To become a healthy vegetarian, assuming you’re slowly transitioning towards vegetarianism, you’ll want to know how to choose your first vegetarian meal.
Welcome to this article in our Vegetarian Food Focus: First Look series.
Introduction – How To Choose Your First Vegetarian Meal
Your first choice of meal will either inspire you towards a healthier lifestyle or dissuade you from progressing.
According to several studies, one of the first things a new vegetarian should be aware of is that vegetarians tend to be healthier than meat-eaters.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, this health is not so hard to understand.
So below are some factors to consider when choosing your first meal vegetarian meal. This thinking helps with adjusting your mindset beyond your first meal.
It will make future eating choices easier.
In essence, you’re looking to replace your protein from meat with tasty alternatives while getting enough of what you need to be satisfied with what you eat.
Six reasons vegetarian diets may be healthier than meat-eating diets.
01- Higher Antioxidants Compared With Meat
Although the antioxidant content of both plant- and animal-based foods has increased with cooking temperature, plant-based foods have produced significantly more antioxidants than meat. Additionally, many common types of vegetables contain relatively higher antioxidants than meat.
02- Sufficient Fibre
Although many vegetables are high in sugar, they also contain significant amounts of fibre, which slows your body’s absorption rate. This absorption reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
03- Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Additionally, if you choose to include grains or legumes in your vegetarian diet, these foods have worked to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes at least as much as people who are not vegetarian.
04- Decreased Risk Heart Disease
Both grains and legumes may also help reduce the risk of heart disease. A recent study suggests that a diet containing substantial amounts of whole or unrefined grains minimises the rate of coronary artery disease than a diet containing only small amounts of these foods.
A similar study concluded that “regular consumption of legumes may be associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.”
05- Dark Leafy vegetables Are King
Although there are many different vegetables to choose from, the dark green leafy vegetables contain the highest amounts of cancer-fighting nutrients.
Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, collard greens, cucumber, spinach, and parsley are all excellent types of dark green leafy vegetables from which to choose.
06- Reduced Risk Of Colon Cancer
Though a vegetarian diet may be associated with a lower risk of cancer, a vegetarian diet works to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer in particular significantly.
8 New Vegetarian Considerations
There are a few more health considerations regarding the less seen aspects of food to be better prepared.
- Choose a variety of food from each food group. For example, though dairy products may provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D, they contain very little iron.
- In other words, eat a wider variety of foods to increase your chances of getting all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients your body requires.
02- Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements
- Be sure to increase your overall dietary intake of vitamins and minerals.
- It’s essential to include a source of vitamin C with the meal. For example, drink a glass of orange juice afterwards, take vitamin C supplements regularly or eat oranges (including fibre), especially since a vegetarian diet is naturally low in iron.
03- Get Creative With Fruit
- There are more fruits and vegetables you could shake a stick. Fruit and vegetables tend to contain significant amounts of iron per calorie, so they are both healthy and effective for this purpose, even though they also have carbohydrates.
- If you’re active and not diabetic, the sugar (fructose), due to its molecular makeup, will get processed by your liver instead of entering your bloodstream directly, requiring insulin to sweep it into your cells.
- However, reducing sugar in all its forms is healthier, and it would be best to pay attention to those high in sugar, like mangoes. They are lovely to the tase, but the sugar content is high.
04- Know About Meat Substitute – Soy
- Small amounts of soy reduce the risk of heart disease, even though many health care professionals recommend that you avoid most soy products. Furthermore, soy products may provide you with calcium and vitamin.
- Soy is an excellent meat substitute because simple cooking methods can alter its texture, flavour, and appearance. Soy products are also cheaper than many meat products.
05- Know About Alternative Protein Sources
- In particular, tofu is roughly equivalent in this respect to fish.
- Increase your overall dietary protein intake by including legumes and grains in your diet. Legumes and grains provide roughly the same amount of protein per calorie. A calorie of protein makes you feel more satisfied with your meal than a calorie of fat or carbohydrates.
06- Understand Glycemic Index
- Rice, for example, has a significantly higher glycemic index which means they cause your blood sugar level to rise faster. This fact implies that rice has a more significant impact on your blood sugar.
- Therefore, if you decide not to consume rice, you choose legumes because they have a lower glycemic index.
- Know too that not everyone’s body responds in the same way. For example, rice is a staple in many countries and eating rice does not necessarily mean an increase in weight.
07- Fruit & Drink
- Pay attention to your carbohydrate content when deciding what to eat
- Also, be sure to include both fruits and vegetables in your diet. These food groups provide you with fibre that regulates your blood sugar rises after eating. Fibre works to prevent diabetes and heart disease.
- When creating your meal plans, you must choose various foods from each food group because different foods contain different nutrients.
Other foods also provide you with a greater variety of flavours beneficial if you have trouble eating your meal plans.
