Regardless of the kind of workout plan you’ve chosen to follow there is one clear message that everybody can agree on. You have to match your nutrition to your exercise in order to keep your body in optimum condition. Still, with the wide choices of foods available for a good nutrition plan there is much confusion. There is no question that putting a hefty amount of vegetables on your plate is important, but the question still remains: how much is enough? Some have concluded that since fruits and vegetables are likely the only food group with the least amount of risk it is better to go completely vegetarian. However, the idea of going vegetarian or vegan is not as easy as you might think. According to fitness expert Jillian Michaels,
Being a vegetarian means that you do not eat any animals – this includes, pigs, chickens, cows, sea animals, and every other animal. If you are a vegan, this means you eat no dairy, and no meat or food processed using animal products.
While that definition seems pretty simple, there is much more involved in becoming a vegetarian or a vegan.
We Are Not Like Animals That Are Herbivores
Because we are naturally omnivorous, we crave the protein that comes from meat. It can be very difficult to get an adequate amount of nutrition from vegetables alone. Many people who support the vegetarian side of the discussion often point out that large herbivores only eat vegetables. They believe their size is proof that you can be sufficiently satisfied and healthy eating vegetables. However, herbivores have something that humans don’t have; an extra organ in their body that can take the grass they consume and turn it into needed protein for their bodies. In order for us to get the same amount of nutrition we eat the animal that ate the grass. While it is not impossible to get the added nutrition from vegetables alone it can turn into a full-time job finding the right vegetables, preparing the right dishes, and paying for them can be quite costly. For those who want to become strictly veggie or vegan your first step should be to learn as much about this as you can before you start.
It’s More Involved Than Just the Produce
Another misconception about the vegetarian diet is the general idea that it is all healthy. However, it’s not just what you eat but it is your total approach to life in general that should be the deciding factor. There are many foods that fall under the vegetarian category that are not always healthy. This is especially true for those who choose to take on the vegan lifestyle. Consider the advice of nutritionist Jaime Mass to Women’s Health Magazine,
Healthy vegetarian eating is about more than getting enough protein. Vegetarians and vegans also need to prioritize their intake of iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and zinc. Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may also be necessary.
Whenever you eliminate a specific food group out of your diet you could also be removing essential nutrients that your body needs. If you haven’t planned for a vegetable replacement for that nutrient ahead of time you could find yourself undernourished because of it.
It May Increase Your Caloric Intake
Because vegetables are seasonal, for the true vegetarian or vegan it can be difficult to find all the produce they need during certain times of the year. When fresh produce becomes hard to find many may find it necessary to enter the danger zone in their local supermarket. Many processed foods are high in sodium, carbohydrates, or other unnatural ingredients that your body may not be able to process fully. The results can lead to the consumption of more calories than usual without even realizing it.
It Can be Expensive
It is true that vegetables are far cheaper than meat at the supermarket but in order to avoid the genetically modified produce or those that have been laced with harmful pesticides and other chemicals, you need to buy organic. This can be quite expensive in some areas, which could lead you to turn to some rather unhealthy substitutes. One way around that is to grow your own produce. Not only can this help to improve your diet, it can also be a good way to get in some additional physical activity throughout your day.
You can also bypass your local supermarket and visit your neighborhood farmer’s market instead. Because they have eliminated all of the expenses required to transport the produce from some distant location that savings will be passed right on to you. Another advantage that comes from shopping at your local farmer’s market is that you can also have a wider variety of choices of fresh fruits and veggies.
How to Choose
There are pros and cons to whatever the lifestyle is that you choose as long as you keep the basic fundamentals of nutrition firmly fixed in your mind. Just as Suzanne Robin of Healthy Eating said,
Both vegetarian and meat-based diets can have health benefits and drawbacks. Strict vegans, who consume no animal products but who are considered a type of vegetarian, have different health issues than vegetarians who include poultry, eggs or fish in their diets.
The key to a successful diet is not necessarily in the types of foods you eat but it lies in how you choose your foods. Rather than narrow down your selection by categorizing meats or veggies, think of nutrition instead. Every diet should have a certain amount of poultry, vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs and so on, so focus on the foods that can give you what you need.
Getting fit is not as black and white as many people have been led to believe. It requires much more of a commitment from you. When creating your nutrition plan, take into consideration not just what your body needs today but also your goals and expectations you want to achieve. Getting in shape is not just a temporary change in your dietary and exercise needs, it includes a major lifestyle change. That means not just thinking about what you eat or what exercises you need to do but how you will modify your behavior in a way that will allow you to create the best you possible.