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Hi,

I stopped eating meat and fish around 3 weeks ago. I am a little overwhelmed by the amount of information available on the internet regarding vegetarianism and wondered if anyone can help with a few of my main concerns or provide a link that may help? :)

I'd like to know which foods are considered the best protein and iron sources and what type of quantity of them I need to eat each day. I have in the past had incredibly low iron levels on several occasions and am keen to include enough in my diet to avoid taking supplements.

I also wondered what thoughts others have on 'tofu' and 'quorn' type products. I haven't eaten these as to me they don't seem particularly healthy - am I wrong? Should I include them in my diet to ensure I get enough protein?

I do enjoy a range of foods - I love chick peas, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds. I adore all fruit and love mushrooms, root vegetables (I could eat sweet potato every day!) and mediterranean type vegetables (peppers, courgettes etc). I am also still eating eggs and dairy products. I struggle hugely with green veg though and this worries me as my diet needs to be balanced. I wonder if it's best to try to have a green veg 'smoothie' each morning to try to ensure that I get the correct nutrients?

Finally, why are so many of the vegetarian recipes that I see loaded with cheese or heavy on pastry? I seem to have come across a lot of recipes that don't strike me as being particularly healthy!

Sorry this is a long post! Thank you in advance for any help - I'd really like to be a healthy vegetarian!
 

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Hi,

I stopped eating meat and fish around 3 weeks ago. I am a little overwhelmed by the amount of information available on the internet regarding vegetarianism and wondered if anyone can help with a few of my main concerns or provide a link that may help? :)

I'd like to know which foods are considered the best protein and iron sources and what type of quantity of them I need to eat each day. I have in the past had incredibly low iron levels on several occasions and am keen to include enough in my diet to avoid taking supplements.

I also wondered what thoughts others have on 'tofu' and 'quorn' type products. I haven't eaten these as to me they don't seem particularly healthy - am I wrong? Should I include them in my diet to ensure I get enough protein?

I do enjoy a range of foods - I love chick peas, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds. I adore all fruit and love mushrooms, root vegetables (I could eat sweet potato every day!) and mediterranean type vegetables (peppers, courgettes etc). I am also still eating eggs and dairy products. I struggle hugely with green veg though and this worries me as my diet needs to be balanced. I wonder if it's best to try to have a green veg 'smoothie' each morning to try to ensure that I get the correct nutrients?

Finally, why are so many of the vegetarian recipes that I see loaded with cheese or heavy on pastry? I seem to have come across a lot of recipes that don't strike me as being particularly healthy!

Sorry this is a long post! Thank you in advance for any help - I'd really like to be a healthy vegetarian!
For some iron boost, grab a cast iron skillet and cook the veg in that (do some reading on care and seasoning of cast iron ... it'll last until you give it to the great grandkids).

On protein, folks who know more than I will certainly help out, but my limited knowledge says : beans, tofu and protein powders in shakes for the easy ones :)
 

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Spinach is a good source of iron

Beans (like said above) along with nuts (like almonds) are a good source of protein

I also supplement protein with NOW sports Pea Protein powder.
 

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I don't know about quorn, but tofu is perfectly healthy and fine. Tofu has not only protein, but calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids. And there are so many dishes you can make with it. I use it to make homemade vegan mayonnaise, tofu chocolate pudding, and I use it in occasional stir fries or scrambled tofu and veggies.

Other sources of protein: tempeh, seitan (I make my own using vital wheat gluten...it is very easy to do and there are many recipes on the internet for seitan), whole grains like barley, oats, brown or wild rice, quinoa (is a complete protein), millet, buckwheat groats. Even pastas and soba noodles have a lot of protein. Broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, snap peas and other vegetables have a good share of protein in them. And of course beans are great sources of protein. Some nuts and seeds are good sources of protein as well as nut/seed/peanut butter, and even nutritional yeast packs something like 8 grams of protein per two tablespoons.

Iron rich foods: blackstrap molasses (good in stir fry Asian sauces, in hot cereal, in smoothies, in baking bread and other goods, with fruit etc); most beans/legumes; leafy greens; tofu; tomato paste; pumpkin seeds; dried apricots...

I eat a LOT of leafy greens and grow my own collard greens, beet leaves, and in the past grew spinach too. I add them finely chopped to soups, casseroles, garden salads, smoothies, sandwiches, or eat them all by themselves. Something as simple as sauteed collard greens in water or veggie broth or fruit juice and a squirt of fresh lemon juice and black pepper can be very satisfying as a side dish. A favorite breakfast of mine is to saute cubed tempeh, collard greens or kale, fresh cubed pineapple, and a squirt of lemon juice and ginger powder in a cast iron skillet. The pineapple has vitamin C that helps absorb all that iron. Another favorite dish that uses leafy greens: skin and steam some sweet potato in a steamer (it softens in ten minutes as opposed to baking them which takes much longer) and then add to a cast iron skillet with some cooked or canned black beans, chopped raw kale, and unsweetened coconut flakes. Saute in a little water or veggie broth or even add some plant milk in there and curry powder, ginger, indian spices like garam masala or turmeric. I like to leave a little crunch in my kale so I add those to the skillet at the last minute or so. A little chopped onion or scallions in there or leeks is great too!

This one sounds weird, but I will take a collard leaf, add a banana inside, add a dollop of peanut butter, then wrap it up tight and eat it. Collard leaves and chard leaves make great wraps.

