Sunday, November 23, 2008

What to Eat if You Don't Eat Meat

Whether you eat meat or not, the most important thing is to understand and appreciate where your foods come from। If you cannot buy organic fruits and vegetables all of the time, at the very least make sure that your meats, fish, eggs, and dairy are organic or free range. The non-organic of these, are usually genetically modified. I encourage everyone to do a bit of research on GMO's just to understand what is going on with our food supply. As a result, many folks have opted to eliminate meat and its by-products from their diets. Whether you consider yourself a vegetarian or a vegan, its crucial to know what to eat to ensure that your body is getting all that it needs. Its not just about cutting out the meat, you have to think about healthier alternatives that will still provide you with the protein and the nutrients that will make this a smooth transition. What does Vegetarian or Vegan mean? Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs and dairy products. In some cases, vegans will abstain from using honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. Its really based on your own comfort. The key to a nutritionally sound diet is variety. A healthy and varied vegetarian diet consist of fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Receiving adequate amounts of protein is always a concern. Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats are good sources of protein. Vegan sources include: Potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, broccoli, spinach, almonds, peas, chickpeas, nut butters, tofu and tempeh, soy milk, lentils, kale, etc. Vegetarian diets are free of cholesterol and are generally low in fat, reducing the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart complications and cancer. Some good fat foods which should be used sparingly, include cold-pressed oils (olive, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, etc.), vegetable based margarine (earth balance or willow run), nut butters (peanut, almond, macadamia, cashew, pumpkin, etc.), avocado, and coconut. Vitamin D is generally scarce in a meatless diet. It can be made naturally in the body by exposure to sunlight. At least 10-15 minutes of summer sun on the hands and face two to three times a week is recommended for vitamin D production to occur. Calcium, needed for strong bones and teeth, is found in dark leafy green vegetables (collards, kale, and spinach especially), tofu, organic whole milk, blackstrap molasses, tahini (sesame seed butter), okra, figs, orange juice, etc. Zinc is usually adequate in a vegetarian diet, it is found in grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Dried beans and dark leafy greens are especially good sources of iron. Iron absorption is increased by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron. Other excellent sources include: soybeans, tempeh, lentils, blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, chick peas, black-eyed peas, black beans, seitan(wheat gluten), swiss chard, prunes, figs, beet greens, bulghur wheat, bok choy, millet, raisins, watermelon, etc. B12 is one of those vitamins that a lot of people forget about. The requirement for it is very low but, especially important for pregnant and lactating women. Vegetarians who are not vegan can obtain B12 from dairy products and eggs. If you are vegan nutritional yeast, seaweeds, and miso are excellent sources. We suggest incorporating a B12 supplement to your diet just to make sure. Here are a couple of egg and dairy replacement suggestions, which are good to know for cooking and baking.

Egg and Dairy Replacers: ( binder substitutes for each egg)
-1/4 cup (2oz) soft tofu blended w/ the liquid ingredients of the recipe
-1 small banana mashed
-1/4 cup of applesauce
-2 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot
-Ener-G brand Egg replacer or any other mix found in your local health food store.

Dairy Substitutes:
-Soy, Rice, Oat, Almond, Hazelnut, Brazil Nut milks,
-Soy yogurts (whole soy is a good brand)
-Soy and rice cheeses (the Soyakaas brand melts pretty well but, contains casein which is derived from milk. Just keep that in mind when reading labels.)
-crumbled tofu seasoned w/ nutritional yeast and spices is a good alternative to ricotta cheese in vegan lasagna recipes.

Enjoy the fruits of the Harvest...Eat Good and Green.

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