Dietary Suggestions

The ideal proportion of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats varies from one person to another. However, a nutrient-base from which to start often looks something like this:

 

Eat at least 3 meals per day with the following components:

  1. High-fiber vegetables: at least 3 to 4 cups of low-carbohydrate vegetables per day – such as sweet red and green bell peppers, chives, eggplant, spinach, chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, sunflower sprouts, artichokes, green chilies, celery, parsley, leeks, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, snow peas, bok choy, mustard greens, turnip greens, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, garlic, Brussels sprouts, clover sprouts, jicama, carrot.
  2. Starchy carbohydrate vegetables: 1 to 2 cups per day – corn, rutabaga, winter squash, parsnips, celery root, white and red potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, beets, turnips, peas, Jerusalem artichokes
  3. Fruits: 2 to 4 servings per day. (1 serving = an apple, banana, nectarine, or peach, grapefruit or cantaloupe, and 1 cup blueberries or cherries)
  4. Legumes: 1 to 2 cups per day of beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, or tempeh
  5. Whole Grains: 1 to 2 cup cooked per day of rice, polenta, corn, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, etc. or other (sprouted grain bread or sprouted corn tortilla). If you have a very high metabolism and are very physically active, you may need more grains than other vegetarians do.
  • Avoid overdoing the grains: Make grains the side dish of your meals and vegetables and beans and other denser nutrient foods as your central focus.36
  1. Raw nuts and seeds: ½ cup 3-5 times a week – great for snacks and to sprinkle on salads (vegetarians and those with fast metabolisms that can eat large quantities without gaining weight will often need more of this rich source of protein, fats, and vitamins)
  2. Additional fats: Choose from avocado, coconut milk, olives, extra virgin olive oil, butter, and coconut oil.

 

To this nutrient-rich-base, add whatever healthy carbs, fats, and proteins you need. You decide how much broccoli, avocado, apple, or butter, etc. that feels satisfying. If you are consuming a whole foods diet you should be able to eat freely, unless your diet needs to be adjusted for a particular reason.

  • Ensure adequate protein and fat: It is best to eat a wide variety of foods throughout the day to maximize the types of amino acids coming in through the diet. This will make it more likely to generate complete proteins within the body. Do this by consuming a variety of plant protein foods throughout the day (e.g. grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables) and eat good oils and fats such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds, flaxseed meal, and coconut oil.
  • Ideas for getting more veggies
    • Prepare a large salad full of a variety of raw vegetables and different types of lettuces, and store it in an airtight container to use for a few days in a row.
    • Shish kabobs with lots of different veggies
    • Add broccoli, spinach, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, or kale to soups, burritos, tacos, lasagna or spaghetti sauce
    • Toppings for vegetables
      • Tomato sauce with goat feta
      • Veggie salt and pepper
      • Butter and lemon juice
      • Fresh herbs. Try dill on carrots, or rosemary with cauliflower
      • Garlic and/or ginger. Spinach or other greens are sautéed until tender in olive oil with minced or crushed garlic and/or ginger
      • Almond, cashew, or sesame butter. Make it into a sauce by blending it with a little water – great on green beans
      • Mustard or horseradish sauce. Good with broccoli or asparagus
      • Yogurt with fresh herbs, salt, pepper and garlic. Delicious mixed with green beans, broccoli pieces, and onion
      • Avocado dressing. Mash an avocado with a fork. Add 2 Tbs. olive oil or ¼ cup yogurt, a little garlic salt, pepper, herbs (cilantro or parsley work well), and lemon juice to taste. A thinner dressing can be made by adding more yogurt and/or using a blender
      • Tamari (soy sauce) and pepper and/or lemon juice
  • Avoid sweets and refined starches (white flour and rice): Because vegetarian diets already tend to be higher in carbohydrates, those following this diet need to avoid refined carbohydrates like sweets (cookies, cakes, pastries, etc.) and use moderation with starches (bread, pasta, white potatoes, white rice, etc.).40 When occasional desserts are consumed, be sure they contain healthful ingredients. Some healthy sweetener options are raw unfiltered honey, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, pure maple syrup, stevia, or Rapadura™ (unfiltered evaporated sugar cane juice).
  • Consume coconut, coconut oil, and/or palm oil. These foods are rich in saturated fat, which is healthy for the body to consume. Saturated fats are the body’s natural fat, which are used for appropriately functioning cell membranes and for critical energy in important organs such as the heart and other muscles. Research has shown that saturated fat in the diet is needed by the body to enable it to adequately convert the essential omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) to the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These latter fatty acids are necessary for prostaglandin formation (which is important for many body functions such as inflammation) as well as brain and visual function.41
  • Soak grains, legumes, and nuts: One concern with resting or ungerminated seeds is the presence of phytic acid. This substance found in the bran and hulls of grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds interferes with the assimilation of minerals, such as copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. Sprouting neutralizes the phytic acid so this is no longer a concern.42 This means better mineral absorption. See Grain Preparation page for more information.
  • Eat quality dairy, if appropriate: Vegetarians who can tolerate dairy products can use them to increase their protein and vitamin B12 intake. Go by your own body’s response.

 

Soy Side Note

Despite all the fanfare about soy and its health benefits, there may be some aspects of this bean you want to be aware of. Excess soy isoflavones in the diet may suppress thyroid hormone production especially if there is a deficiency of iodine in the diet. Sources of iodine in the diet would include sea vegetables such as kelp, wild ocean fish and iodized sea salt. The thyroid is the metabolic manager of the body, therefore suppressing its function can impact the entire body. The components in soy act as phytoestrogens, and may act in the body much like a hormone; therefore may interact with the delicate balance of the thyroid’s hormonal systems.43 Ingestion of too much soy increases the body’s need for B12,12 which is already an issue with vegetarians who avoid meat. This bean is notoriously hard to digest for many people. Tempeh and miso digest more easily because of the fermentation process. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that soy is a whole food, and it should be eaten as such. Focus on whole food forms of soy, such as edamame (green soy beans in the pod), soy nuts, soy nut butter, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, and miso. Emphasize your fermented options, which are tempeh and miso. Limit processed forms like soy protein isolate, fake soy “meat” replacements, isoflavone powders and pills. It is not a matter of all or none – moderation is key.


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