It’s International Vegetarian Day, but what does that actually mean? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this lifestyle?

Animal products such as meat, fish, honey and dairy products are still an integral part of the daily lives of many. At the same time, according to experts, the demand for more plant-based foods and attention to sustainability is growing. We consult Iris Gruenberg, nutrition and health expert at The Nutrition Center, and Claudia Teigen, nutritionist and recipe developer at Green Chef.

First of all, it is good to know what exactly the vegan way of life entails. “Vegetables choose to exclude animal products from their diet. That means 100 percent plant-based food. They don’t just take their meals into account,” Groenberg explains. “It’s a way of life that also avoids cosmetics, clothing, and entertainment that uses animals.” Think about Care products that have been tested on animals or contain animal ingredients Vegetarians do not wear clothing of wool, leather or fur as a statement against the system of using animals as objects or means of production.

Better for animals and the environment

For many people, the animal and ecological aspect is one of the main reasons for succumbing to vegetarianism. Grünenberg: “Most people make this choice for the welfare of animals or the planet. Diet has a huge impact on the climate: food is responsible for 20-35% of all greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of the emissions from our food come from meat and dairy products. By not eating meat one day a week, you reduce carbon dioxide emissions in your diet by 5 to 10 percent.”

There is also the health aspect. Dietitian Claudia Teigen: “A vegetarian diet can be a way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease because you get more fiber, saturated fat and cholesterol. Provided there is a healthy, balanced content in it, for example, enough legumes and nuts.”


Sure, switching to vegetarian food can be a bit of a puzzle at first. Tjan: Animal products contain important nutrients. So before you start, learn about the nutrition and deficiencies of vegetarians or consult a nutritionist and calculate your diet together and find suitable alternatives. Think legumes, grains, tofu, and unsalted nuts and seeds.”

Nutrition expert Groenenberg explains: “Fish and dairy products have been shown to have specific health benefits. For example, it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Most vegetarians take those missed health benefits for granted. They make sure they are getting enough. from a number of nutrients through food or supplementation.” Think especially about protein, iron, calcium, iodine, and vitamins D, B2, and B12. She continues, “Proteins in plant sources are sometimes more difficult to digest or provide fewer essential amino acids. You can easily solve this problem by combining some plant products. Whole grains and legumes, such as lentils, kidney beans, and white kidney beans, for example.” Good mix.”

For some groups, she adds, the risk of deficiency is somewhat greater and the consequences can be greater, too. This applies to pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and children. In the Netherlands, these groups are not recommended to eat plant-based foods, but it is always advisable to seek help from a dietitian who has special knowledge of plant-based food.”

Step by Step

Obvious, but knowing this: How do we begin? Both experts advise that changing your diet gradually is easier than changing your diet strict all at once. Consider replacing bacon stew with unsalted nuts or using chickpeas in curries instead of chicken. Tian: “This way you get used to it slowly. For example, first stop eating meat, then fish and finally eat dairy.”

Also think about what you will eat beforehand, precisely because you are constantly working on what can and cannot be done. “Choose consciously how often you want to eat something so that you have varied meals. Recipes can be found in cookbooks and on the Internet that help with a balanced and balanced diet.”

Groenenberg: „It is important to choose what you feel comfortable with and what works for you. A vegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be. But it is clear that we have to do something about the habitability of the planet. On average, in Holland, we eat more meat than is recommended. So eating less meat is a very good first step for almost everyone.”

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