Every vegetarian is asked this question at some point, “But how do you get your protein?” The truth is, there are all kinds of rich vegetarian protein sources that make it easy to meet or exceed daily protein requirements. What’s often forgotten about in addition to protein is a number of other vegetarian nutritional needs.
Before we explore the specific nutritional concerns related to vegetarianism, let’s first discuss the different kinds of vegetarian diets.
Types of Vegetarian Diets
The most common association with vegetarianism is simply someone who doesn’t consume meat, poultry, or fish. However, there are actually several different diets that fall under the category of “vegetarian.”
- Lacto-vegetarian: Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are not part of this diet, but dairy products are.
- Ovo-vegetarian: This diet excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products, but allows for eggs.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: This is what most people think of when they hear “vegetarian.” This type of vegetarianism excludes meat, fish and poultry, but allows for consumption of dairy products and eggs.
- Pescatarian: Generally speaking, a pescatarian is someone who does not eat meat or poultry, but does consume fish and other seafood. This diet may also include dairy and eggs, but it depends on the person.
- Vegan: Contrary to popular belief, vegan is not the same as vegetarian. While traditional vegetarians consume dairy and eggs, vegans do not.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of vegetarian diets, let’s move on to nutritional considerations for vegetarians.
(Are you trying to get the whole family on board with a new diet? Take a look at this post for tips to help you out)
Nutritional Considerations for Vegetarians
Depending on the type of vegetarian diet, nutritional needs vary. For example, a lacto-vegetarian may not need to consume calcium supplements while an ovo-vegetarian might.
In addition to calcium, here are some of the key nutrients to be sure you’re consuming adequately if you’re a vegetarian. Additionally, we’ll include sources of these nutrients that are appropriate for vegetarian diets.
Vitamin D: fortified foods (including cereal), egg yolks, cheese, fortified orange juice, mushrooms
Vitamin B-12: Eggs and dairy products, nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified non-dairy milk
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, brussel sprouts, seaweed
Iron: Pumpkin seeds (pepitas), spinach, beans, iron-fortified cereals, bread, and pasta
Zinc: Chickpeas, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes
Iodine: Dairy, iodized salt, eggs, seaweed, prunes, lima beans, enriched bread
For some vegetarians, the draw of packaged, processed foods is too much to resist. It seems easier to grab a frozen meal rather than make something fresh. But without a specific focus on cooking and eating a variety of fresh plant-based foods, they’re more likely to end up with nutritional deficiencies.
Regardless of your diet, it can be helpful to speak with your doctor about ordering blood tests to determine where you stand on a nutritional front. Then, you can make any necessary changes depending on what your results say.
Fitness and Nutritional Guidance for Vegetarians
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