I think it is great when I read comments or receive emails from people/athletes telling me that they have adopted a more vegetarian-friendly diet. Even though, as you can tell, I do not 'preach' vegetarianism. Although I am an animal-lover, I don't mind if you (or Karel) has meat in your diet. However, I do encourage lean meat and other sources of protein. But, vegetarian or not, I am all about a plant-based diet. There are many ways to achieve a healthy diet, no matter what diet you choose, but when it comes to calling yourself an athlete (or fitness enthusiast) the micronutrients found in fruits and veggies are just as important as the macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat). Sure, there are plenty of vitamins in carbs, amino acids in protein and omega's in healthy fats, but when it comes down to keep you satisfied at meals, preventing shifts in blood sugar, adding nutrients and water to your diet and preventing overeating, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and veggies, are the way to go.
I wouldn't suggest fueling for an Ironman off only a salad and a bowl of fruit (because you are a vegetarian), however, add in some complex carbs, healthy fats and vegetarian protein, and you've got yourself one complete and balanced non-meat meal. Furthermore, as a competitive athlete myself, I don't encourage "high-carb" diets (bagel, pasta, bread, cereal, etc.). I believe you will get the most out of your workout and daily eating habits if you can stick to portioned controlled balanced meals with the addition of fruits and veggies. Also, since it is important to understand how to fuel your body for weight maintenance, regardless if you are running 40+ miles a week or biking 150+ miles a week, you will find that it is easier to control your food intake, cravings and portions by adding fruits and veggies to all/most meals and snacks, on a daily basis.
Since I've been a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) for almost 17 years, I know the challenges that come with being a vegetarian athlete. While some vegetarians just exercise for health benefits, I train to compete. Even hoping to qualify for Kona once again this year, I never see my vegetarian diet as a disadvantage. If anything, because of my vegetarian diet, I am really in-tuned to what I should give my body to have the best workouts possible. More so, because my health is my #1 priority, I really value the essential nutrients in fruits and veggies that will help ward off disease.
The more restrictive you are in your diet (vegetarian or not), the more difficult it is to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals (and perhaps macronutrients as well) that your body needs to perform at its best. Regardless if you are racing or just trying to get to the gym on a daily basis, if you choose to eat meat or choose to be meat-free, be sure that you focus on a variety of foods in the diet. Always appreciate the foods you put in your body and be sure that the majority of your diet includes foods that will promote good health.
Who says a meat-free diet has to be boring or tasteless? Not in the Sumbal-household...
Enjoy my latest creations!
Hearty Vegetable Loaf
In large bowl:
1 squash (shredded)
1 zucchini (shredded)
6 baby carrots (shredded)
2 tbsp fresh Cilantro & pinch of ground pepper, cayenne, basil
1/8 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup oats
1/8 cup soy flour
1 tbsp flax seed
1 cup brown rice (cooked)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 cup white beans
(optional: bread crumbs)
1 cup spinach
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 clove chopped garlic
1/2 cup corn
1. Cook spinach mixture on medium-heat on burner for 3-4 minutes.
2. Combine zucchini mixture in a bowl. Mix well.
3. Add spinach mixture to zucchini mixture and mix well.
4. Add spinach-zucchini mixture to loaf pan and top with a pinch of bread crumbs.
5. Bake at 400-degrees for 30-40 minutes.
1/2 container reduced fat croissant package
Spinach mixture: handful spinach, 4 mushrooms (sliced), 1 garlic (chopped), 1/2 tsp olive oil, sliced onion (about 1/3 cup)
1. Cook spinach mixture on non-stick pan on medium-heat for 3-4 minutes.
2. Spread out 4 triangles of dough (1-2 per person: 90 calories each, 4.5g fat, 2g sat. fat), pressing as flat as possible, on a large cooking sheet sprayed w/ non-stick spray.
3. Add a little spinach mixture to top of triangle. Add a little cheese.
4. Roll flat edge of triangle towards pointed edge.
5. Lay on cooking sheet.
6. Bake at 350-degrees for 8-12 minutes (or until golden brown).
Drizzle of olive oil
(optional: marinara sauce)
1. Cut Zucchini in half (long ways) and then in half (middle). Slice into small fries.
2. Drizzle with olive oil in bowl and mix well. Top with pepper.
3. Bake at 400-degrees for 10-15 min. or until fries are soft and a little crisp.
4. Dip in marinara sauce
Vegetarian dinner for two: