I suggest you ask yourself the question "What is the best vegetarian diet for me?"
I believe the wisest answer is the diet with the foods that help you to feel your very best, physically and emotionally. The best diet for you is one that gives you clear thoughts, lots of energy, and is completely in line with your values.
Just being a vegetarian isn't really related to your health.
Nor is eating vegan only about what's important to your body's nutritional needs.
You can be any type of vegetarian or vegan and still manage to eat foods devoid of essential nutrients.
Potato chips and French fries are two examples of not particularly nutritious foods - even if you wash them down with a diet coke. Dips and ketchup may not add much value either other than calories from more fat and sugar.
So what are the suggested best foods to nourish your body and move you ever closer to optimum health?
Here are the two big choices for big changes I recommend:
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other items listed on the vegetarian food pyramid. (I'll be doing an article on those soon with the illustrations. Meantime, here's an example.)
And the second big choice is to eat foods foods with a minimum of processing and preservatives.
I know you've heard it before. The best foods are fresh and some of us believe fresh and organic is even better. (Organic because it helps reduce pesticide pollution of land and water supply.)
Please do use caution if the shelf life is years and you can't pronounce many of the ingredients. Perhaps that product is not as healthy for you as the label says it is.
Do you prefer to make small changes one by one?
It's important for your mind and your body to agree on change. Be kind and take it easy. If you're feeling stress about your new way of eating, your body may not adjust without complaining a bit.
You might evaluate every month or so if you're feeling more energy and notice if your weight has dropped and/or whether your food cravings have vanished.
Here's another way of looking at what might be the best vegetarian diet for you.
There's a wonderful term I've recently heard although it's been around a while. Flexitarian.
Have you heard of it? The definition of a
is one who likes and generally prefers a vegetarian or vegan diet, but on occasion, eats meat, perhaps a burger and fries or some other form of fast or junk food.
They're flexible. No guilt. No angst. Just a diversion from their usual fare. That's all.
Transitional changes aren't for everyone. How to get to the best vegetarian diet varies from person to person.
For some people, it's gotta be all or nothing.
What about you?
Why do you want to change your diet?
Is illness a factor?
Are you trying to lose weight?
Did your best friend just die from a heart attack?
Have you read that fat causes cancer?
Do you have a pet chicken now and can't imagine eating her cousin?
Whatever your reason for seeking the best vegetarian diet for yourself, please trust your body (and sometimes your animal-loving heart) to tell you what is truly best.
Learn what foods create more energy and which ones make you sleepy. Read about foods and write brief notes after you eat about how you feel.
Ask yourself if it bothers you to eat an animal. Do you have to pretend your hamburger isn't a dead steer? Some people can't stand to connect their meat with its source. Others could care less. Which are you?
Remember - your reason creates your motivation to stay with your decision and your diet.
There is so much dietary information available and much of it's conflicting.
Everyone tries to come across as an expert who knows what's best. I think that you're the only person who can say what's best for you.
Your body, how you feel, will tell you whether you've chosen the best vegetarian diet for you or whether you need to modify your choices. For example, some bodies prefer raw foods and others require cooked for comfortable digestion.
If your health isn't creating an urgent need for change, then I suggest you enjoy the process. Let your body tell you over time whether the changes are helping you feel better.
However, if your health is the issue, then do talk to your physician (or another one who believes in the importance of dietary influences on health) and follow his or her recommended diet to the letter.
Where to begin? Now a days there are many terrific vegetarian and vegan cook books.
There are cook books written by dietitians, physicians, mom raising vegetarian and vegan children, and even recipes the kids tested and wrote down!
You'll find hundreds of free recipes on the many vegetarian websites, too.
One last comment on change:
For those of you who run and jump into the cold water because that's the best way for you to get in and enjoy your swim - Jump right into your new diet.
Pursue it with passion. That's your favorite way.
It may be a bit of a shock to your body, just as the sudden immersion into cold water is. But go for it...with the same caution you'd use in not being foolish and diving into water without checking the depth for safety.
And for you toe tippers who inch your way into the water. It's perfectly fine to do the same with your diet.
Small changes over time will create significant changes in your body. Eventually you'll end up immersed in the water and it's the same with your diet.
One meal at a time. One different choice, one substitution, one bite of an entirely new food.
Please do congratulate yourself for each positive change you make to be healthier.