If you're a vegetarian (even more so if you're a vegan) you have to work hard to get enough iron in your diet.
One good source of iron is blackstrap molasses, added in a small amount (I recommend 1 teaspoon a day) to cereal, or yoghurt, or used in baking your own home made granola bars. What is blackstrap molasses? It's a by-product of sucrose production from sugar-cane. It's a dark brown (almost black) thick syrupy liquid, which contains not only iron but a whole range of essential minerals:
Calcium: vital for heart and muscle contraction, healthy bones and teeth
Copper: helps bone and tissue synthesis, assists in iron absorption
Magnesium: nerve, muscle, heart function (and around 300 other functions)
Potassium: one of the electrolytes, essential for regulation of fluid levels between bloodstream and the cells of the body
One downside of blackstrap molasses, which is why you should not have more than one teaspoon a day, is the sugar levels. One tablespoon (20g) contains 6g sucrose, 2.5g fructose, and 2.5g glucose, which is way too much sugar from a single food source, so stick to one teaspoon a day.
Over the years, visitors to Fitness4London.com have sent in their favourite healthy recipes. Keep them coming! Now I'm asking for more healthy vegetarian recipes, because simply being a vegetarian is no guarantee that you're eating healthily. Vegetarian diets are sometimes deficient in zinc, iron, and vitamin B12. So recipes rich in these nutrients are particularly welcome.
Please send in your favourite vegetarian recipes, so other followers of Fitness4London can benefit from your experience. One great thing about being a personal trainer in London with lots of interesting clients, is that I get a wealth of recipe ideas from those who are really serious about their nutrition, which I can then share with you all here on this website.
If you email me at: info at fitness4london dot com I'll add some to this page.
These are the hallmarks of a healthy vegetarian diet: It should be low in salt, sugar, saturated fat, and high in a range of protein sources to make up for the fact that it contains no meat. Some of my most obese personal training clients over the years have been vegetarians. One of them ate insane amounts of fruit, and that's guaranteed to pile on the fat because of the way the body handles fructose, something most people don't realise.
A personal training client in London W8 gave me this vegetarian recipe, and I modified it with the addition of red peppers to boost the nutrient content. As a personal trainer in London, I have several vegetarian clients, and this is a popular recipe for them, and easy to prepare. It makes a good starter, but if you want it as a main course, just double up the ingredients to make it more substantial.
Try using olive oil pan spray to ensure you don't use excess oil. It's available from most large supermarkets (the one I use is called Fry Light). Spray a wok or frying pan, and add the following:
100g cubed tofu
3 carrots cut into long strips
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, cut into long strips
50g mung beansprouts
In a separate pan, prepare 50g wholewheat spaghetti, and when the stir fry is ready (takes around 7 mins on high heat, stirring regulary), drain the spaghetti, add to the wok, and stir in. The vegetables should still be slightly crunchy. Avoid over-cooking veg, so you preserve most of the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables.
If you like it spicy, grind in some pepper, add some chilli powder, and/or a few dashes of tabasco sauce.
Each serving contains-
total fat: 6g
of which saturated: 1g
Supplement this dish with more food to increase your protein and carbs intake, such as plain natural yoghurt with fruit chopped in (see more on this below).
Tofu is made from soya beans. All soya-based foods are a good source of protein and low in saturated fat. Soya is one of the few non-meat/dairy 'complete proteins' so its a valuable protein source for vegans/vegetarians.
There's another soy-based food called tempeh, made from cooked and slightly fermented soy beans, which can also be used in this recipe. It can be cut into cubes for a stir-fry, and its nutty flavour is popular with vegetarians and vegans too. A great source of protein for vegans. Give it a try, even if you're normally a meat eater!
Note that this recipe contains just 10g protein per serving. If this is your main meal, and you're working out or playing sport today, I recommend you supplement this with some nuts, fruit and natural yoghurt as a dessert, to boost your protein and carbs. I know a personal trainer in London who is a vegatarian, and he is always snacking on almonds and brazil nuts and plain natural yoghurt to boost his protein levels.
What's the best vegetarian restaurant in London? Let me know if you have a favourite, and I'll compile a list of the best ones.
If you're a vegan, click on the link for a list of vegan restaurants in London.