Understanding how our food intake affects the environment around us and our own bodies is becoming an increasingly popular topic. Moderating our intake of meat, for example, is something to take note of and it’s also a pretty common New Year’s resolution (#newyearnewyou). But if you’re switching to a vegetarian diet, can you be sure that you’re switching to a healthier diet? We asked dietician Angela Kranendonk, to back up our moral-meaning with scientific fact.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a vegetarian?
“Scientific research shows that a vegetarian diet has advantages. Not only for the environment and the well-being of animals, but also for your health. A veg-heavy diet decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. In this diet it is important to eat a variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruit and additionally, vegetable oil.”
When people switch to a vegetarian diet, would you advise them to stop eating meat immediately or to undergo a transition?
“People who decide to switch to a vegetarian diet often take on a resolute attitude and stop eating meat completely. As long as they are well-informed about which substitutes for meat they need, there’s nothing wrong with this. However, to stop eating meat without finding the right substitutes is not a good option.”
What are good substitutes for meat?
“In terms of energy, a good meat substitute contains 12% proteins and contains, per 100 grams, more than 0.7 milligrams of iron, 0.06 milligrams of vitamin B1 and/or 0.13 microgram B12.
In practice, a combination of eggs, dairy, legumes and whole grains can replace meat. Dairy products and eggs contain vitamin B12 and vitamin B1 can be found in whole grains. Legumes and whole grains are complementary, since the latter balances out the right amount of amino acids (those are the smallest parts of proteins) for legumes.
Then there are meat substitutes based on soja, like the products from Hogtown Vegan.
Vegetables cannot function as meat substitutes, because they don’t meet the above mentioned criteria.”
What does a healthy vegetarian diet consist of?
“Of a variation of vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, vegetable oil and eggs and dairy.
What quantities of the above mentioned food groups one should eat depends on different factors such as gender, age and weight.”
What trends do you foresee when it comes to meat substitutes?
“There are a number of upcoming trends when we are talking about meat substitutes. Think seaweed, algae, cultivated meat. At the moment research is being done into the safety of these trends. Whether they don’t contain high concentrations of materials that are not good for humans, such as heavy metals or iodium.”