5 Questions from a Vegetarian Answered

There are so many questions that need to be asked when it comes to nutrition and daily diet.  Here are five really good, very common ones posed by a vegetarian who has recently started on one of our new Diet and Workout Templates.  

"I've been mostly vegetarian (vegan for lent) for a couple of years now. I have a hard time digesting and breaking down animal proteins. My stomach hurts, and it affects my digestive system, leaving me bloated and gassy. If I do eat meat, it's minimal and I usually go to bed soon after to sleep it off."

1. "How can I get enough protein? I'm somewhat lactose intolerant. I love cheese but it doesn't love me."

It depends on what kind of vegetarian you are (you did say any animal proteins).  If you can consume some dairy in the form of whey protein powder, then you are in shape.  A fast digesting, high quality protein source that is very versatile, quick and easy.  Tony’s Whey Protein Plus is the best on the market. Pure, only 5 ingredients and great taste and assimilation.  If you can eat eggs, then I highly suggest them as a protein source too.  You can even supplement with egg white protein powder.  If you can't do either of those, there are so many good tasting vegan protein powder options out there (Garden of Life brand)

Still, if all of those are off the table, here is a list of the best non-animal higher count complete protein sources and combinations:   

Quinoa -  8g (PRO) per 1 cup serving, cooked 
Beans, chickpeas or lentils and rice -  7g (PRO) per 1 cup serving, cooked
Beanitos brand chips -  5g (PRO) per 1oz serving.  Bean and Rice chips. 
Peanut butter & Wheat Bread - 15g (PRO) per 2 slices and 2 tbsp peanut butter 
Almonds -  6g (PRO) per 1 oz. serving
Hemp Seeds -  10g (PRO) per 2 tbsp serving
Avocado - 1g (PRO) per 50g or ⅓ medium avocado 
Peas - 8g (PRO) per 1 cup serving
Miso soup: - 6g (PRO) per 1 cup 
Coconut Milk -  5g (PRO) per 1 cup serving
Brown rice - 5g (PRO) per 1 cup serving, cooked
Ezekiel Bread - 8g (PRO) per 2 slice serving
Oats -  5g (PRO) per ½ cup of cooked steel-cut oats
Hummus & Pita Bread - 7g (PRO) per 1 whole pita and 2 tbsp of hummus
Almond Milk -  1g (PRO) per 8 oz

Arm yourself with this list and ensure you get enough protein in!

2. "How can I keep my meals simple, yet interesting? Between work, kids, hobbies and training, I'm pretty busy. I eat poorly when I don't have time or I'm bored."

The key is in experimentation.  You have to do your best to be creative whether that be with the actual cooking and meal prep or with how you find your recipes and food ideas.  The pre-made, fresh, take-home-and-cook meals are gaining more and more popularity.  All of the prep and thinking is done for you.  

Pintrest is amazing for easy, yet interesting meals and its very popular.  My wife loves it, and if you can get them to cook for you too, even better!  Google search some different key words, find a blogger or website that you like and publishes new ideas regularly.  Research, dig, experiment!

After many years of this very same question I compiled a list of some of the most popular, quick meals and ideas into a cookbook published at the end of last year, Fast and Healthy: 56 Recipes Made Easy.  Every Recipe For Every Meal and Everybody.

In addition don't forget a few key helpful items that increase ease and convenience…a glass storage set, blender, food chopper & processor, shaker bottles, mini cooler, rice cooker, steamer, copper pan, and a crock pot to name a few. 

3. "How can I keep my diet cost-effective?"

I suggest buying in bulk from somewhere like Costco.  Even if you don't eat the entire 2lbs of spinach before it goes bad, it's still much cheaper than four bags from a normal grocery store.  Buy frozen fruits and vegetables.  Often they are picked and frozen at the peak of ripeness so they have the most nutrients locked in, they won't go bad, and they are significantly cheaper.

Get your whole family on-board.  When everyone is eating the same thing it's much easier and cheaper.  My almost 2 year old son absolutely loves broccoli. I've never forced it, it's just always there as an option because I eat it.  This goes hand-in-hand with the "experimentation" element discussed above.  Find your groove with cooking, spices, recipes, etc.     

4. "I get pretty snacky, what would you recommend? I sit at a desk all day." 

Are you a sweets person or is it salty and crunchy?  Kale, veggie, sweet potato, or organic corn chips as well as Beanitos (rice and bean chips) are great for satisfying that craving without busting your diet.  

It's always suggested to consume protein with each meal, stabilizing your blood sugar and knocking your cravings down just in general.  There are so many good protein bars, all natural versions and vegetarian snacks these days.  Those will satisfy any sweet tooth.  Try looking at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or better yet the health food section of Hy-Vee is always great with tons of variety.      

5. "People have told me I eat too many carbs, but I need them to maintain energy for training. Why do people hate carbs so much? And if they are correct, is that why I'm not losing more weight with the amount that I do train?"

Very good question.  It's always best to run your own personal diet off a baseline of how you feel after (or not) eating certain foods.  For example: If you go several days with little to no carbs, especially training days, and you feel like crap, then try upping your complex or simple carbohydrate intake.  That's probably the problem, your body just reacts better with that ready glucose from carbs.  That's okay.    

Take note of everything you eat however, and jot down notes on how certain foods affect you.  Bloated, full, cramping, heavy, slow, light, energized, tired, etc.  Take into consideration sodium, water, fiber, and protein levels.    

Timing and portion control take the front seat when it comes to order of importance, then total volume.  Carbs are not bad, as they are often mislabeled, they just have to be utilized correctly.  Find that balance that works for you, not necessarily what works for someone else.    

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