Trader Joe’s has turned into “pumpkin central,” coffee shops are beginning to churn out their pumpkin spiced lattes, and food blogs and Instagram feeds are flooded with recipes for pumpkin flavored everything. This can only mean one thing: Fall is here! Now before you go nuts with hearty holiday feasts and decadent sweets, take some time to celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month throughout October. Start by discovering the truth behind these seven myths that are sure to spark a newfound love of veggies. Who knows, you just may find yourself a happier, healthier person rolling into the New Year!
- Myth: You can’t get enough protein from plants.
Fact: This is the number one excuse out of the excuse-generator when the topic of vegetarians arises. We often use meat and protein interchangeably, but it’s about time our little plant pals spoke up. You’ll find that some of the most unsuspecting foods, like lentils, beans, peas, peanuts, nuts, seeds, grains, and even green vegetables, contain this mighty macronutrient. When you put it all together, the protein certainly adds up. At a minimum, your body needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight; you’ll need more if you’re recovering from an injury or are more physically active. For a 150-pound person, that translates to about 55 grams of protein per day. Easy peasy.
- Myth: Athletes need meat for optimum performance.
Fact: Gone are the days of the slim and scrawny vegetarians. Even athletes have gotten in on the “plant-strong” game. Olympic track star Carl Lewis, Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, and bodybuilder Robert Cheeke are just a few who have mastered their sport solely fueled by vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Myth: You’ll automatically shed pounds if you become vegetarian.
Fact: If you focus on whole, natural, plant-based foods and keep your portions in check, you most likely will lose some weight – if you’ve got weight to lose, that is. However, what many people don’t realize is that French fries, Oreos, cheese-laden quesadillas, potato chips, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, cakes, cookies and other not-so-nutritious options are all vegetarian-friendly, but not so waist-friendly. If you think that becoming a vegetarian will automatically make you healthier, then think again. You still must make wise choices when it comes to what’s on your plate.
- Myth: Eating fresh produce and meatless meals is more expensive than a carnivorous diet.
Fact: Don’t let $10 fancy fresh-pressed juices or $15 organic salads sway you. While price per calorie may be a bit higher for produce than it is for meat, when it comes to comparing a complete vegetarian meal to a meat-based dish, the more greens on your plate, the more greens left in your wallet!
- Myth: If you’re vegetarian, you’ll never be able to touch meat again.
Fact: Times change, people change, and our food preferences change. Instead of thinking in terms of all-or-nothing, simply opt to include more meals that are centered on veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Maybe you implement a “Meatless Monday” tradition in your home or pledge to Eat Vegan Before 6:00 like Mark Bittman. A psychology study found that 84 percent of self-professed vegans and vegetarians eventually return to eating meat. That‘s not to say that eating a vegetarian diet is bad or unsustainable, it simply shows that change is often inevitable, so be flexible to your needs.
- Myth: Vegetarian food is boring and bland.
Fact: You don’t have to eat fake meat. In fact, it’s better if you don’t rely on that processed foodstuff to trick yourself into becoming vegetarian. All you need to do is commit to trying new foods and recipes that will expand your palate and enlighten your taste buds. Check out some of these health foodies whose photos and recipes will make the meatiest of meat lover’s mouth drool!
Plus many more!
- Myth: Vegetarian diets are the end all - be all to good health.
Fact: Sometimes a way of eating just doesn’t quite work for certain people. Eating a purely plant-based diet may help you thrive at one point in your life, but it may not quite suit you after some time. After following a strict vegan diet for six years, I began to notice subtle changes in my mood, energy, and weight. As a Dietitian, I automatically turned to food as medicine and began experimenting with my diet. After eliminating foods that I thought were triggers for these symptoms with no relief, I understood that I needed to add in certain foods that I shunned several years ago.
First, I began eating high quality wild fish, and then I added organic eggs back into my diet. Perhaps there were certain nutrients that were lacking from my vegan diet no matter how vigilant I was about getting a variety of nutrients and supplementing the vitamins and minerals that were lacking. I listened to my body, gave it what it needed, and it responded with a huge “Thank you!” This is what works for me now; in the future, I may switch it up again. That’s the beauty of it all – nothing is set in stone and there’s a bounty of nourishing food out there, both veg and non-veg, ready for you to try.
Over the years, I’ve found that many people treat diets somewhat like religion and politics – a don’t ask, don’t tell taboo topic at the dinner table. My hope is to open up the conversation around food and share our experiences, ask questions, and exchange ideas. We’d love to hear your comments below.
Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month!