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Gardening season: Tips for preparing meatless meals

In honor of Earth Day and National Garden Month, Saint Thomas Heart recently dedicated its April Heart Healthy Cooking Class to meatless meal options. 

“There can be a number of health benefits to being a vegetarian,” said Kitty Fawaz, L.D.N,  cooking class leader and registered dietitian at Saint Thomas Hospital. “Vegetarian diets have been attributed to lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer, a lower average weight and adding more healthy years to people’s lives. Just remember, it’s also extremely important to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs.” 

Fawaz recommends using plenty of the following ingredients to create healthy, balanced and tasty vegetarian meals. 

Dark green and leafy vegetables for calcium

Calcium is an important part of healthy teeth and bones. It is often associated with milk and cheese, but dairy products aren’t the only things packed with this super mineral. Vegetables such as collard and turnip greens, kale and raw spinach contain loads of calcium. 

Grains, nuts, seeds and legumes for protein

It’s a common misconception that vegetarians have a difficult time incorporating protein into their diet. There are a number of vegetarian-friendly foods that can pump the power of protein into your diet. Some of these include most types of beans, seeds, nuts and grains. Tofu, a common meat-replacement source, is also packed with protein. 

Fortified milk, cheese and breakfast cereals for vitamins B12 and D

Vitamins B12 and D are mostly found in foods of animal origin, including meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk and cheese. Because of this, vegans might develop deficiencies in these areas and need a dietary supplement. For lacto-ovo and lacto-vegetarians, be sure to incorporate plenty of dairy into your diet to make sure you are getting all the vitamin B12 and D your body needs. 

“If you are a vegetarian or vegan who has trouble getting the recommended daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals from foods, a multivitamin might be the way to go,” said Fawaz. 

The next and final cooking class of 2013 will be held on Tuesday, May 7 at 3 p.m. in the Saint Thomas Hospital cafeteria. For more information about this free event and to register, call 1-800-588-3270.

To view Saint Thomas Heart's meatless recipies, click here.

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