Although the trendy vegetarian diet for 2017 is mainly plant-based and meatless, it requires more caution and effort. Transitioning into a strict vegetarian means having a variety of foods that will provide the same nutrients in meat products to keep a balanced diet.
Lauren Renlund is a registered dietitian in London and she says, “it’s not just about cutting foods out it’s about adding other foods in, it’s about making substitutes for those foods you’re now avoiding.”
Renlund encourages beginners to do their research to form a proper meal plan and meat alternatives before diving into the diet. Without research and an accurate nutrition guide, a strict vegetarian diet may come with health risks. Renlund says one of the biggest health risks “is potential nutrient deficiencies in particular, especially if someone cuts out meat products without adding any meat alternatives into their diet.”
Lauren Renlund says she was a strict vegetarian for five years.
“I became a vegetarian when I was thirteen. I did not know much about it at the time. Online I was looking to find a vegetarian version of our food guide and I learned that it’s important to not only cut out the meat but also add in protein sources. So I started eating tofu, other soy products, beans, lentils, nuts and eggs.”
Vitamin B12, a crucial vitamin for health is found in animal-based foods. Being vegetarian includes eliminating meats while still getting the right proteins and vitamins the human body needs. Renlund says that a lack of these nutrients can result in iron deficiency, fatigue, brittle nails, and hair loss. Without proper research and a guide to becoming a vegetarian, there is a higher chance of potential nutrient deficiencies.
Lauren Renlund strongly suggests speaking to a registered dietician or a licensed nutrition coach to provides accurate research and information to avoid any health risks. Renlund also encourages beginners to not be so strict on themselves.
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, going vegetarian is a big trend right now but it’s not necessary to be a strict vegetarian or vegan to get those benefits. You can still benefit the environment and benefit your health by eating plant based foods. Of course if you decide to go that route it’s fine but do your research.” She believes with research it is not difficult to find many other substitutes for meat to provide a healthy amount of protein for a balanced regimen.
Renlund suggests visiting eatrightontario.ca, a website run by dieticians including a number of articles about transitioning into a vegetarian/vegan diet.