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Vegetarian and vegan diets have more and more acceptance and preference, that means that around the world every day there are people thinking about how to change their diet in a healthy way that does not harm the functioning of the body, either for health reasons, environment or animals.

We are going to focus specifically on a healthy change to a diet based on vegetarianism, which is a dietary regime that has as a principle to stop consuming any type of meat of animal origin or fish.

Within the vegetarian practice there are different types and degrees:a.

a. Vegans or strict vegetarians: They are those who do not admit the ingestion of any animal product or derived from it. 

b. Lacto-vegetarians: Those who consume dairy products. 

c. Ovovegetarians: Those who allow the consumption of eggs as a source of protein.

 

Steps to achieve a healthy eating change:

1. Know what your daily protein requirement is: Getting enough protein in a vegetarian diet is easier than you think, thanks to nuts such as walnuts and almonds, legumes such as beans and lentils, tofu (soy) or eggs. To ensure that our body continues to build muscle. The recommended amount is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. be sure to replace animal protein with vegetable protein.

2. Measure fat intake: If the decision is to switch to an entirely plant-based diet, the necessary fats for the body can be found in chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts, among others. However, calories and fats from nuts and seeds add up very quickly so you can gain unnecessary weight, so the recommendation is to know the appropriate portions of fats in the diet. For example, a portion of butter is one tablespoon, one of nuts is a fist, and one of avocado is a quarter of the piece, 1 tablespoon of olive oil. 

3. Take care of your iron intake: After changing to a vegetarian diet and eliminating meat consumption, there is a risk of feeling fatigue and muscle weakness, a situation that should not be overlooked, as these are symptoms of anemia, which occurs when the body does not have enough iron to create red blood cells. The recommended amount is 8 milligrams per day for men, while women need 18 mg under the age of 50, a figure that changes to 27 milligrams if pregnant. Most vegetarians can reach their daily goal by consuming iron-rich foods such as beans, raisins and, of course, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard. It is recommended to combine iron-rich foods with ingredients rich in vitamin C such as peppers, tomatoes or citrus fruits.

4. The importance of vitamin B12: Mainly in strict vegetarian or vegan diets, vitamin B12 has a deficiency that can cause anemia, to avoid this it is suggested the consumption of fortified foods and B12 supplements, it is recommended to consume 1 to 3 micrograms per day, increasing the requirements during pregnancy and lactation. For those who are not strict vegetarians, the consumption of yogurt, milk or eggs is recommended.

5. Start small: If you want to make the switch to vegetarianism easy and consistent over the long term, it is best to start small to avoid the stress and frustration of a complete change in diet overnight. You can start by eliminating a specific food, for example, you can start by eliminating all red meat for two weeks, then eliminate chicken or turkey and progressively make all meals vegetable-based. Another way to do this is to start with a meatless meal once a week, then a whole day without meat and so on until a complete change to a vegetarian diet is achieved.

6. Always consult your nutritionist: Switching from an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian diet can be overwhelming, which is why it is recommended to seek help from a nutrition professional to help us not only make the transition, but also to identify our ideal nutrient intake and create an eating plan focused on achieving those goals.

 

[1] GEOSALUD – MUÑOZ Carlos. (2020). Alimentación Plant Based. Salud y Nutrición.

[1] MFMER Fundación de educación médica y alimenticia. (2020). Dieta vegetariana: como obtener una mejor nutrición. 

 

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