People who adopt the recommended low-fat, high-fiber diet may discover that they have stumbled into vegetarianism. If you are considering switching to this type of diet, here are some suggestions.
CUT BACK GRADUALLY
If you are in the habit of eating meat, poultry, or ﬁsh for lunch and dinner, limit such choices to one meal a day, then cut back further.
Decrease or forgo the meat in your family’s favorite dishes. For example, use more beans and less ground beef in a chili recipe; layer lasagna with ricotta or fresh vegetables instead of meat.
When you do eat meat, poultry, or fish, use it sparingly to ﬂavor dishes, such as rice and pasta entrees.
If you substitute cheese and other dairy products for red meat, choose low-fat or nonfat varieties Whenever possible.
Apply the same rules to a vegetarian diet as to any other eating plan: variety, moderation, and balance. Except among very strict vegetarians, deﬁciencies of vitamins and minerals rarely occur (see chart on facing page).
Keep experimenting. Scour cookbooks and magazines to find new recipes using beans, pasta, whole grains, and rice.
GET INTO GRAINS
Millet: it’s not just bird food. High in protein, millet is an excellent source of B vitamins and several minerals, including iron. Use whole hulled millet in place of rice in stuffings and side dishes. Try puffed millet as an ingredient in bread and puddings.
Buckwheat: Its nutty ﬂavor and crunchy texture contribute to entrees and side dishes. Buckwheat can also be eaten for breakfast.
Barley: Whole hulled barley is more nutritious than pearled barley, which loses its outer layer in processing. Use barley as a side dish, in soups, or as a breakfast cereal.
Quinoa (pronounced KEENWa): This ancient Peruvian grain is rich in iron, crunchy, and has a light, nutty ﬂavor. Try it in puddings, stews, and soups or as a hot cereal.
Rice: Don‘t limit yourself to white or brown rice. Try basmati, Wild rice, and other types.
Boost the ﬂavor of grains by cooking them in wine, vegetable stock, tomato sauce, or with herbs and spices. Stay away from seasoned rice mixes, which generally contain oil, sugar, and sodium.
Quick-cooking versions of such grains as barley,” brown rice, and bulgur can cut the preparation time by half or more.
DABBLE IN BEANS
Dried peas and beans, which are a staple of vegetarian diets around the World, provide protein, B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, and fiber. Red lentils are one of the quickest to prepare, requiring no soaking and less than 20 minutes of cooking. Others, like black-eyed peas and black, fava, lima, navy, and pinto beans, need several hours of soaking before they can be cooked.
To shorten soaking time, place beans in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the burner and let the beans stand, covered, in the pot for an hour or two.
Reduce the chance that beans Will cause gas and bloating by draining off the water they were soaked in. After soaking them, cook beans in fresh water, then discard that liquid, too.
Use canned beans occasionally to save time. Be sure to rinse the beans, which often have added sodium in the can- mg liquid.
Keep dried beans in an airtight container in a cool room; their shelf life is up to a year. Cooked beans can be stored in the refrigerator for five days and in the freezer for six months.
Too much fiber too soon can produce stomach discomfort. increase your consumption of such high-fiber foods like beans and grains gradually. And be sure to drink plenty of water and other liquids.
A MEAL PLAN
Here’s What a healthy Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet should include daily:
Four or more servings of vegetables
Three or more servings of fruit
Six or more servings of whole grains (such as bread, cereal, rice, and pasta)
Two or three servings of nuts, tofu (a soybean product), and legumes (dried peas and beans)
Up to three servings of low-fat dairy foods
An occasional egg or egg whites
PUT WORRIES ASIDE
Forget the old Warning that strict vegetarians, or vegans [whose diet excludes eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, and ﬁsh), must mix and match plant foods carefully at each meal to make sure that they get enough protein. Experts now believe that eating a variety of plant-based foods daily supplies adequate protein. Good sources of plant-based protein include nuts, seeds, dried peas and beans, green peas, tofu, pasta, and rice.
To get as much protein from plant foods as you could get from a three-ounce serving of sirloin steak or pork loin, eat a half cup each of green peas, lentils, and soybeans.
Iron and zinc deﬁciencies occur very rarely. In general, if a vegan consumes a good assortment of foods, the only potential nutritional problem Will be a vitamin B12 deficiency, which is curable when caught early.
Vegetarians who avoid all animal foods can help to minimize the risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency by drinking fortified soy milk and eating fortiﬁed cereals. Also, see the suggestions in the box below.