The vegetarian lifestyle certainly has its benefits: increased energy and health, as well as decrease your environmental footprint. It’s an adventure, too, finding creative ways to vary meals and ensure that you get all the nutrients to build a balanced, healthy diet. This isn’t always easy, though, especially when it comes to finding your complete proteins and fats that are so common in most meats. Here’s a quick list of 5 tips that might help round out your diet

Eat Your Greens!

If you’re having digestive problems, or are experiencing low energy, eating greens is one good way of alleviating these issues. Eating dark greens at least three times a week (daily is ideal) will boost energy, flush your digestion system, and snag some essential vitamins and minerals not found in many other foods.

One cup of steamed collards provides more than enough Vitamin K, A, and C for the day, as well as a significant amount of fiber, calcium, and potassium, and a bit of protein to boot. They’re also filled with isothiocyanates (ITC), which have been shown to reduce your risk of cancer. One way of differentiating between how healthy certain greens are is to simply examine how deep a shade of green it is. The general rule of thumb is, the deeper the green, the more nutrients available. A plant’s ability to photosynthesize correlates to its chlorophyll content, and these are packed with nutrients.

Drink Fluids

If you ever find yourself having difficulty filling up your stomach on your vegetarian diet, try drinking more fluids. The old tale is true, that roughly 8 cups of water a day is the best way to stay hydrated. What you might not hear as often, though, is that a lot of that water comes from the food that you eat. It only makes sense that sometimes when we feel hungry, we are in fact, thirsty.

If you still feel hungry after a considerably large meal, try drinking a glass of water, or even better, try a cup of non-caffeinated tea. After a few minutes, you may find your belly to feel plenty full and satiated. Another good strategy is to simply carry a canister of water with you. Nothing gives a little boost of energy like a refreshing sip of water.

Lay Off The Refined Sugar

Refined sugar is delicious. No doubt about it. It’s made to appeal to our most primal need for all things sweet. If you’re feeling sluggish, though, it may correlate to your level of refined sugar intake. Refined sugar depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals, with an emphasis on calcium, which is vital to maintain strong bones. It also thickens your blood, which restricts your capillaries ability to deliver nutrients around the body.

Refined sugar is easy to eat, as it is found in a whole plethora of processed foods. Replacing white sugar with maple syrup or honey is a great way to reduce your intake. Also, if you’ve got as bad a sweet tooth as mine, the desire for something sugary after a meal can be difficult to overcome. Try eating a fresh piece of fruit like an apple or orange after a meal to help satiate this urge. Fruits also come in handy as healthy snacks throughout the day. Keep one in your bag or purse with you.

Diversify Your Fruits and Vegetables

Keeping a variety of fruits and vegetables in the house is one of the best ways to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need to look good, feel happy, and keep a high energy level.

One way of doing this is by trying to make aesthetically pleasing meals with lots of color variety. Red onion, rainbow chard, and carrots on a bed of quinoa is both a delicious meal as well as a pleasure to look at. They all have different levels of nutrients, which will helps round out your dietary needs.

Get Your Protein

The average person needs around 70grams of protein a day to maintain high quality health. It’s easy to overlook protein as a vegetarian, as we don’t eat high protein packed foods as often as our meat eating counterparts. Not eating enough protein can lead to headaches, low energy, lighter pigmentation, and brittle hair, to name a few.

It’s easy enough to get your proper amount of protein. Beans, tofu, cheese, whole grains, and eggs are all packed full of protein goodness. Combining these in meals also increasse the amount of protein the body absorbs by creating complete proteins. Corn and beans is an excellent example, as it gave the ancient Aztecs all the protein they needed for centuries. Eating a wide variety of these protein rich foods is the best to ensure you get the protein you need to feel good.