by Lize Stander  

There is a lot of talk in the media about all the benefits of vegetarian/ plant-based and vegan diets. There is quite a bit of pseudoscience on this topic out there too, so be warned not to take it all as fact.
Some of the benefits of a plant based diet include lower risk of some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it being more environmentally friendly and animal welfare conscious.
Cutting out all meat and/or other animal products and not replacing it with nutritious protein rich foods can have dire consequences.
Some foods to focus on include:
Legumes such as peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils and peanuts
Nuts, seeds and their butters
Soya and soy products like tempeh, tofu, edamame, soya milk
Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, etc.
Some animal products that can be included in a vegetarian diet include:
Milk, yoghurt, cheese
When following a vegan diet, supplementation will be necessary. Some of the nutrients that will need to be supplemented include calcium, iron, omega 3 and vitamin B12, but chat to your dietician for more individualised advise.
I can not stress enough, that the diet/ lifestyle strategy you choose is the one that you can see fitting into your life in the long term. If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder or difficult food relationship, the restrictions of a vegan diet may be triggering and not advisable to follow. You do not have to go vegetarian / vegan to achieve improved wellness. Just upping your fruit and veg intake can do that for you. Remember not to neglect your emotional and mental wellness when on a journey toward better health and happiness.
You can shop at farmers’ markets and buy free range products to be more environmentally conscious without cutting out meat completely. This is something that requires some privilege, so feel no shame at all if this out of your reach.
Personally I opt for a few vegetarian meals per week but still enjoy animal products in moderation.
Play around and find what works for you and your family.

For more information please contact our dietitians in East London