The benefits of becoming a part-time vegetarian
The benefits of the flexitarian diet
Lite n’ Easy dietitian, Melissa Holloway shares why trying a vegetarian-ish way of eating can have some great health benefits.
Research has shown that people whose diets are rich in plant foods are healthier. They are at lower risk of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and some types of cancers.
On average, Australians eat a lot of meat – around 110kg of meat per person, per year. Which is at least double the amount recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines. More meat on the plate every day ultimately means there is less room for plant foods. However, there is a growing number of Australians who want to reduce their meat intake to improve their health, opting to incorporate more meat-free and vegetarian options into their diet.
Achieving health through vegetarian eating is not just a matter of eating food without meat. No doubt if it was, we’d be happily chowing down on cheese, potato chips and Tim Tams. Healthy vegetarian foods are plant-based and minimally processed. Wholegrains such as barley, rolled oats and quinoa, legumes, nuts, seeds, and good old fruit and veggies are the stars of healthy vegetarian eating. Dairy and eggs can be included in vegetarian diets too, and are excellent sources of protein. The great news is that anyone can benefit from eating these foods, whether you continue to eat meat or not.
The benefits of including more vegetarian meals in your diet
1. High fibre
Much of the health advantage of vegetarian eating is that it relies on foods that are naturally high in fibre. Wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit and veggies – key in vegetarian eating – are all rich sources of fibre. Fibre is not only great for keeping you regular, but it also feeds your gut bugs. Happy, well-fed gut bugs help to protect you from bowel cancer, help to manage blood glucose levels and may even help in weight management. Making the switch from meat to plant foods for even for just a few meals per week is a sure way to increase your fibre intake, and your gut will thank you for it!
2. Reduce lifestyle disease
Plant foods are not only a great source of fibre, but they contain health-promoting goodies that help to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. While meat is a very good source of key nutrients such as iron, zinc, B vitamins and protein, legumes are also a good source of these nutrients. So you wouldn’t be missing out if you choose these over meat. Importantly, plant foods also contain compounds called polyphenols, which are thought to have cancer-preventing properties. This, along with heart-healthy fats found in nuts and seeds, and with all the benefit of gut-loving fibre from plant foods, means that including more of these foods in your diet will have a positive impact on your long-term health.
3. Reaching your veg targets
As long as meat is replaced by plant foods that include vegetables and legumes (not just cheese!), there is no doubt regularly switching out meat occasionally will help you to reach your recommended vegetable intake of around 5 serves a day. Kicking those vegetable goals means your body will get the nutrients and fibre it needs, which will result in better health.
How can you incorporate more vegetarian meals?
If you’re wanting to feel the benefit of eating more plant foods but don’t know where to start, remember that you can choose a way of eating that works for you. For some people, that might mean happily shifting to a full vegetarian diet. But if that’s not for you, worry not! You don’t need to cut out meat altogether to see an improvement in your health. Simply choosing meals that bring you the best of vegetarian eating such as those that champion wholegrains, legumes, veggies, nuts and seeds, rather than always choosing meals with meat, is a great decision for your long-term health.
Start with baby steps
If you’re keen to start incorporating more plant foods into your diet, start small. This is where initiatives like Meatless Mondays are great, as it gives you a manageable starting point. Then, if you’re loving it once a week, try it twice a week. Try the vegetarian versions of your favourite meals. Give different vegetarian proteins a go such as tofu, seitan, beans, lentils and chickpeas. Instead of going all out, try replacing half of the meat in a dish with legumes or tofu. This works particularly well in mixed dishes such as tofu in stir-fries, lentils in bolognaise, beans in chilli con carne or chickpeas in a curry.
Don’t be put off by fear of boredom or missing meat. Vegetarian food has moved into the mainstream which means that food services are making sure their vegetarian food tastes just as good, if not better, than their meat-containing counterparts.
Why Lite n’ Easy?
Lite n’ Easy’s exciting new vegetarian menu contains all the goodness of our popular meal plans, minus the meat! This new offering makes it easy to live a healthy flexitarian or vegetarian lifestyle, with nutritious and great-tasting meals delivered straight to your door. Lite n’ Easy has done all the nutritional heavy-lifting for you, producing a vegetarian meal plan that includes a great range of nutritious plant foods that bring you all the benefits of vegetarian eating. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or order online now.
Melissa Holloway is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive experience across a range of industries including aged care, elite sport and in hospitals. She is passionate about ensuring people have access to not only fresh and healthy food options but also that people get to choose food