Transitioning from a regular diet to one consisting solely of vegetable foods has its challenges.
As more students reflect their values in their dietary choices, vegetarianism is becoming commonplace. The trouble is, school cafeterias are not quick to adopt acceptable options for those opposed to eating meat or meat products.
Moral, ethical, and environmental issues all impact the decision many youths are making to omit meat from their diet. There’s also the health concerns over hormone-injected animals that find their way to our dinner plates. In view of this, meat consumption among college students is declining, with some going strictly vegetarian, and others becoming ‘flexitarians’ or semi-vegetarians.
Transitioning from a regular diet to one consisting solely of vegetable foods has its challenges. This is especially so for students who lead a busy life socially and academically. Typically prone to grabbing fast food or relying on a menu of fried foods at the school cafeteria, students who decide to go vegetarian have their work cut out for them.
This usually entails packing their own lunch, including lots of small snacks that can deliver the calories needed to maintain sufficient energy levels. Some vegetarians and vegans suffer from lower than recommended levels of protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B-12.
5 Essentials for Vegetarians
Fortunately, protein is found in both plant and animal foods, so even if you’re vegetarian, it doesn’t mean you have to go without. Good sources of plant protein include peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lentils, beans, and tofu. Eggs and dairy products are also excellent sources of protein, if you have no objection to consuming them.
Vegetarians can get their recommended amount of calcium if they consume dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese. Total vegetarians or vegans will have to look to dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or bok choy, or else try calcium-fortified cereals or soy milk.
3) Vitamin D
Exposure to sunlight or consuming dairy products that have been fortified is how most people get vitamin D. If dairy products are not part of your diet and you do not get regular esposure to sunlight, you may want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
Some plant-based foods that will boost your iron intake include dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, pumpkin and sesame seeds, dried fruits, and fortified breads or cereals. Even cooking in cast-iron pots or pans will help. Eating foods rich in vitamin C will help your body absorb iron.
5) Vitamin B-12
Here’s another vitamin produced mainly by animals, so vegetarians who eat dairy products or eggs will get sufficient amounts through these foods. Vegans should consider using a soy milk with added vitamin B-12 or take a vitamin B-12 supplement.
Below are some tasty snack ideas for students going vegetarian:
- Rice cakes
- Nut spreads like peanut butter or almond butter
- Whole grain breads and crackers
- Fruit, canned or frozen
- Soups like lentil or minestrone
Just remember, the key to any healthy diet is to be balanced, to eat a wide variety of foods, and to make sure you take in the correct amount of calories for you personally.