Most of these tips really apply to everyone, not just vegetarians. They may seem trite, but they are tried and true and you will notice the difference in your health and energy levels. Need a little inspiration? Check out how more than 60 people lost weight and improved their health on a vegetarian diet, or, check out these vegan Engine 2 Diet before and after weight loss pictures to see just how beneficial a healthy diet can be for your waistline!
Tip #1: Eat a Dark Green Vegetable (Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens) at Least Three Times a Week
These nutritional powerhouses are packed full of vitamins such as calcium and iron. On the run or hate spinach? Try drinking your greens. Green smoothies are better than a cup of coffee in the morning, and they really are healthy. Another thing you can do to get your greens is to add a handful of spinach leaves to your regular salad. A full spinach salad isn't very enticing, but a handful or so mixed in with your favorite red leaf lettuce goes down just fine. Or try out a unique combination of kale and collard greens, which is very flavorful.
Tip #2: Take a Vitamin Supplement That Contains B12
Or, include nutritional yeast in your diet regularly, especially if you're vegan or mostly vegan. Vegetarians don't need to worry about vitamin B12, as you'll easily consume plenty of it, but vegans should err on the side of caution and make sure they're getting a source of B12. Many products, such as soy milk and veggie burgers are fortified with B12, so read the label.
Tip #3: Water Water Water!
It's been said over and over again for a reason: because it's true! Most people don't drink nearly enough (and even if you think you're drinking enough, you probably aren't, especially if you're trying to gain health and lose unhealthy habits). Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go and invest in a simple filter for your home. Water is especially important when adjusting to a new way of eating, as it will help curb any cravings you may experience.
Specifically, drinking plenty of water helps to prevent cravings before they even arise. Drink more water than you think you need, and get in the habit of drinking a glass first thing in the morning.
If you're used to sipping on a diet cola while you're working, transition to sparkling water mixed with fruit juice and see if that doesn't keep your hands happy enough to satisfy your habit.
Tip #4: Eat at Least One Piece of Raw Fruit or a Handful of Raw Vegetables Every Day
This may seem like a no-brainer, but even if we're eating plenty of fresh vegetables, many times we don't always get fresh raw produce in our diets, which means we're really missing out! Some days, you probably get plenty of fresh raw fruits and vegetables, but there are probably plenty of days when you have absolutely none at all.
Try to eat an apple first thing in the morning to get it out of the way. Or keep baby carrots on hand for snacking, and include a raw green salad with your lunch every day.
Tip #5: Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake
I've got as much of a sweet tooth as anybody, but I try to keep it under control by using such sugar replacers as brown rice syrup, stevia, and agave nectar whenever possible (such as in coffee and tea) and indulging in the refined stuff only occasionally.
Similarly, try to avoid processed foods which contain high fructose corn syrup. If you start reading labels, you might be absolutely shocked to find out that this highly processed sugary junk gets slipped into nearly everything, from things that should be healthy - like whole-grain bread and even hummus - to nearly everything that comes in a bottle, including barbecue sauce and salad dressings.
Tip #6: Keep Your Favorite Salad Dressings on Hand
You're much more likely to eat your greens or some raw veggies when your favorite salad dressings are in the fridge. A little variety is great too--try to keep at least two kinds, either store-bought or homemade on hand at all times. Some favorites are homemade goddess dressing, Thai peanut sauce from my local Asian grocer and raspberry vinaigrette. A vegan ranch dressing is helpful as well when trying to wean yourself off dairy.
Tip #7: Eat the Rainbow!
Fruits and vegetables all contain different nutrients. A simple way to remember to eat a range of vitamins and minerals is to vary the colors of the fruits and vegetables you eat. Of course, greens are always good, but try eating a rainbow of tomatoes, yellow squash, and purple cabbage!
This is one thing I often have to remind myself of, as I often get into food ruts or habits. I make my green salads nearly the same way all the time, but really should be mixing it up. Thinly sliced leeks, chopped boiled beets, bell peppers of all colors and shredded carrots are great to toss into the mix.