Can you be an unhealthy vegetarian?

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Vegetarian diets are known for their health benefits, but there are still things you need to watch out for to make sure your diet is healthy.

There’s no doubt that vegetarian diets are good for your health. Research shows that people following a balanced plant-based diet are consistently slimmer and healthier than meat eaters. They also have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes—that’s a big tick in anyone’s book.

But not all vegetarians are healthy. Like any diet, it comes down to what you pack on your plate.

Plant-based diets are typically rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, but that’s not always the case. You could just as easily load your meat-free plate with creamy pastas or mountains of white bread.

Foods that are highly processed, such as refined carbs, are the nemesis of any diet and when it comes to being vegetarian, regularly indulging in these types of foods can actually wipe out the health benefits gained from eating meat-free.

According to medical professionals, eating an unhealthy vegetarian diet can put you at an even higher risk of illness than someone eating a well-balanced diet that includes meat and dairy.

So how can you avoid common mistakes and ensure you are eating a healthy vegetarian diet?

Try giving your favourite dishes a meat-free refresh for a healthier version with bags of flavour. Switch mince meat for lentils and mushrooms for a rich bolognese, or add broad beans or chickpeas to soups or curries. Adopting a vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

Try our other tips for healthy vegetarian eating and enjoy the plant-based benefits!

Tips for healthy vegetarian eating

Keep it balanced. Balance is best for any healthy diet. Focus on fresh, whole foods and avoid overly processed foods where possible. Just because something is vegan or labelled “vegetarian-friendly” may not mean it is a healthier option—like cheese pizza.

Don’t forget protein. An important thing to keep in mind when going vegetarian is making sure you swap meat-based protein for plant-based protein sources. Eat foods like tofu, tempeh and legumes, and don’t forget about delicious plant-based meat alternatives.

Mix it up. Different fruits, vegetables and grains will nourish you in different ways, so it’s important to mix up the menu to make sure you aren’t missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. As well as protein, focus on getting healthy carbs, good fats, calcium, iron and vitamins in your diet.

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