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Can sport and vegetarianism mix?
Can sport and vegetarianism mix?

People are vegetarian for all sorts of reasons.

Some people avoid meat for religious or moral reasons, some for health reasons and others because they just don't like it!

Meat contains some important nutrients, but there are many healthy, and tasty, alternatives available.

So what are they, and how easy is it to eat a healthy vegetarian diet?

We asked Sally Jordan - a sports dietician nutritionist at the English Institute of Sport - for a meat-free morsel of vegetarian chat.


What nutrients does meat contain that a vegetarian would miss out on?

Red meat is a good source of iron. Meat, fish and poultry in general are good sources of vitamin B-12 and zinc.

The other thing that animal products are good for is high quality protein. The protein in meat is better quality than protein found in plant products.

What's so special about protein and what other foods is it found in?

Proteins are the body's building blocks. They help develop muscles and body growth.

Dairy foods and eggs are a good source of protein - you can get good quality proteins from them.

If you don't eat dairy foods either you can combine the plant sources. First, there are the pulses - things like baked beans, chick peas and lentils.

These could be eaten with grains - things like wholegrain bread or wholemeal pasta.

Nuts and seeds are other great sources of protein, so something like peanut butter on wholegrain bread would be a good mix.

And where can vegetarians replace lost iron?

Green, leafy vegetables are a good source of iron, as are some fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin C helps increase absorption from plant sources, so a glass of orange juice with your meal is also a good idea.

What would be good meal on the day of a match or sporting event?

Whether you're vegetarian or not, the most important thing on a match day is to make sure your energy stores are topped up. That would involve preparation during the week, and especially the day before.

A nice big pasta meal the night before a match is always a good idea. On the day it's the carbohydrate rather than protein levels that are most important.

So being vegetarian is good for you, but a meat-free diet doesn't have to be boring.

Can sport and vegetarianism mix?

There are plenty of alternatives available that look and taste similar, as well as providing many of the nutrients found in meat.

Nutritionist and food writer Fiona Hunter knows her food inside out. We asked her for a few examples of healthy, and tasty, vegetarian meals.

Here's what she recommends:


Breakfast

It's vitally important to eat a good breakfast, especially when you're young. After 10-12 hours without food your body needs it - it's your fuel for the day.

Studies have shown that young people who don't have breakfast perform less well in all aspects of life. It's like running a car without petrol - it won't go anywhere fast!

A good healthy breakfast could be:

  • Cereal (fortified with vitamins and minerals)
  • Toast - if you're still hungry you could also have a boiled or scrambled egg
  • Glass of orange juice - This is packed with vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron

Mid-morning snack - Banana, fruit or raisons, yoghurt


Lunch

There are plenty of quick and easy lunchtime meals that are both tasty and filling. Here a few suggestions for a quick lunchtime treat:

  • Hummus salad
  • Egg or cheese sandwich
  • Beans on toast
  • Lentil soup


Dinner

At dinner time, meat substitutes like Quorn provide a tasty alternative. They have the same feel and texture as meat, and can be used in all your favourite meals.

  • Shepherd's pie
  • Quorn curry
  • Stir fry
  • Fruit salad for dessert




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