How to Follow a Nutritious Vegetarian Diet

Have you noticed the growing popularity of following a vegetarian diet in 2020?

As a result of life in a pandemic, there is a noted focus on health and wellness. In response, this is due to a number of factors. For instance, you may want to have a more positive impact on the environment, save money on groceries, or a stronger immune system to avoid catching COVID-19.

According to “The Sydney Morning Herald” a vegetarian diet including a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds provides important nutrients that help strengthen the immune system…

There are many benefits to eating a vegetarian diet, but you could be missing important vitamins and minerals typically provided by meat if adequate plant-based sources are not consumed.

Here’s a guide on what those nutrients are, and what it means for your body’s overall health…

Six key nutrients potentially missing in a vegetarian diet and associated risks:

1. Calcium – Fragile bones, heart failure, and low blood pressure
2. Iron-Anemia, slow wound healing, and inconsistent heartbeat
3. Protein-Muscle cramping, weakness, tiredness, and muscle break down
4. Vitamin D-Low immune system, depression, muscle pain, hair loss
5. Zinc- Dry skin, flaky nails, loss of appetite, diarrhea and nausea
6. Vitamin B12- Tingling and numb feelings in hands, leg and, feet

By focusing on a few simple food tips, you can minimize associated risks and boost your immunity while following a vegetarian diet.

Seven tips to eating a balanced vegetarian diet:

1. Focus on whole grains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta
2. Include a protein source at every meal such as tofu, tempeh, edamame
3. Consume legumes and seeds such as beans, lentils, nut mixes, and nut butters
4. Tie in eggs, tuna, or dairy products to ensure you get adequate enough protein sources
5. Eat a mixture of different fruit and vegetables
6. Consume meals combining grains, protein, and vegetables
7. Consume snacks with a combination of fruit/vegetable and protein

 

As a backpacker, you might be wondering…

Is it possible to follow a vegetarian diet as a backpacker and stay healthy?!?

Absolutely!

There are some nutrition professionals that believe eating meat is necessary in order to stay fit. Usually, they recommend animal products as a menu staple. On the contrary, as an endurance athlete, you are able to meet your energy needs without animal protein. You may be wondering how difficult it might be to cook vegetarian meals in the backcountry. Interestingly enough, you are able to prepare ahead of time and make vegetarian meals that can be cooked using various methods.

Eating a variety of food groups creates an overall healthy diet. Firstly, food is versatile. For whatever reason, if you choose to remove meat from your diet, there are ways to make up the nutrients it normally provides. Secondly, it is not impossible to have a well-rounded vegetarian diet out on the trails. The best way to do this is to simply translate what you like to eat at home, certainly with a lighter weight and longer shelf-life.

Five tips to eating a balanced vegetarian diet while backpacking:

1. Swap fresh food for dehydrated or freeze-dried ones
  • Dried fruit and dehydrated veggies
2. Include a protein at every meal and snack
  • Use whole milk, cheese, and egg white powders, nuts, and seeds in trail mixes, and pack nut butter or hummus packets
3. Focus on complex carbohydrates
  • Pack minute brown rice, dried quinoa, and instant oats
4. Schedule consistent meal and snack times
  • Eat every 60-90 minutes, even if you are not feeling hungry!
5. Pack supplements
  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of meals to add a cheesy flavor
  • Mix Carnation Breakfast Essentials® packets or powdered protein mixes with water or milk powder as meal replacements
  • Buy fortified energy or granola bars such as Luna® or Clif®
  • Keep a multivitamin supplement in your pack as an emergency source 

Alternatively, you may be thinking about packaged food products to store in your backpack.

In this case, excitedly ditch the common junk food like candy bars, potato chips, and pop tarts. Without a doubt, these are easy-to-grab options and are appealing to the taste buds. Packaged foods high in sugar, markedly don’t provide long-lasting fuel for your workout. Above all, everything is best in moderation when it comes to these “fast food” options. Along with your homemade meal plan, it is possible to pair alternatives like corn chips with homemade chili.

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some confidence that your vegetarian diet is realistic. In fact, this could be a change at home or for your next backpacking adventure. But, most importantly…

Embracing a vegetarian diet can provide security that you are eating healthy and living well.

 

Ready to take your vegetarian diet backpacking?

Check out our easy-to-follow recipes @ backcountryfoodie.com

Ultralight Recipes Dashboard Banner

 

Want to find out more about backpacking nutrition?

Check out these blog posts…

Health Benefits of Turmeric and a Pumpkin Turmeric Latte

Backpacking Nutrition: Fueling Farther Using the Goldilocks Approach

Dehydrating Canned and Frozen Food for DIY Backpacking Meals

About the Author:
Ashley Napoleon is an aspiring Registered Dietitian, completing her Dietetic Internship through Seattle Pacific University. Some of her favorite hobbies include working out, reading, watching Disney movies, and baking. One thing she really loves about food and nutrition is how it speaks to everyone of various cultures and backgrounds. Follow her love for food, the holidays, and supporting her community through her Instagram at @ashley.napo3.

author, RD to be, PNW

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