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How to go Vegan (or Vegetarian)and be Healthy

So this is a post that I promised a friend a while back, and have had trouble getting around to, even though I think it’s a great idea  It just seemed to me like it would take so much darn EFFORT.  But it’s important, so I’m going to give it my best shot.

Whenever someone is trying to go Veggie for the first time their biggest fear is that they won’t get the things they need anymore (namely protein and calcium) or that to get them they’ll need to eat lots of “weird” foods like tofu…(I don’t consider tofu remotely weird since I was raised on the stuff, but I get that isn’t necessarily the national consensus.)  So let’s get started with protein.

Suprise!!!  You don’t need to eat meat or fish to get protein!!  In fact there are tons of things you’re already eating outside of the animal kingdom that are chock full of protein.  Want a list?  Good, I was hoping you’d say that.  Here we go:

The Beans

Garbanzo beans, Kidney beans, Lentils, Lima beans, Navy beans, Soybeans (Edamame),   Split peas

The Grains

Barley, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Millet, Oatmeal, Quinoa, Rye, Wheat germ, Wheat, Wild rice

The Veggies

Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Green peas, Green pepper, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard greens, Onions, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Turnip greens, Watercress, Yams, Zucchini

The Fruits

Apple, Banana, Cantaloupe, Grape, Grapefruit, Honeydew melon, Orange, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Pineapple, Strawberry, Tangerine, Watermelon

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, Cashews, Filberts, Hemp Seeds, Peanuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts

Now you may notice that some of these are links, that’s because where possible, I attached them to a recipe I made with said ingredient.  9 out of 10 are original recipes, every so often I had to go with a reference to a cookbook because I just haven’t made something up on my own with that ingredient yet.  I’ll get cracking on it though.  That said however, if you’re just starting out with the jump to being a Vegetarian/Vegan the best way to get ideas, is to get some awesome cookbooks.  Even if you’re just going Veggie and not making the Vegan jump, I prefer Vegan cookbooks, I find they’re much more creative in getting in proteins and calcium then the Vegetarian books which often rely heavily on dairy, egg and pasta dishes.

One that you MUST pick up?  Veganomicon.  This is my bible in the kitchen, and to date I’ve tried nearly every recipe in it.  It has a lot of creative dishes using tons of easy to get ingredients, and if nothing else, it will PROVE to you that you can feel totally fulfilled on a Veg. diet.  Some other personal favorites of mine if you’re looking to expand the collection, are Vegan with a Vengeance, World Vegetarian, and Vegan Brunch.  Any of the Moosewood cookbooks are great as well.

As far as calcium goes, the best sources of well-absorbed calcium are the soy route.  You should try calcium-fortified soy milk (it’s full of sugar, but chocolate soy milk is one of the richest most delicious things on earth, I think) and juice (think OJ), tofu, soybeans (edamame) and soynuts, bok choy, broccoli, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and okra.  With a large serving of collards, you can actually get just as much calcium as in a glass of milk.  Betcha didn’t know that!

In addition to protein and calcium, you just need to keep up your basic fruits, veggies, and carbs.  Go complex with the carbs whenever you can…whole wheat bread, pasta, etc, and keep lots of variety, because that’s what will get you excited about eating veggie day in and day out!  There’s no lack of options here, in fact I think you’ll find that once you don’t have meat at the center of your plate, you’ll have a hard time picking what to put there with all the options!

1 comment to How to go Vegan (or Vegetarian)and be Healthy

  • What a great post for new vegetarians – and folks like myself that have been around the block a few times! Oddly enough, this is the second post I’ve seen today that mentions Veganomicon. It’s a book not currently on my self, but soon to be. Thanks for a great post.

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