Planning and shopping for a week's worth of vegetarian meals is not that much different than planning non-vegetarian menus. You need to ensure that calorie and nutrition needs are met, which is easier to do when you plan in advance. Taking a little extra time before your week starts to plan menus and create a grocery list saves time during the week because you won't have to make any last minute decisions. Grocery shopping with list in hand will prevent unhealthy impulse purchases and can save money.
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Make a simple calendar with meals listed for each day and use it to create a grocery list. Real Simple recommends creating meals based on fresh, in-season produce. The cost is less and fresh produce is healthier. Consider whether or not you will be dining out during the week or taking lunches to work. Plan meals based on the type of vegetarian diet you want to follow. Vegans do not eat meat, dairy or eggs. Lacto-vegetarians include dairy products in their diet, while lacto-ovo vegetarians also eat eggs. Create your grocery list with a subheading for each step on the vegetarian food pyramid to ensure you are getting enough of the nutrients you need.
A vegetarian food pyramid produced by the American Dietetic Association recommends six servings of grain and five servings of legumes, nuts or other plant-based proteins per day. Four servings of vegetable, two servings of fruits and two servings of fat round out the daily dietary recommendations. It's important to carefully monitor your diet to ensure you're getting enough calcium, iodine, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. Vegans in particular may want to consider supplements for omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which may be difficult to get in adequate amounts from plant foods.
Make sure to consume a diet that includes a wide variety of foods which is the best way for vegetarians to meet nutritional needs. Don't plan on eating the same breakfast every day. Try oatmeal with berries and soy milk one day, and a tofu scramble with vegetables the next. Sandwiches made with whole grain bread, salads and vegetarian soups are easy lunches and provide a good mix of different ingredients. Whole grain pasta dishes, meatless chili and steamed vegetables are good for dinner. Don't forget to factor in snacks. Hummus is a good high-protein snack with raw vegetables and pita chips. Varying your menus will keep meals interesting.
A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet that is also low in fat may lower blood pressure, help prevent heart disease and lower your risk of developing diabetes and certain cancers. Most vegetarian diets contain less fat and cholesterol than non-vegetarian eating plans.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- MayoClinic.com: Vegetarian Diet: How to Get the Best Nutrition
- MyPyramid.gov: Vegatarian Diets
- Dieticians of Canada: Eating Guidelines for Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians
- American Heart Association: Vegetarian Diets
- Real Simple: Grocery Shopping Checklist
- United Soybean Board: Meal Planner: Delicious Homecooked Meals with Soy
- MayoClinic.com: Beans and Other Legumes: Types and Cooking Tips