Following a vegetarian diet?
It can be very healthy, rewarding, and delicious! However, it’s important to ensure all nutrients are being obtained. How can you stay on top of a balanced vegetarian diet? Careful planning and a basic understanding of how our bodies use nutrients in food are essential tools to maintain good health.
What kind of vegetarian diets are there?
Lacto-ovo includes eggs and milk products but no meat, poultry, and fish
Lacto- includes dairy but no other animal products
Ovo- includes eggs but avoids all other animal products
Vegan avoids all animal products
Is a well planned vegetarian diet healthier?
Not necessarily! However, vegetarian diets tend to include more plant-based foods with less cholesterol, less fat and more fibre. Also, perhaps not the diet itself but individuals who follow a vegetarian diet are often more health conscious choosing healthier options, smoke less, and exercise more.
What nutrients should I be getting?
The more restrictive the diet, the more organization needed.
Protein plays an important role in keeping muscles and red blood cells healthy. Plant-based and animal-based products provide sources of protein. Vegetarian options other than dairy and eggs include legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds, soy-based foods.
Iron transports oxygen throughout the body. Animal source contain heme-iron which is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron from plant sources. Vegetarians usually need double the servings of iron containing foods compared to non-vegetarians.
Vitamin C increases iron absorptions so it’s important to include vitamin C rich foods (ie. tomatoes, kiwis, citrus fruits, pineapple, mango, melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, broccoli and spinach) with your meals.
Where can I find plant-base iron sources?
Look to include any of the following items in your diet to provide a healthy level of iron.
Soy and soy products like firm or extra firm tofu, fortified soy drinks, textured vegetable protein (TVP).
Dried beans, peas and lentils, including kidney, pinto, adzuki, lima, soy and black beans, chickpeas and black-eyed peas.
Nuts and seeds including nut and seed butters.
Dried fruit such as prunes, raisins and apricots
Dark green vegetables like spinach, collards and bok choy
Cooking food in a cast iron frying pan
What supplements could l consider taking?
Visit our supplements or stop into Pete’s Fine Foods for more information.
The Bottom Line
Follow Canada’s food guide and ensure variety with more focus on foods providing all the nutrients listed above. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for guidance on your diet and prior to taking any supplements.