08- The Role of Vitamin Supplements
- Although it is not necessary, many vegetarians choose to purchase vitamin supplements in addition to their usual meal plans. A vegetarian diet can be low in certain nutrients typically found in meat products.
- However, many health supporters choose not to consume vitamin supplements due to concerns about the vitamins’ quality, which is an essential factor.
First-time Meal Choice Idea
So with all the above said, the best choice for your first time eating a vegetarian meal is to have some pasta with tomato sauce. This meal is first and foremost tasty, is effortless to cook, and you probably already have the ingredients right now in your kitchen.
The preparation of tomato sauce is simple. You may also include carrots or mushrooms with the dressing if you choose.
Sauté the vegetables lightly before adding them to the tomato sauce will help reduce the bitterness of these vegetables.
First-time meal choice but not yet perfect
Now clearly, while this might be a great first choice meal, it is not yet the perfect meal.
It is mainly pasta, and while the pasta is tasty, the ideal meal should contain protein, carbohydrates and fats. This particular pasta meal is carbohydrate-heavy.
Now this in itself is not an issue. Our bodies operate more cleverly than we generally acknowledge. Hopefully, you won’t be eating this food daily, and the majority of meals you eat will be a good proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
But what’s wrong with this meal? There’s nothing wrong with the specific meal, but one factor to consider for each meal is, how long will it keep me full?
The answer is it depends. It depends on how much you eat, what you’re doing to use the energy from it, your mental state (if you’re always thinking of food you be more likely to eat than if you’re busy and have your mind elsewhere), your size also, and so on.
The key to eating is to choose a combination of protein, carbs and fats (a small handful of nuts are a great source) sufficient to last long enough for what you intend to do so that you don’t feel hungry before you want to eat. That’s why we snack.
We snack when we’ve failed to eat enough long-lasting foods. We also snack when what we’ve eaten is not sufficiently satisfying.
So while you now know How To Choose Your First Vegetarian Meal, you also know how to decide on your second, third and subsequent meals.
Always be on the lookout for tasty meat alternatives that you like and for foods that tend to keep you fuller for longer. Pay attention too to how much carbohydrates we enjoy.
Carbohydrate-heavy meals tend to get digested quickly (not all carbohydrates are the same, so here I’m referring primarily to empty carbs with an inadequate number of nutrients). These make you hungry long before you’re ready to eat again.
Know that not all hunger is a “hunger” upon which you need to act. Our stomachs are complex, and you want to respond to feelings of real hunger, not just any feelings that may not warrant caving in.
A hot or cold drink can alleviate some “hunger” pangs. You can also satisfy hunger pangs before or after a meal by having a protein shake.
The ideal scenario is to eat foods that take longer to digest as they tend to make you feel fuller. The nutrient that does this best is protein – it is chemically best (out of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) suited to satisfy you.
Don’t forget that eating fibre helps you feel full too.
The NHS EatWell Plate gives guidance on the best way to eat, and as you may well imagine whether or not you’ve chosen to eat meat, you’ll want to adjust the proportions of the carbohydrates, protein and fats on your plate to suit your lifestyle.
People sitting at desks and mostly sedentary will want to minimise carbohydrates (ready form energy) over the other two food groups.
Take bricklayers or hod carriers, for example. They often travel up and down ladders all day, which constitutes an energy-intensive activity.
And so they need energy across the day. Bricklayers then would favour meals with higher levels of carbs than other people who expend fewer amounts of calories when sitting at a desk, for example.
How Does Food Get Its Flavour?
No one would eat food if it were not tasty. Tastiness comes from the flavour you add to your food.
But how do you get that flavour into your food? Well, you’ve guessed it – it’s the ingredients for which there have been many conflicts and human suffering over the years – sugar, salt and fat.
Fat and taste – How sugar and salt affect your meal is probably evident. However, fat is what most people cut off their meats before cooking. If you want it to be tasty, do it the opposite way around. Cook with the fat, then remove it after cooking. Then the taste gets preserved.
Other First Time Vegetarian Meal Ideas
So what are some other first time vegetarian meal choices?
Vegetable Lasagne – This back to school days – Did you enjoy lasagne with meat? Today you can have lasagne with spring onions, diced carrots, garlic, baby corn, cherry tomatoes (I love them sun-dried), cheddar cheese (don’t miss the parmesan on top), salt and black pepper.
Don’t turn your nose up at this. Food preparation has come a long way since then, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Veggie Balls – Remember meatballs as a child? How about Vegetable balls made from Quorn mince, mint, breadcrumbs for binding it all together, beaten eggs, cumin, ground pepper, paprika and mixed spices?
Meat Alternatives – Food manufacturers have begun to produce products well suited to people’s desire to avoid eating meat, so there are many Quorn meat replacement products.
A little effort can go a long way towards eating less meat if your genuine desire.
If you have any particular thoughts or ideas, leave them in the comments section below.