We often hear that keeping a healthy body usually involves training hard with intense cardio, mixed in with muscle building exercises and teamed with a high protein diet. But how do you make sure you’re keeping a well-rounded diet as a vegetarian?
We’ve teamed up with indoor cycling, and all round fun exercise studio, XYZ, and asked five of their cycling trainers for their top tips on keeping fit on a green diet.
XYZ Cycling Studio’s 21 Top Tips on How To Go Green and Be Fit
1. Plant-based meat alternatives – use Beyond Meat instead of chicken or beef to cook your dishes with at home.
2. Vegetable Proteins – use Bob’s Red Mill Textured Vegetable Protein dehydrated soy protein to cook with by hydrating in water first, then adding to any dish you cook with. It takes on any flavour you cook it in and has the texture of minced meat. You can pretty much use it for everything. High in protein, good source of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
3. Get your sugars the natural way by using honey as sweetener, and eating more fruits! Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, grapefruits, apples, mangos, melon, so many options for something fresh rich in antioxidants, and a little sweetness. Dry fruits are the best snacks if your an “on the go” type of person.
4. Eat your greens! Broccoli, choi sum, Brussels sprouts, bell pepper, spinach asparagus, kale, seaweed.
5. Eat lots of nuts, beans, & grains for vitamin B-12, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Get a mixed nut bucket or make your own by picking up some of your favourites at the dry food market, add some dry fruit to it like goji berries, dried blueberries, or raisins. You can even sprinkle pecans or walnuts on salads for added potassium, magnesium, zinc, & calcium.
6. Go for the good fat. Peanut butter and avocado should be your best friends! Goes with almost everything and so rich in good fats and nutrients.
7. Take your supplements. Multivitamin, Vitamin B-12, Zinc/ Magnesium/ Calcium complex, vegan protein w/added vitamins & minerals, & BCAA’s are just the ones I take. If you feel you’re lacking in anything check with your doctor or nutritionist.
8. Go for good carbs. I try to think about nutrients when picking foods I eat. So most of my foods are rich in vitamins and minerals with little fat. There are such things as good carbs, with carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, whole wheat pasta’s, brown rice, quinoa, corn, bananas, tomatoes, the list goes on and on. Do your research and think about what is going to give your body what it needs.
9. Be careful of your carb intake. I think my biggest tip for those making the transition early on, is to be careful of your carb intake. If you’re not used to increasing your veggie intake, it is very easy to fill those extra calories with rice, bread and noodles.
10. You don’t always have to be “chasing protein”. If you are used to getting your protein from meat and fish, you might struggle initially getting it from your veg and beans. Especially if you are training and worried about losing your strength/ muscle mass – regular protein shakes and supplements can make sure you hit your needs. Just remember, the biggest fear most veggies have is that they will lose muscle/ strength. There is an abundance of protein in vegetables, nuts, beans etc. If you eat a pretty balanced meal, you’ll meet your needs, if you’re worried, just include more protein shakes and supplements.
11. Find a few meals or foods you like and go from there. I’m always a big fan of broccoli and eggs. I think often there were times I wouldn’t know what meal to eat, especially if it was too late to eat our or I hadn’t done food shopping yet that week. Fill your fridge with several healthy options that you know you can always go to.
12. Find a veggie restaurant you like and experiment with their menu. It is much easier to introduce new foods into your diet if you are more open to it and have an inkling that it maybe tasty. If you have a veggie restaurant which you have a go to meal, start working your way down the menu experimenting with different foods, its a great way to expand your tastes.
13. Give yourself time. It is no easy thing to switch your diet. Whether its for health or moral reasons, give yourself time to transition. Find what works and discard what doesn’t. Start building up your menu, your new cooking recipes, and be open to new tastes which will also change slowly over time, so don’t be afraid to go back to something you thought you didn’t like, and try it again.
14. It’s important to make sure you get enough protein. My favourite for protein is eggs, Greek yoghurt, lentils and lots of nuts and seeds.
15. Iron supplements. Veggies can often be low in iron so to avoid an iron deficiency I take an iron supplement.
16. Take it step by step. You can start trending towards a plant-based diet 1 meal or 1 day at a time – it’s not black or white and you can make your own rules based on your dietary needs
17. Educate yourself on healthy vegetarian protein sources – nuts, legumes, tofu, tempeh, etc.
18. Cravings vs. reality. Understand that just because you’re having a craving for “meat”, doesn’t necessarily mean you need meat. It’s just the protein source your mind is programmed to think of when it feels hunger in the body and it could just mean you could grab a bag of nuts to satiate that hunger.
19. It’s not just salad! Be creative with your meals, do some research online to find creative restaurants that have delicious plant based options, or find recipes to make at home.
20. Balance between macro and micro nutrients. Being a fresh convert to the vegetarian diet, I believe the key is to balance macro and micro nutrients in your diet and supplement each meal with fresh fruits, vegetables, lentils, legumes, soy and multi and whole grain. This sounds like a lot of work but is worth it, especially considering a vegetarian diet keeps you energetic, prevents bloating, cholesterol and blood sugar.
21. Be creative. Being Indian, I channel a lot of traditional recipes (the population is predominantly vegetarian) and add modern, healthy twists (like substituting rice for quinoa, gram flour instead of refined four) , which keeps things fresh, healthy and interesting on the dinner table!