Meat-free diets are gaining in popularity worldwide. In particular, the Meatless Monday movement has taken off in countries like the US, UK and Australia. Many people are motivated by the purported health benefits of a plant-based diet; although there is plenty of research to show that they can lead to a lowered risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers, a badly planned meat-free diet has the potential to cause vitamin, mineral, and macronutrient deficiencies.
Hong Kong-born Stella Chan Marinaro holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University in Nutrition and Applied Physiology and works at International SOS Beijing Clinic as a nutritionist. She offers both one-to-one and group counseling, providing clients with balanced meal plans and teaching them how to make healthier nutritional choices. We asked Marinaro about cutting back on meat the healthy way.
Types of Meat-Free Diets
- Pescetarians: Consume plant foods, dairy, eggs, and other types of seafood.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Consume plant foods, dairy, and eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarians: Consume plant foods and dairy products.
- Vegans: Consume only plant foods.
Is cutting down on red meat a good idea?
Avoiding red meats high in saturated fat and bad cholesterol is linked with cardiovascular benefits. As such, red meat should be consumed in moderation, and lean cuts are recommended.
What are the health benefits of a vegetarian diet?
The benefits of a healthy vegetarian diet (one rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, non-animal sources of protein, calcium, and which limits processed foods) include lower risks for obesity and high blood pressure, with a potential longer life expectancy.
Is it safe for kids to become a vegetarian or vegan? Is it safe for pregnant women?
With careful meal planning it is possible for all vegetarians and vegans to consume sufficient calories and nutrients.
Is it easier to get complete and balanced nutrition on a pescetarian diet versus a vegan or vegetarian diet?
Fish, as a lean protein source rich in calcium and omega-3 fatty
acids, is a healthy option. However there are other sources of protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids for those who choose not to include fish in their diet.
Do vegetarians and vegans need vitamin supplements?
Without careful meal planning, eliminating meat could result in an inadequate intake of protein, and calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins D or B-12 deficiencies. For children this could also negatively affect normal growth and weight gain. Vitamin D and B12 deficiencies may lead to anemia, while insufficient protein compromises proper functioning of muscle tissue, organs, bones, and immune functions, and can cause decreased energy levels.
For those who eliminate dairy and eggs, special care must be taken to get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is necessary for strong bone health. Those concerned about deficiencies should talk to their doctor about taking multivitamins, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, and iron supplements.
How can vegetarians and vegans get enough iron?
Vegetarian and vegan-friendly iron sources include tofu, cooked soybeans such as edamame, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tomato paste, white beans, spinach, dried apricots and peaches, lentils, and peas.
How can vegetarians and vegans get enough calcium?
Lacto vegetarians are able to consume enough calcium through dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Sources of well-absorbed calcium for vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk and almond milk, soybeans and soynuts, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, kale, and tofu.
How can vegetarians and vegans get enough vitamin B12?
Many breakfast cereals and non-dairy milks (Almond Breeze and Silk Soymilk) are fortified with vitamin B12. Read labels and plan meals carefully to ensure adequate daily vitamin B12 intake.
What are good meat-free sources of omega-3 fatty acids?
Vegan-friendly omega-3 fatty acid sources include flax, chia, and hemp seeds, mustard oil, seaweed, beans, leafy greens, cabbage, and berries. Pescetarians can add fish such as sardines, salmon, and tuna.
What are good sources of protein for people following meat-free diets?
Good sources of protein for vegans include legumes (beans and green peas), quinoa, nuts and nut butter, chickpeas (hummus), tofu, edamame, leafy greens, sesame and sunflower seeds, almond milk, and soymilk. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can add eggs and dairy; pescetarians can add fish.
There are many vegetarian and vegan-friendly protein options. With planning it is achievable for vegans and vegetarians to have sufficient protein in their diets.
Do active meat-free kids need a special diet?
Active children, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or non-vegetarian need to eat enough healthy foods to meet their physical needs (about 200-400 extra calories per day, depending on their size and activity levels), including whole wheat and whole grains, vegetables, fruits, calcium rich foods, and lean protein.
