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The difference between a vegetarian and a healthy vegetarian

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Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you are stuck eating salads, bread and beans. It also doesn’t mean that as long as you don’t eat meat, you can consume a wild variety of processed food.

Becoming a vegetarian without understanding what it means and adopting it with a lifestyle mindset, can be a prelude to poor health, misconceptions and disappointment.

There is defined difference between being a vegetarian and being a healthy vegetarian. That difference is education. An educated vegetarian will understand being a healthy vegetarian means balance and lifestyle.

Consuming cheese pizza and diet soda or pastries and a frappuccino are technically vegetarian, but certainly not good choices for optimal health. Consuming too much starch (potatoes, bread, rice etc.), canned or processed food, sweets or processed sugar can be just as harmful to your body as consuming meat. In addition, it could cause you to be nutrient deficient.

Our body is delicate, yet intuitive. It can heal itself. It sends signals when the system has been compromised. To function properly, vitamins and minerals must be maintained at certain levels. Everything our body needs can be found in whole foods, particularly plant-based foods. That includes vitamins, minerals and yes, proteins. Until you are able to maintain the correct balance of nutrients from whole foods, you may need to take supplements.

If you consider yourself a vegetarian, make sure you are making educated and healthy choices. Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle. It is a journey that promotes a harmonic existence mentally and physically.

Vegetarian

• Meals may resemble the traditional food pyramid
• Often have vitamin and mineral deficiencies
• Overcompensate the absence of meat with bread, starches and beans
• Don’t plan or prepare meals, rely on processed foods with substitutions for variation
• Vegetarian mindset is “trend” or “diet”

Healthy Vegetarian

• Consume balanced plant-based meals
• Monitor correct vitamin and mineral levels with annual or bi-annual tests (some can be found over the counter)
• Make local and fresh produce a meal priority
• Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle. You eat to live, not live to eat. Food is sustenance

You don’t need to be a nutritionist to be a healthy vegetarian. Just remember, as with everything else, balance and moderation. Plant-based whole foods balanced with a bevy of beans, grains and legumes will fair you well. Healthy vegetarian dishes can be exquisitely elaborate or satisfyingly simple. Make your changes gradually. Start at your own pace.

Experiment. Focus on taste and flavors that you’ve never experienced before. Try vegetables and fruits that you’ve had before but vary your preparations. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. If you are new to vegetarianism or treated your vegetarianism as a fad or diet, create some of your old favorite meat dishes with vegetarian alternatives (tofu or mushrooms for meat, quinoa for rice or pasta, yogurt for sour cream, etc.)

Got a tip on how to maintain a healthy vegetarian way of life? Share it here!

A.Michelle Blakeley, The Vegetarian Aficionado™, is the curator of the online magazine, The Vegetarian Aficionado. Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle. It is a harmonic balance between your mind, body and soul that gives rise to an appetite for life. The world is our farm and The Vegetarian Aficionado™ is bringing its bounty to your table. Connect with her on Twitter at @vegaficionado

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