It sounds like your diet is varied enough that you shouldn't have a problem!

Edit to add: here is a pic of the sweet potato/kale/coconut/black bean dish I sometimes make for a visual:
[/url]December 2014 027 by Naturebound2011, on Flickr[/IMG]
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Hi,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! I really appreciate your advice.
You've mentioned several things that I hadn't considered or even heard of which is just what I needed! :)
 

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Hi Sarah,

Mercy For Animals has a very well-written Vegetarian Guide. It addresses your questions about protein, iron, and other nutrients that are of particular interest to vegetarians. The nutrition part of the guide starts on page 7: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/files/VSG.pdf . Their "vegan food plate" graphic (on page 7) really simplifies things, I think.


Here is an extremely detailed vegan nutrition website, written by a vegan Registered Dietitian: http://www.veganhealth.org/ . This website, although very good, fits the "overwhelming" description. I'm certain that I don't follow all of the recommendations on the www.veganhealth.org website, yet I'm still healthy after 24 years of veganism.

 
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Hi,

I stopped eating meat and fish around 3 weeks ago. I am a little overwhelmed by the amount of information available on the internet regarding vegetarianism and wondered if anyone can help with a few of my main concerns or provide a link that may help? :)
CONGRATULATIONS!

It's sometimes hard to take that first step, but it looks like you're already on the right track by making sure you're doing this in a healthy way!

I'd like to know which foods are considered the best protein and iron sources and what type of quantity of them I need to eat each day. I have in the past had incredibly low iron levels on several occasions and am keen to include enough in my diet to avoid taking supplements.
You might already know this, but vitamin C is great for helping to absorb iron. It was once thought you had to 'combine' certain foods, in order to get the full benefits.

For example- Drinking orange juice with spinach in it, in order to maximise the absorption of Iron in the spinach.

But now we know that's not needed. So, you could have orange juice for breakfast, then have something with Iron in it for lunch and still be able to absorb it all quite easily.

I found this link really helpful when I first went veg as I was worried about Iron too.


http://www.nomeatathlete.com/iron-for-vegetarians/



I also wondered what thoughts others have on 'tofu' and 'quorn' type products. I haven't eaten these as to me they don't seem particularly healthy - am I wrong? Should I include them in my diet to ensure I get enough protein?

I don't mind Quorn and it certainly helped when I first went veg. There's a lot of faux meat products out there that can be beneficial when it comes to craving, or even quick meals. But I would say, it's also important to vary up your diet. I treat faux meat as a just that- a treat.

Tofu is fine for you unless you have some sort of allergy or medical condition that rules it out.

I'm not sure what I'd do if I couldn't have soy.....

I do enjoy a range of foods - I love chick peas, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds. I adore all fruit and love mushrooms, root vegetables (I could eat sweet potato every day!) and mediterranean type vegetables (peppers, courgettes etc). I am also still eating eggs and dairy products. I struggle hugely with green veg though and this worries me as my diet needs to be balanced. I wonder if it's best to try to have a green veg 'smoothie' each morning to try to ensure that I get the correct nutrients?
You can try that. I'm not big on green veggies either. What I try to do is sneak them into my stir fries or put them into my salads. Instead of lettuce, I use kale or spinach into a salad and it just adds that little extra green leafy vegetable I need.


Finally, why are so many of the vegetarian recipes that I see loaded with cheese or heavy on pastry? I seem to have come across a lot of recipes that don't strike me as being particularly healthy!

Sorry this is a long post! Thank you in advance for any help - I'd really like to be a healthy vegetarian!

Well, vegetarianism isn't about being healthy, so that's probably why a lot of the recipes are more decadent than healthy :p

If you're struggling for recipe ideas that are healthy, just think about what you like to eat and instead of meat, replace it with a veggie alternative. It can be hard at first, but I found that doing that from the beginning made it easier as I went along because it taught me how to convert recipes I enjoyed, but without needing to hurt animals along the way.

Lentils are a good replacement for mince in a spaghetti bolognaise. Chickpeas are great in a stirfry or curry. I use tofu as a replacement for meat a lot of the time, but sometimes, just adding 'more' veggies of various types is enough for me.
 

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Well, vegetarianism isn't about being healthy,

“A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has found that carbohydrate and calorie restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants' A1C”

- The American Diabetes Association
Link: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/meal-planning-for-vegetarians/





“Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.”

- The American Heart Association
Link: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Getti...nter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp#



 

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I disagree with the statement that being vegetarian is not about being healthy.
Well, it certainly can be a healthy diet! :) I personally did not go vegetarian, or later vegan, for health reasons. I did it to spare the animals.
 

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Hi Sarah,

I'm a fairly big guy who does a lot of weightlifting, so have done my research on protein! A great source that often seems to be missed is grains! Bread, pasta, rice, quinoa etc. I probably get over half my protein from these.

Other than that, the usual candidates are there; beans, legumes (including peas and chickpeas), nuts and soy derivatives (like soya milk and tofu). Personally, I tend to get most of my protein from grains, beans and legumes, occasionally topping up with nuts and soya milk. Most vegetables are poor sources, although mushrooms aren't terrible.

Personally, I don't bother with lentils and seeds, partially as I don't like them (excepting a good daal), but also as they tend to digest very poorly due to their tough exteriors, so you may not absorb much of the nutrients inside.

I'm not an expert on iron, but I do know that chickpeas and red kidney beans in particular are extremely good sources.
 
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