This is not a trick question. We know that a vegetarian diet is healthy. Many studies have proven that. But is a healthy diet vegetarian?
This question has come up because of a recent discussion with some work colleagues. At the start of a new year, people tend to take stock of their lives and want to make changes to better their situation. Many resolutions are made at the beginning of the new year. These might last a whole two weeks. But there are a few that go longer and may even form into good habits.
Well it was one such musing which was taking place at work. Everyone was pondering steps they needed to take towards better health. Persons realized just how much more they weighed compared to last year. They remembered that they hadn’t exercised for months and should really start up again. They realized that their dietary habits was really not what they wanted it to be and that’s when the conversation turned to …… well, let me just give you an idea of what transpired.
The conversation went something like this;
Colleague 1: I would love to eat healthy but being a vegetarian is too expensive.
Colleague 2: Yes. Vegetarian food is very expensive.
Me: Not really
Colleague 3: You can’t tell me. I have tried it and it is very expensive to maintain.
Colleague 1: The vegetarian products cost a lot of money.
Me: But why are you buying expensive vegetarian products. I buy lots of peas and beans. They are not expensive.
Colleague 1: If both of us went to the supermarket together your food bill would be way higher than mine.
Me: Maybe. But it is not because I am buying expensive vegetarian food.
Colleague 1: I might buy 5 pounds of white or parboiled rice but your 5 pounds of brown rice will cost you more.
Colleague 3: And if I buy whole wheat flour, I will mix it with white flour so it lasts longer.
Colleague 1: And you buy things like quinoa and whole grain stuff.
Me: Hold on a minute. Are we talking vegetarian or are we just talking healthy eating choices. You do know that you can make healthy eating choices even as a meat eater, don’t you?
Colleague 1: Your family is small. You can afford to buy that kind of food.
(Conversation is taking a definite turn here)
Me: I think we are talking about healthy eating here and not necessarily vegetarian diet.
Colleague 2: So how do we eat healthy?
Me: Here is a simple method to use. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, quarter of the plate with your carbohydrate and the other quarter with your protein be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
Colleague 2: Half of the plate with vegetable! I am going to get hungry in no time.
Colleague 4: (Just joining the conversation) What! My plate is normally three quarters filled with carbs and the other quarter with my meat. I am going to starve!
Colleague 2: I can’t afford to buy so much vegetables…….
I leave the conversation here for a while but needless to say, there were lots of objections and excuses as to why it would be too hard to follow such a diet. At least though, by the end of the conversation we all concluded that we were talking generally about healthy eating and not necessarily vegetarianism.
A vegetarian is someone who has replaced flesh food in their diet. A person can choose to eat healthy even if they still eat meat by decreasing the amount of processed foods they eat and consuming lots of natural food and whole grain products. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to choose whole wheat bread over white bread or to have 5 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Grass fed cows and free-range chickens are much healthier than those reared just for the meat industry, so a meat eater who is trying to eat healthier would opt for those animal sources.
The person who has adopted a vegetarian lifestyle more than likely would also make the other healthy choices such as lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grain and whole foods. The health benefits are realized even more in the vegetarian diet because of the absence of unhealthy saturated fats and high cholesterol found in meat.
So what’s the answer?
Is a vegetarian diet healthy?…Yes
Is a healthy diet vegetarian?…..Doesn’t have to be.
I listened to all the excuses about how they can’t eat healthily because healthy food is too expensive.
I did not leave my colleagues without a solution however.
Let me bring you in on the end of the conversation.
Me: Okay. I see you are all concerned about cost but let me tell you how you can eat healthily without having to spend the large sums you are concerned about. First, cut down on the amount of sugar you use and don’t spend your money buying lots of cakes and donuts and other such pastries.
Me: Also cut down on the large quantities of oil you use in your cooking.
Colleagues: (not a word)
Me: Drink plenty of water and leave out all those sugary fruit drinks and sodas. Cut down on your excess salt consumption.
Colleague 2: (a tiny smile at the corner of her mouth. I think she is getting it.)
Me: Don’t skip your meals. Have regular eating times and don’t eat between meals. Also do not eat a large meal close to bedtime.
The conversation became kinda one sided. The group quickly dispersed after that. But I think they got the message.
This just goes to show that whenever you come upon a road block, don’t throw up your hands in despair and give up on reaching your destination. Just look around. Until the block is removed you may still be able to find other ways to get to your goal.
Don’t give up on your desire to adopt a healthy diet. It will not necessarily cost you more financially. On the contrary, you might end up saving as you cut out those unnecessary, unhealthy foods out of your diet.
Have you being guilty of making excuses instead of resolutions or have you ever had to deal with others who do?
Share your experiences in the comments section below.