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Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, and poultry. Vegans are vegetarians who abstain from eating or using all animal products, including milk, cheese, other dairy items, eggs, wool, silk, and leather. Among the many reasons for being a vegetarian are health, ecological, and religious concerns, dislike of meat, compassion for animals, belief in non-violence, and economics. The American Dietetic Association has affirmed that a vegetarian diet can meet all known nutrient needs. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Limit your intake of sweets and fatty foods.
Many people become vegetarian instantly. They totally give up meat, fish and poultry overnight. Others make the change gradually. Do what works best for you.
Being a vegetarian is as hard or as easy as you choose to make it. Some people enjoy planning and preparing elaborate meals, while others opt for quick and easy vegetarian dishes.
Vegetarians easily meet their protein needs by eating a varied diet, as
long as they consume enough calories to maintain their weight.
It is not necessary to plan combinations of foods. A mixture of proteins throughout the day will provide enough "essential amino acids." (See "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets," JADA, July 2009; Simply Vegan, 2006; and nutrition information on VRG's website, www.vrg.org.)
SOURCES OF PROTEIN: beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, chickpeas, peas... Many common foods, such as whole grain bread, greens, potatoes, and corn, quickly add to protein intake.
SOURCES OF IRON: dried fruits, baked potatoes, mushrooms, cashews, dried beans, spinach, chard, tofu, tempeh, bulgur, and iron-fortified foods (such as cereals, instant oatmeal, and veggie "meats") are all good sources of iron. To increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal, eat a food containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomatoes, or broccoli. Using iron cookware also adds to iron intake.
SOURCES OF CALCIUM: Good sources include broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, tofu prepared with calcium, low-fat dairy products, fortified soymilk, and fortified orange juice.
The adult recommended intake for vitamin B12 is very low. Vitamin B12 comes primarily from animal-derived foods. A diet containing dairy products or eggs provides adequate vitamin B12. Fortified foods, such as some brands of cereal, nutritional yeast, soymilk, or soy analogs, are good non-animal sources. Check labels to discover other products that are fortified with vitamin B12. Tempeh and sea vegetables are not a reliable source of vitamin B12. To be on the safe side, if you do not consume dairy products, eggs, or fortified foods regularly, you should take a non-animal derived supplement.
To maximize production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and made by our bodies), include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in your diet. Alpha-linolenic acid is found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts. You can also obtain DHA directly from foods fortified with DHA from microalgae (in some brands of soymilk) and supplements containing microalgae-derived DHA.
According to The American Dietetic Association, vegetarian and vegan diets can meet all nitrogen needs and amino acid requirements for growth. Diets for children should contain enough calories to support growth and have reliable sources of key nutrients, such as iron, zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
VRG Parents is an email list for vegetarian parents and parents of vegetarians.
VRG's Online Restaurant Guide helps you find vegan/vegetarian and veg friendly restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Center for Science in the Public Interest. Write for their publications list. C.S.P.I., 1875 Connecticut Avenue NW, #300, Washington, D.C. 20009. They publish Nutrition Action, full color posters on nutrition, and more.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front Street, Norfolk VA 23510. (757) 622-PETA.
Position of The American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets, Journal of The American Dietetic Association, June 2003.
Robertson, Laurel; Flinders, Carol; Ruppenthal, Brian; The New Laurel's Kitchen, Ten Speed Press, 1986.
Loma Linda University Diet Manual, 2002. Includes information about diets related to medical practice..
USDA National Nutrient Database, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/.
Wasserman, Debra and Charles Stahler; Meatless Meals for Working People -- Quick and Easy Vegetarian Recipes, The Vegetarian Resource Group.
Wasserman, Debra and Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D., Simply Vegan -- Quick Vegetarian Meals, The Vegetarian Resource Group. Contains a thorough vegan nutrition section.
Send requests with appropriate size SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) or payment to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.
I Love Animals and Broccoli Coloring Book: This (8-1/2" x 11") eight-page booklet for three- to seven-year-olds encourages healthy eating. One copy: SASE with two first class stamps. Quantity order: 15 cents each. (Coloring Book Lesson Plan by Humane Education Committee: SASE with two first class stamps.)
I Love Animals and Broccoli Activity Book: Educational activities on vegetarianism which can be reproduced. Most suitable for the middle grades, but with adult help could be used with younger children who can read. Includes an activity on peer pressure for teens. (48 pages) Send $5.00.
Tips on Speaking About Vegetarianism to Classes: Send SASE with two first class stamps.
Vegan Diets in a Nutshell: Reasons and resources for being vegan, and answers your nutrition questions.
Vegetarianism in a Nutshell Handout: Basic information about vegetarianism plus quick recipes. Send SASE for one. To receive a quantity of these send a donation for postage. (This is what you are reading!)
Vegetarian Videos and Slide Show: Write for a list of rental videos and our slide show. Please include an SASE. Many of the videos are available on loan, and the slide show is available in slides and as a Power Point file.
