Staying Healthy as a Vegetarian

Are you a vegetarian? Do you know which nutrients your body needs? Here are some tips to help you understand what nutrients your body needs and in which foods you can find these nutrients.

Important Nutrients for Vegetarians:

Protein is essential for growth and maintenance in the body. Eating a variety of plant-based proteins is a great way to meet this requirement. Sources of protein include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, milk and eggs are also good sources of protein.

Iron is a carrier of oxygen in the blood among other functions in the body. Sources of iron include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, and some dried fruits.

Calcium is used to build bones and teeth. Sources include calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and some dark green leafy vegetables.

Zinc helps the immune system function properly and is necessary for biochemical reactions. Sources include white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas, zinc-fortified cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, milk products are a great source of zinc.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerves and blood cells healthy. Sources include fortified foods with added B12 such as breakfast cereals, soymilks, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, milk and eggs are a great source of B12.

Healthy Eating Tips for Vegetarians:

  • Many popular dishes are or can be made vegetarian such as pasta primavera, veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, tofu-vegetable stir-fry, and bean burritos.
  • Include beans and peas! This time of the year you cannot resist a good bowl of chili so throw together a vegetarian chili, or split pea soup. You can also make hummus-filled pita sandwiches.
  • Try different things. Instead of veggie burgers, try beans burgers or chickpea patties (falafel).
  • Choose unsalted nuts as a snack and use them in your main dishes.

If you would like to know the food group recommendations for your gender and age, please visit: Click on each food group and in the left hand column click “how much is needed?” This should be a starting guide for you to reach your recommended portions of each food group.

By Bailey Sweeting

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