, they eliminate certain foods but do not replace them with balanced alternatives. You can’t go from cheeseburger and fries to only fries. Or chicken and rice to only rice. You need to find foods that are nutritious and contain balanced macro-nutrients for health reasons (aka you need to eat from all the food groups and need carbs, fats, and protein in your diet).
Legumes- Beans are the easiest way to increase protein and healthy fiber to your diet. As a plus, they are also very inexpensive and versatile. Dry beans should be soaked overnight prior to cooking and canned beans should be low-sodium. If you are not accustomed to eating beans, try adding them to soups, salads, and chili. Increase the amount of beans and decrease the meat as you get used to it.
Whole-grains- As mentioned above, often people cut meat but make poor choices on grains. There are great whole grain breads, whole grain and high protein pastas, and even high protein baking mixes on the market that are delicious, high in fiber, and include protein.
Eat more veggies- This is a general recommendation regardless of dietary preferences. Eat the rainbow by choosing produce of differing colors (red peppers, green leafy veggies, yellow squash) to increase your intake of nutrients. Note: Frozen vegetables are just as high (and sometimes higher) in nutrients because they are flash frozen when they are the freshest.
Alternative meats- It’s understandable to be hesitant if you are not used to eating alternative meats. You may have to try a few kinds before finding something you enjoy. But a great veggie burger, tofu, or seitan can all be delicious alternatives to meat.
Alternative dairy products- Almond and soy milks have been popular for a while and the market is only increasing. The newest product getting a lot of attention is oat milk, which is higher in fiber and protein than some of the other dairy alternatives. Check the nutrient label for fat, sugar, and vitamins A&D so that you can make the best choice.
Sources and Resources
As with any dietary change, consult your doctor, dietician, or surgeon’s office for specific dietary needs. Different surgeries require different dietary practices, and allergies and medical conditions may affect the types of foods you can eat.
But, if you want to decrease animal products in your diet, check out the following resources…
Reference for this post: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/planet-friendly-plant-based-home-cooking-2019021215990
Protein content in meat alternatives: https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/static/pdf/public/bariatric/vegetarian-alternative.pdf
Meal prep ideas for bariatric patients: http://www.mybariatriclife.org/high-protein-vegetarian-meals-menus-recipes/
More recipes and an introduction to cooking with tofu, seitan, and other meat alternatives: https://tasty.co/article/deenashanker/meals-with-tons-of-protein-and-no-meat