Eating a vegetarian diet can offer many health benefits including lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced risks of heart disease and cancer, and an improved body mass index (BMI). Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you chose to follow, you will need to plan meals to include a variety of food types in order to get all the nutrients your body needs.
The word “vegetarian” covers a variety of diet choices, which means there is no one “right” way to be a vegetarian. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products but stay away from meat. Lacto-vegetarians include dairy but not eggs, while ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products.
Still others may allow fish or poultry but not other meats. Vegans avoid all animal products including all meats, as well as items manufactured with animal products.
As a vegetarian, you’ll need to locate vegetarian recipes and plan meals that meet all your nutritional requirements while leave out the foods you chose to exclude. Of special concern are:
• Protein – Sources include eggs and dairy products for those who choose to eat them, as well as beans, peas, lentils, some nuts such as peanuts, and soy products. It is important to eat a variety of protein sources each day for a well-rounded diet.
• Essential fats – Nuts and oils such as linseed, rapeseed, and flaxseed oils contain needed fats. Be sure you have a source of omega-3s if you choose not to eat fish.
• Iron – This mineral is available in a vegetarian diet that includes leafy green vegetables, certain nuts and fruits, and products such as cereals that are fortified.
• Vitamin B12 – Eggs and dairy products are good sources of this vitamin for those who choose to eat them. The vitamin is also found in fortified cereals.
The Vegetarian Society’s vegetarian recipe database is one good source of recipes. Others include:
Be sure to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors in your daily meal plan to ensure a good nutritional balance.
Vegetarian Society. Basic vegetarian nutrition. Web. January 11, 2012.
Medline Plus. The Mainstreaming of Vegan Diets. HealthDay. Web. January 11, 2012.
Net Places. Who Are Vegetarians?. Alexandra Greeley. Web. January 11, 2012.
Medline Plus. Vegetarianism. Web. January 11, 2012.
Reviewed January 12, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith