The Vegetarian Menu
Plants can supply you with all the basic nutrients if eaten in the proper combinations. A few simple guidelines will help keep the diet healthy and beneficial.
Eat a variety of whole grains and legumes. Together, these foods create the complete protein that would otherwise be derived from meat. These foods do not have to be eaten in the same meal, but should each be consumed each day.
Eating the same foods every day limits the vitamins and minerals you are getting. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables prepared in a manner that best utilizes their nutrients. Eating brightly colored vegetables maximizes your nutrient intake.
Incorporate seeds and nuts into recipes. Sprinkled on salads, in cereal, and baked goods, nuts and seeds give added protein, calcium, and omega-3 oils.
Avoid foods and preparations with excessive fats and sugars. Choose lower-fat dairy products. Limit foods with high saturated fat.
Consider dietary supplements of nutrients found mainly in meat products, including iron, calcium, and B
12. Vitamin D is also a concern if dairy is eliminated.
Use soy liberally, in the form of milk or tofu. It adds a creamy texture to foods, and boosts protein.
Don’t restrict fats in vegan and vegetarian children under the age of two. They need it for healthy growth.
The following guidelines give daily dietary needs for both vegetarians and vegans.
Legumes: Two or more servings per day. These include beans, peas, lentils, tofu, and meat substitutes. Eggs can be included here for ovo-vegetarians.
Vegetables: Three or more servings per day. Include dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach; bright orange vegetables, such as sweet potatoes; and bright red and purple vegetables, including tomatoes, beets, and purple cabbage.
Fruits: Thee or more servings per day. Include citrus, melons, apples, berries, and tropical fruits. Eat the skins when possible.
Whole grains: Six to eleven servings per day. Include cereals and breads, rice, and specialty grains like quinoa.
Dairy or fortified dairy substitutes: Two to three servings per day. Choose low-fat dairy products, or dairy substitutes. Look for products enriched with calcium and vitamin D.
Fats, oils, nuts, sugar: Use sparingly. Avoid saturated and trans fat, and choose unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats instead.
Supplements: Calcium, iron, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained naturally, but consider supplements if the diet is not sufficiently varied.