Some people might view adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet in terms of loss. They focus on giving up their favorite foods, losing the option of quick and easy cooking, or not fitting in at a potluck supper. Rather than focusing on what you might be missing, think of all you have to gain from a plant-based diet. There are many benefits to enjoy, including improved health, more creativity in the kitchen, and the knowledge that you’re helping protect the environment.

A lot of people think that to be healthy we need milk, or meat, or lots of protein. The fact is, we don’t need to consume animal protein. We really can get all we need by eating a balanced, whole-food diet that includes lentils and beans, nuts, soy, grains, and seeds.

Improving your health

Our society tends to accept that high blood pressure or heart disease naturally come with age. The fact is that what we eat can have a major impact on our overall health, including our heart health. Even as you age, eating a plant-based diet will help you:

Getting started

You don’t have to make a drastic change all at once, but small steps will take you in the right direction — toward better health. Then continue to gradually add in more vegetarian meals.

Some think that planning a vegetarian diet is complicated and time consuming because you have to cover all the nutritional bases. The truth is, once you learn the basics and get accustomed to a new way of eating, it’s just as easy as planning for any other meal.

Here are some tips to help you get started on your new approach to food:

  • When shopping, do your best to stay away from the interior aisles of the supermarket. That’s where you’ll find all the pre-packaged, processed foods. Instead, stick to the wholesome foods found around the perimeter such as fresh produce, dairy, and fish.
  • Don’t forget that as long as they have no added ingredients, frozen vegetables and fruits are just as good as fresh. In fact, they may be even better for you because their nutrients are preserved by rapid processing. Frozen fruits work especially well in smoothies.
  • Try adding a few new ingredients or products each week to expand your vegetarian toolkit. Instead of hamburger or ground turkey in your chili, substitute textured vegetable protein, made from soy flour. Spread vegan mayonnaise on your sandwich made with dairy-free cheese substitute. Experiment with tofu, which adopts whatever flavors your palate prefers.
  • Don’t forget the protein! There are plenty of options that don’t involve meat.

You can always find helpful resources online. If you have a craving for a certain dish, browse the internet for a vegan recipe. Also, the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog offers a selection of recipes, including vegetarian chili.