What advice would you give to parents of a newly vegan or vegetarian child?
To ensure your vegetarian or vegan child is receiving enough nutrients, vitamins and calories, provide a variety of nutrient-dense foods at every meal and snack. To prevent vitamin deficiencies talk to your doctor about giving your vegetarian or vegan child multivitamins, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, and iron supplements.
When planning balanced vegan and vegetarian meals for a child, include the following:
- Colorful vegetables (1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked)
- 1 cup or a piece of fruit
- Whole grains (such as 1 cup brown rice)
- A serving of protein (such as 1/4 cup cooked dry beans or tofu, 1 tablespoon nut butter, 15g nuts or seeds, and 1 egg or 2 egg whites for lacto-vegetarians)
- Calcium-rich foods and beverages (including 1 cup soy milk, and for lacto-vegetarians 1 cup milk or yogurt, or 20g cheese)
Sample Meat-Free Meal Plan:
- Breakfast: 1 slice of whole grain toast with nut butter spread, 1 piece or 1 cup of fresh fruit, 1 bowl of fortified whole grain dried cereal, 1 cup of calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (Almond Breeze and Silk Soymilk are available in Beijing). Vegetarians can also consume cows’ milk, and eggs.
- Lunch: Bean burrito with lots of fresh vegetables (lettuce, carrots, corn, peppers, onions, etc. wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla), salsa and guacamole. Fruit. Vegetarians can add cheese and sour cream to their burrito.
- Snacks: Trail mix of nuts and dried fruit, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks and hummus, calcium fortified non-dairy milk such as Almond Breeze or Silk Soymilk. Vegetarians can consume cheese, yogurt, or a hardboiled egg.
- Dinner: Stir-fried vegetables (kale, red peppers, onions, and broccoli) and tofu served with brown rice, with fruit sorbet for dessert. Vegetarians
can substitute ice cream instead of sorbet. Pescetarians can add fish.
Useful Language for Eating Meat-Free
I am vegan/vegetarian
Wo chi su
I am pescetarian
Wo chi su, dan chi yu
I only eat only plant-based foods
Wo zhi chi zhiwu xing shipin
I do not eat meat/fish/dairy products/eggs
Wo bu chi rou/yu/ nai zhi pin/ji dan
I am allergic to meat/fish/dairy/eggs
Wo dui rou/yu/nai zhi pin/ji dan guo min
Meat/fish/dairy/eggs make me ill
Rou/yu/nai zhi pin/ji dan hui rang wo bu shu fu
Does this contain meat/fish/dairy/eggs?
Zhe li bao han rou/yu/nai zhi pin/ji dan ma?
Nutritionists and Dieticians
Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU) 北京和睦家医院
Mon-Sat 8.30am-5.30pm, 24-hour emergency care. 2 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (400 891 9191) www.ufh.com.cn 朝阳区将台路2号
International SOS Beijing Clinic 北京国际救援中心
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm. Suite 105, Wing 1, Kunsha Building, 16 Xinyuanli, Chaoyang District (Clinic: 6462 9112, 24hr Assistance Center: 6462 9100, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.clinicsinchina.com 朝阳区新源里16号琨莎中心一座105室
Vegetarian Grocery Stores
One of Beijing’s biggest organic and health food chains, with five stores across Chaoyang and Shunyi. The flagship store near Jintai Lu is conveniently located.
1/F, 5 Vanke Park, Tianshui Xiyuan, Chaoyang District (6599 6287) 朝阳区甜水西园万科公园5号一层
Zheng Long Zhai Vegetarian Goods 正隆斋全素食品西单店
Just south of Xidan, this little shop sells a wide range of mock meat products, including far-fetched items such as whole lobsters. With a good range of vegan sauces, seasonings and textured vegetable proteins (TVP). 3 Xinwenhua Jie, Xicheng District (6603 1051) 西城区新文化街3号
This article originally appeared on p28 of the beijingkids June 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com.
Photo: Stacy Spensley (Flickr)