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Wellness Wednesday

Celebrating Vegetarian Awareness Month

a variety of vegan protein sources

CARLOSGAW/ISTOCK

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month and the perfect time to explore what it means to follow this type of nutrition plan. According to research from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegetarian diets are healthful and may even help prevent various conditions including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and certain types of cancer.

Different levels of vegetarian styles include:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: includes dairy products and eggs but no meat
  • Lacto-vegetarian: includes dairy products, but no eggs or meat
  • Pesci-vegetarian: includes fish but no meat
  • Vegan: no meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs or honey

If you, like me, do include meat in your meal plan, you can still reap the benefits of powering up with more plant-based foods this month. One idea is to have a Meatless Monday every week. Browse through plant-based recipes like Stuffed Acorn Squash or Mediterranean Eggplant Bake, and plan to try at least one this month.

If you’re concerned about protein, keep in mind that many plant-based foods are good sources of protein including:

  • Almonds (6 g. protein per ¼ cup)
  • Black beans (7 g. protein per ½ cup)
  • Greek yogurt (18 g. protein per ¾ cup)
  • Lentils (12 g. protein per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Oatmeal (6 g. protein per 1 cup, cooked)

It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you’re considering a vegetarian, vegan or any diet to make sure it’s appropriate and safe for your individual needs. A dietitian, for example, can offer guidance on what foods or supplements to include to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of vitamin B12, calcium and iron in your vegetarian or vegan meal plan.

Are you a current or former vegetarian or are you considering this type of diet? I want to hear all about it! Tell me about your experience in the comments section.

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