Vegetarian and Vegan Diet

The important thing to remember if you're a vegetarian is that you need to eat a balanced diet to make sure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.

Eating Healthily

The key eating healthily messages apply to everyone. Should you wish to follow a healthy well balanced diet, it is important to try to:

  • Eat a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Have as the base of your meals starchy foods like rice, pasta, cereals and pulses (peas, beans and lentils). They ought to constitute more or less a third of your diet
  • It is important to reduce the food you eat that is high in saturated fat. Instead try and replace them with foods rich in unsaturated fat instead, like vegetable oils (including rapeseed, sunflower and olive oil), seeds, nuts and avocados
  • Attempt to grill, poach, bake, steam, boil, light-fry or microwave instead of frying in oil or roasting in oil
  • Eat certain protein foods like dairy products, pulses and eggs. Within these foods try different types
  • Lower sugar intake and try to reduce salt intake too
  • Drink at least 6 glasses of water a day. You will need to drink more should you exercise

Ensure you Have Enough Nutrients

Sufficient Protein

It is critical to ensure that you get enough protein.

All the foods below are excellent sources of protein. Hence, try to mix them into your diet every day. Vary the kinds you select:

  • Pulses like beans and lentils
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Eggs
  • Soya, soya products like tofu
  • Mycoprotein which has been trademarked under the name of Quorn
  • Wheat proteins like cereals, rice, bread and maize
  • Dairy and milk products

Protein consists of amino acids, some of which are called 'essential amino acids' as the body is unable to make these itself.

The body needs some of each of these essential amino acids simultaneously. Soya and quinoa are the sole vegetarian sources that have a total mix of all essential amino acids.

It may sound more complicated than it is. However, you can easily attain all essential amino acids by eating different kinds of protein foods at the same time. You could be doing so already by having:

  • beans on toast
  • milk with cereal
  • lentils and rice
  • bean and rice salad
  • vegetable chilli (with kidney beans) alongside rice or tortillas
  • bread with cheese
  • bean, lentils or split pea soup with bread
  • houmous alongside pitta bread

It is not such a great idea to solely rely on one kind of protein as you may miss out on essential nutrients. So say you rely solely on cheese as your protein source, you are going to end up consuming an unhealthy amount of saturated fat.

Should you not eat milk and dairy products, you can have soya, oat or rice drinks strengthened with calcium as an alternative.

Sufficient Iron

Meat is known as the best iron source. However, it is also to be found in:

  • pulses
  • bread
  • green vegetables like broccoli, watercress, spring greens as well as okra
  • strengthened breakfast cereals

It is easier to digest and absorb iron from food should we eat it with foods which contain vitamin c. Hence, it is best to have say some fruit or vegetables or fruit juice with a meal.

It is advisable to wait at least 30 minutes post meal to have a drink of coffee or tea as tea and coffee make it more difficult for the body to absorb iron.

Sufficient Selenium

It is crucial that you have enough selenium in your diet as it enables the body’s immune system to function effectively.

The best sources of selenium are meat, fish as well as nuts. Therefore, if you are a strict vegetarian, it is crucial to eat a sufficient quantity of nuts.

Brazil nuts contain a high level of selenium; a couple a day should be sufficient. A small bag of mixed unsalted nuts, containing brazil nuts, is a quick and easy way of getting your daily selenium intake.

Eggs and bread also contain selenium.

As a Vegetarian What Do You Eat?

Vegetarians do not eat meat, animal by products (like gelatine), fish or seafood. Many vegetarians eat animal products, that is, milk, cheese (made with vegetarian rennet) as well as eggs.

There are certain people who eat mainly a vegetarian diet, yet they also eat fish.

As a Vegan What do You Eat?

Vegans do not eat foods of animal origin, including meat, fish, dairy foods and honey.

Should you be vegan, ensure that you are getting sufficient protein and iron. However, getting enough vitamin B12 can be difficult.

Great vegan sources of vitamin B12 are:

  • yeast extract
  • strengthened bread
  • strengthened breakfast cereals