For many vegetarians, obtaining proper nutrition is an important concern. Planning meals that combine all of the necessary components of a well balanced diet takes time and a little creativity. It can be difficult for aspiring and novice vegetarians; however, there are many support networks available. With more and more information surfacing about the dangers of a meat-based diet and the detriment to the environment and the food chain that raising animals for slaughter causes, people are wisely turning to a healthy and safe vegetarian diet.
It is recommended that the beginning vegetarian researches and understands the balancing factors of a plant-based diet. An obvious element that many people are concerned about when considering vegetarianism is protein. There is the standard: rice and beans, and also tofu, nut butters, protein powders, and the abundant choices for alternative meat products. The web site nomeat.com offers everything from vegetarian sausage to "mock duck." Of course Down to Earth carries many varieties of meat substitutes. To make a simple meat alternative, add water and spices to wheat gluten and knead the mixture, then boil, bake, fry or grill it. This is called "wheat meat." (Exact recipe is given in the Recipes section).
Dairy products, if desired, are also very high in protein and calcium while supplying vital intestinal flora. Yogurt is a wonderful food for growing vegetarian children and they will always eat it!
Nut butters are a very convenient source of nutrition and are high in essential fatty acids. Almonds and almond butter are tasty sources of calcium and protein and are very versatile ingredients for various recipes.
Whole grains like rice, quinoa, millet, oats, and barley should make up about 40% of a plant-based diet. Brown rice has more nutritional value than white rice (though white rice cooks faster) but both are a complete protein when combined with beans. Whole grain breads are best and sprouted wheat breads can be found in the freezer section at Down to Earth. Sprouted grains are usually easier to digest and are often welcomed by those with sensitivities to wheat.
Fruits and vegetables add vitality and variety as well as supply a host of essential vitamins and amino acids to the diet. It's best to stick to organic produce whenever possible, as these foods contain the highest nutrition and do not have the toxic pesticides residues and harmful chemical fertilizers.
The vegetarian diet does not have to be devoid of sweets and treats. Many wonderful sweeteners are available as alternatives to white, processed sugar, which can be detrimental to good health. Barley malt, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, or Sucanat (granulated cane juice), can be substituted for white sugar in your favorite dessert recipes. Eggs can be replaced with the commercial brand "Egg Replacer," which works wonderful as does yogurt, applesauce, ground flax seeds, and arrowroot powder. (All of these products can be found in Down to Earth). There are several excellent vegetarian cookbooks available in the Down to Earth stores.
Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be healthy, reduce the suffering of animals raised for food, improve the environmental conditions of the planet, and work towards integrating a sustainable food source for all the people of the world. GO VEGGIE!