Transitioning safely to a vegetarian diet

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The most recent question posed to me on the “Ask Margaret” feature at Spud! was about safely transitioning to a more plant-based diet. Here’s the question and my response.

“I’m trying to eat less meat and would like to know how I could transition without losing any nutrients that are vital for a healthy diet. What should I be eating in place of meat?”

When transitioning to a diet with less meat, here are a few things you want to be sure to do:

  • Make sure you’re eating loads of vegetables and fruits, and not loading up on empty starchy carbs such as pastas, rice, bread, and other grain products. Aim to have up to 75% of your plate different kinds of veggies and fruit, emphasizing the veggies. You can have some starchy carbohydrates, but keep them to a minimum.
  • Make sure you get adequate protein with at least 2 meals a day – this can be some dairy or eggs, fermented soy in the form of tempeh, or legumes. Mix it up. Variety is key. Do have some animal protein (dairy or eggs) at least daily.
  • If you’re open to it, eat fish once or twice a week to make sure you’re getting a good source of the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, both of which are directly found in fish (as opposed to seed oils which have the precursor to these two fatty acids, but require a conversion process in our bodies which often gets disrupted)
  • Eat whole, real foods as opposed to foods imitating other foods. Avoid imitation meats and cheeses as these are highly processed and quite distant from the foods they started out as.

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