Vegetarian Nutrition for Teenagers: Brochure by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D. For one send an SASE; quantity 10 cents each.
SPANISH VERSION OF HANDOUTS: Vegetarianism in a Nutshell, Vegetarian Nutrition for Teens, and Heart Healthy Diets are all available in Spanish. For one send an SASE; quantity 10 cents each.
The Vegan Diet During Pregnancy and Lactation: Handout by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D. Send $3.00.
Vegan Nutrition in Pregnancy and Childhood: Brochure by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D. and Katie Kavanagh-Prochaska, RD. For one send an SASE; quantity 10 cents each.
Leonardo Da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Isaac Bashevis Singer (Nobel Prize winner), Albert Einstein (Nobel Prize winner), Janet Jackson, Mr. Rogers, Clara Barton, k.d. lang, Paul McCartney... Did you know Benjamin Franklin ate tofu?
(Meatless Meals for Working People -- Quick and Easy Vegetarian Recipes)
1/3 pound rigatoni or other pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil
1 small can tomato sauce
1 pound can kidney beans, drained
1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Black pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Saute onions, garlic, and green pepper in oil 4-5 minutes or until soft. Stir in tomato sauce, kidney beans, soy sauce, salt, chili powder, and black pepper. Simmer several minutes. Drain pasta when done and stir into sauce. Serve as is, or add 1/2 Cup crumbled tofu or low-fat cottage cheese to each serving to make a lasagna-like dish. Add hot sauce if desired. (Decrease fat content -- saute in water instead of oil or just brush the pan lightly with an oiled paper towel.) Serves 4.
SWEET SAUTEED RED CABBAGE
(Simply Vegan -- Quick Vegetarian Meals)
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1 apple, chopped
Small onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Use a non-stick pan, if possible, and heat ingredients, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Serves 4.
SPICY POTATOES, CABBAGE, AND PEAS OVER RICE
(Simply Vegan -- Quick Vegetarian Meals)
2 cups rice
4 cups water
5 medium potatoes, peeled, and thinly sliced
2 cups water
1/2 green cabbage
10-ounce box of frozen peas (or equivalent fresh)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste (optional)
Cook rice in 4 cups water in a covered pot over medium-high heat until done.
In a separate pan, add sliced potatoes to 2 cups of water and heat over medium-high heat. Shred cabbage and add to potatoes. Add peas and spices. Cover pan. Continue heating, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender. Serve over rice. Serves 6.
GARBANZO BEAN BURGERS
(Simply Vegan -- Quick Vegetarian Meals)
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), mashed
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 small onion, minced
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons oil
Mix the ingredients (except oil) in a bowl. Form 6 flat patties. Fry in oiled pan over medium-high heat until burgers are golden brown on each side. Serve alone with a mushroom or tomato sauce, or as a burger with lettuce and tomato. Makes 6 burgers.
Common vegetarian foods: macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, cheese pizza, eggplant parmesan, vegetable soup, pancakes, oatmeal, grilled cheese, bean tacos and burritos, vegetable lo mein, French toast, French fries, vegetable pot pie, fruit shakes, bread, yogurt, cheese lasagna, peanut butter and jam, fruit salad, corn flakes...
Some vegetarians also eat: tofu, tempeh, bulgur, lentils, millet, tahini, falafel, nutritional yeast, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, sprouts, chickpeas, tamari, kale, collards, carrot juice, barley, rice cakes, carob, split peas, kidney beans, soy burgers, kiwi fruit, papaya, blintzes, curry, nut loaf...
Vegetarian diets may be lower in fat than typical American diets. However, for those people who need to be particularly cautious about the fat in their diet, below are tips for reducing fat. Extremely low-fat diets are not appropriate for everybody, especially children and pregnant women.
Saute in water instead of oil. You can use soy lecithin sprays or rub a little oil on the pan using a paper towel.
You can use half the amount of oil, or even less, called for in most recipes. The missing oil can be just omitted, or replaced by juice, or juice concentrate to make the item sweeter, or simply substitute water.
Remember: Only animal products (including dairy and eggs) contain cholesterol. Vegetable products do not contain any cholesterol. However, some vegetable products, such as coconut and palm oil, are high in saturated fat and may raise blood cholesterol levels.
Any of the following can be used to replace eggs:
The following can be used as dairy substitutes in cooking:
The following can be used as meat substitutes in soups and stews:
To JOIN the Vegetarian Resource Group and receive the magazine Vegetarian Journal, please click here or print the form below and fill it out. You can mail it to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, or fax this form to (410) 366-8804. Or, you can call the VRG at (410) 366-VEGE and order directly with Mastercard® or Visa®.
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For a $30 Contributor level membership, we will send you Vegetarian Journal and a FREE COPY of the Vegan Handbook, a $19.95 value! This book is an invaluable resource for both novice and long-time vegetarians.
For $50.00, in addition to the Vegan Handbook, you will also receive a FREE COPY of Meatless Meals for Working People -- Quick and Easy Vegetarian Recipes.
Send check to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.
The contents of this website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.
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