A lot of attention has been given to making healthier choices when deciding what to eat,
not only from a personal health perspective, but also deciding what’s good for the planet and
animals as well. Some kids, teens and adults are giving up meat products in support of a
healthier lifestyle. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) has recently given a
thumbs-up to vegetarian and vegan diets as healthy options for kids and adults¹.
However, not all vegetarian choices are necessarily healthful… after all potato chips and
ice cream are technically vegetarian fare. Additionally, a little more care needs to be taken to
ensure adequate amounts of protein and essential vitamins are included daily. This need not be
a daunting task. With a little planning, healthy and delicious vegetarian meals and snacks can
be whipped up in no time.
A visit to your local supermarket’s freezer and deli sections will reveal a plethora of new
vegetarian and vegan choices for meat and cheese alternatives that can be prepared in
minutes. Frozen whole grain pizza dough makes an excellent platform for lycopene-rich tomato
sauce, sliced vegetables and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or vegan alternative
“cheese” shreds. Meatless burger patties are not what they used to be either. Available now in
both vegan and vegetarian options, some are low in saturated fat and high in protein, fiber, and
vitamins – best of all they taste like the real thing!
If you’re looking to transition from a processed meat-heavy diet to a plant based diet
without feeling deprived, many soy and fermented grain-based options exists to help you and
your family make the switch. From soy dogs to “chicken” tenders, nearly any favorite meat item
is now available as a meat-free choice. It is important to still maintain the USDA’s dietary
recommendation of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The MyPlate website is an
excellent resource to help ensure you and your family are meeting this goal. The AND website
for vegetarian teens is also a great resource for information and nutritious snack ideas.
So you don’t need to grab French fries and a coke to feel nourished and satisfied if
you’ve given up meat!
Contributed by Catherine Brown, Dietetics Student
1. Melina, V., Vesanto, C., Lecin, S. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and
Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume
116, Issue 12, 1970 – 1980. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025