Rookie vegetarianism and the junk food trap

A variety of inspirations may spark a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle change, the most common being animal wel...

Posted: Aug 21, 2018 10:57 AM
Updated: Aug 21, 2018 10:57 AM

A variety of inspirations may spark a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle change, the most common being animal welfare, environmental welfare and personal health. But even if health isn't the reason, it's important to maintain good health within any diet. Why not enjoy the benefits of being a vegetarian, even if you're doing it for the cows and the trees?

Mortality in vegetarians, according to a meta-study from 2012, was 9% lower than in nonvegetarians. And according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a vegetarian diet lowers risks of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

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But simply being a vegetarian or vegan doesn't guarantee these results, because it's possible to abstain from meat or dairy and still live an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, it can be quite common.

I was one of those unhealthy vegetarians who eliminated meat but replaced vegetables with all varieties of potatoes: French fries, chips, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes. My fruits were "fruit snacks." My meat became chemically processed veggie meat.

Within a year, I began to struggle with severe anemia, ADHD and fatigue. I would break my vegetarianism and eat a chicken breast, a burger or salmon to feel better. Meat would solve the problem, but it also made me bloated and constipated and gave me headaches.

My "aha" moment came when I was driving through Georgia one fall day and saw cows grazing in a field. I laughed because the animals I ate were all vegetarians. One of the reasons we are able to get quality nutrients from cows, chickens and turkeys is because their diet consists of grass, grains, corn and fruits. I realized what my diet was missing.

"Many vegetarians and vegans make the mistake of eliminating but not correctly replacing," said Dr. Brandi Jouett-Patrickson, an internal medicine doctor with Piedmont Physicians Group.

Here are the most important ways to ensure that your vegetarian lifestyle doesn't start as poorly as mine did.

Eat the rainbow

The US Department of Agriculture recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. This can be even more crucial for a vegetarian, given that meat often provides nutrients, particularly iron and vitamin B12.

"Each meal should have an array of fresh colors," Jouett-Patrickson said.

Eating green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale can help head off iron deficiency. Vegetarians can avoid B12 deficiency by eating dairy, but Jouett-Patrickson suggests that vegans use a B12 vitamin or fortified foods such as plant milks, soy products and some breakfast cereals.

Beware of processed food

Beginner vegetarians often eat a lot of processed foods, such as veggie meat, French fries, frozen pizza, instant oatmeal, instant ramen noodles, pastries. A recent study in the British Medical Journey suggests a link between highly processed foods and cancer.

One way to get a sense of how processed a particular food is to read the ingredients. If you see numerous preservatives, colorants and unfamiliar words, be wary. The general rule should be the simpler, the better.

"The food you eat should be as local as possible," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. "That cuts down on the travel time and the number of points where food can be contaminated. It also means your food doesn't need as many preservatives to increase shelf life." Remember, fresh is always better.

More water

Dehydration is a lesser-known side effect in an unhealthy vegetarian lifestyle. When you eat a lot of processed food, you're reducing the hydration in your body.

"Hidden sources of salt lurk in most processed foods," according to the National Academy of Sciences' Food and Nutrition Board. When there's too much sodium in your diet, you retain water, your kidneys cannot properly filter it from your body, and you become dehydrated.

Your body is roughly 60% water, which is vital to cells, organs and certain body functions. Make sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids.

Be intentional

This new lifestyle is not for the lazy; you must work hard to maintain the journey. Be intentional about your meal prep and choices. You may want to invest in cookbooks or even meal prep services to get off to the right start. Social media, particularly Instagram, can provide a wealth of tips and encouragement when transitioning.

Most of all, don't give up. Remember, it's a journey, and you're learning how to make vegetarianism work best for you. Follow these guidelines to avoid the unhealthy vegetarianism path, but even if you stumble, dust off yourself -- and your vegetables -- and try again.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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