You don't have to go completely vegan to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. Many people are switching to a more vegetarian diet or flexitarian diet. Reducing the amount of meat you consume will benefit the environment as well as improve your health. Increasing the amount of plant-based meals you eat and decreasing the amount of meat you eat can reduce your risk of cancer, aid weight loss, lower cholesterol, and save you money.

A "vegetarian meal" does not include meat, poultry, fish or other seafood. It may also exclude dairy and/or eggs. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products and ovo-vegetarians include eggs in their diets. Vegan diets exclude all animal-derived ingredients, which include eggs, dairy products, gelatin, honey, whey, etc. Some people choose to incorporate vegetarian meals in their diet as opposed to vegan meals because there are fewer restrictions.

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Many people who don't know much about veganism believe that a vegan diet lacks protein and other nutrients like iron, calcium, and vitamin B12. There are plenty of plant-based proteins and nutrient sources.

Here is a list of plant-based sources of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12.

Protein:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soy foods (soy milk, tofu, edamame, tempeh)
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Seitan
  • You may also choose to include dairy/eggs

Iron:

  • Legumes
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Nuts (cashews)
  • Leafy green veggies
  • Tofu
  • You may also choose to include eggs

Calcium:

  • Leafy green vegetables (kale, collards, broccoli, spinach)
  • Fortified soy
  • Nut milk
  • You may also choose to include dairy products

Vitamin B12:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Nori (dried seaweed)
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Eggs / dairy products

Eating vegan or vegetarian doesn't have to be boring. Pinterest is stocked full of pages and pages of vegan-friendly recipes. There are many easy vegetarian alternatives you can make to replace your favorite meat dishes. You can substitute mushrooms for meat in dishes like bourguignon and stroganoff. Eggplant and mushroom can have a meaty texture if you sauté them. Broccoli and cauliflower can also be grilled like a steak. A vegan cheese sauce can also be created using nuts, nutritional yeast and a couple of other ingredients.

You can also find other great vegan recipes on social media! If you're not ready to fully jump on the vegan bandwagon, try incorporating one vegetarian meal a week into your diet.