Wednesday, March 26, 2014

6 Foods Your Body REALLY Does Need If You Stop Eating Meat.

Vegetarian and Vegan food and nutrient sources - seriously tricky, right?

Ever since I was a full-on, I-won't-eat-a-speck-of-cheese, complete, no-seriously-that-better-not-be-cheese vegan - I've heard the above sentiment.

It seems like most people become highly perplexed and troubled by a vegan diet focusing mainly on obtaining nutrients without meat, dairy, or seafood.  One thing is for certain, though - it can be very controversial.

While scrolling through my Facebook news feed the other night, I came across a post shared from the Food, Inc. page discussing "7 Foods Your Body Needs If You Stop Eating Meat."

Almost as immediately as it was shared, an flurry arose - over 700 shares and also hundreds of comments in response.  After reading the list of foods, however, I was left slightly frustrated as most of the food items {including edamame, tempeh, and yogurt} were not even close to correct in my eyes.  After all the research I did prior to becoming vegan {a practice I currently do not uphold}, I realize the importance of providing healthy options and information to other prospective veggie lovers as well.

Especially since it is SO very easy to eliminate animal products from your diet to eat healthier and then end up eating only carbohydrates - thus becoming a "Carbatarian", which also isn't the healthiest diet to consume.

So, here is my list of the Top Foods to Try If You Eliminate Meat!

1.  Green, Leafy Vegetables

If you're thinking about becoming a vegetarian or vegan and you aren't planning on nomming some leafy veggies?  You might want to reconsider the idea.  Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, and even broccoli give you a huge bang for your buck nutritionally.  You may not expect this to be the case, but those vegetables contain fantastic amounts of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron - as well as plenty of vitamins!

{To increase the nutritional value for things like Vitamin K, toss or dress your greens in a little oil while preparing!}

2.  Quinoa

Ever since I first tried Quinoa a few years back, I've been addicted - mainly because quinoa packs a huge punch for such a little guy.  In fact, an uncooked cup of quinoa has almost just as much protein as a half of a chicken breast {if you want specifics - 1/2 chicken breast has 30g of protein, while 1 cup of quinoa has 25}.  Quinoa also contains B vitamins, iron, lysine, magnesium, & manganese - to name a few!  And let's not forget about fiber, because we all know our post-baby-bodies need that.  When I haven't been eating a very healthy meat-free diet, I make sure and whip up a salad full of leafy greens with some quinoa on top to get me back on track - especially with my next food!

3.  Avocadoes

I will admit into the microphone that I'm a huge fan of cheese - and that is always my downfall in a completely animal-product-free diet/lifestyle, but a bit of creamy avocado topping my salad or veggie burger completely fills that void.  Besides for tasting so mouth-wateringly fantastic, avocado contains almost 20 vitamins and minerals, plus some good-for-you fats.  And - while we're talking about good for you fats - throw in some olive oil and coconut oil to your menu plan as well!

4.  Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds tend to be a new one for me - but I'm not unfamiliar to the concept.  We've long used flax and chia seeds in our daily smoothies, but hemp seems to have taken off ahead of the pack recently in health buffs.  The main reason for this is that hemp seeds contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need but cannot produce on their own - all in one teeny little wrapped up package!

5.  Beans/Hummus/Lentils/Etc.

One way to obtain an adequate amount of protein, iron, folate and more is to add in some beans.  I've highlighted lentils and hummus specifically as they're both excellent options that {in my opinion} stand out just ahead of the typical bean options - and may cause less um, you know ... gas.  Eating a few vegetables dipped in hummus is also the perfect snack for you and your family!

6.  The Cover-Your-Bases Addition

If you eat a perfect diet of all the right foods, add in a little iodized salt, watch that you're representing all the colors of the garden on your plate, and getting outside into the sun for your Vitamin D levels - you've covered almost 99% of your nutritional needs.  However - if you're like the rest of us, you may need to pop that powerful little multivitamin once a day, just to be sure you're completely covered.

Just like you would when eating a diet that included animal products!

You also want to make sure you cover your bases by adding in a little B12.  A multivitamin will contain some B12, but in our home we also check to make sure that any almond milk we're drinking or cereal we're eating is also fortified - or by actually taking a B12 supplement.  It's a small thing to check and make sure you're eating that could protect you from any deficiencies!

So, there it is.  Simple, right?

If you read the 7 Foods list above, you'll notice I clearly omitted several of their top-ranked foods.  More specifically, I completely left off soy products and Greek yogurt.  While I don't massively mind Greek yogurt, I'm really not a huge fan of dairy being on a list for vegetarians - especially since most Greek yogurts are super sugared up.

When it comes to soy products {including tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc.}, I tend to stay away outside of the occasional treat.  For sure, I am not including soy prodcuts as a staple in my diet.  There just isn't enough research yet to prove the claims against soy to be unfounded.  And since arguments that large levels of soy consumption disrupt levels of estrogen and hormones still speak loudly, as a person with prior thyroid issues, I stay the heck away from it.

If you are entering into a vegetarian or vegan diet, it will certainly be some work to establish, learn, and experiment with your new eating patterns {and not turn into strictly a carbatarian!}, but it isn't as tough as it seems to be on the outside.  I hope this list helps and gets you on your way to a tasty and nutritious plant-based diet!

Want to learn more about how we eat?  Check out my post on Green Smoothies here!

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  1. I found this to be a great read! I was a vegetarian for quite a few years but became more of a pescatarian since getting married and having children. However, this posy was an awesome reminder of where the best nutrients are when veggies are such a staple food in one's diet. Do you use chia seeds at all? I have really picked up on that since becoming pregnant but run out of ideas for them.

    1. We do use chia seeds! We mix them into our daily smoothies, sprinkle on salads, or mix into veggies!

  2. Great post! I completely agree. As a former vegetarian I know what you mean about the soy. Soy is in every fake meat product and it is really processed. I think people sometimes get a bit caught up in maximizing their protein intake when it can be found in other foods that are less processed.

    1. I agree. If you look at the recommended amount of protein per day for women (46 grams) or nursing women (66 grams), it's easy to obtain with things like quinoa, broccoli, spinach, beans, kale, chia seeds, healthy nut butters, nuts, etc. If you're trying to eat healthy, substituting most of your meat or dairy products for processed "fake" meats isn't much healthier of an option.

      Although I do love a good black bean and quinoa veggie burger. :)


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