There are many different reasons why people choose a vegetarian eating style. If you plan your meals and snacks properly a vegetarian diet can be healthy, taste great and provide health benefits in preventing and treating certain diseases. Vegetarians usually follow a diet that excludes meat, poultry and seafood. Vegetarians may have different preferences and while some may choose to include eggs and dairy like yogurt, milk, and cheese, others may go completely plant-based. A vegetarian diet that is planned properly can be followed by people of all ages.
Risk for Nutrient Deficiencies
Since vegetarians are not getting certain nutrients from meat, poultry, or fish sources, it is important that they are mindful of their overall diet and are making sure they eat a variety of other foods (see below) to obtain nutrients they may lack such as iron, calcium, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Vegetarians may want to consider getting lab work done to ensure they are not deficient in any nutrient with the possibility of needing to supplement one of those nutrients.
Planning Meals as a Vegetarian
Vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy are all the food groups vegetarians can include in their meals if they choose to. Vegetables of all colors, especially orange, red, and dark green for vitamins, minerals and fiber should be chosen. Some good examples of these vegetables are broccoli, bok choy, and collard greens.
Whole grains should be chosen more often than refined grains as whole grains are higher in protein. Hint! Many cereals are fortified with iron and vitamin B12. Variety when eating protein is also important to vegetarians as they must make sure they are getting enough. Some examples of good quality protein are beans, peas, and lentils which have lots of iron, zinc, fiber and protein in them. If choosing to consume dairy, low-fat or fat free dairy options are a good choice as they contain calcium and vitamin D.
Snack Ideas for Vegetarians
Although there are many great snack options for vegetarians, pairing a carbohydrate source with a protein or carbohydrate source with a fat will help keep you full longer and be a satisfying snack. A few snack ideas are hummus and pita wedges, a slice of bread with a nut butter, or some yogurt with cereal and sliced fruit on top.