Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calories needs.
Follow the Dietary Guideline for Americans food group recommendations for your age, sex and activity level to get the right amount and the variety for nutrient adequacy. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.
1. Think about protein
Your protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Sources of proteins for vegetarians include beans, nuts and peas. Build meals around protein source that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice.
2. Bone up on source of calcium
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth. Sources of calcium for vegetarian include fortified breakfast cereals (this is generally refer to USA residents only), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard green, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens).
3. Make simple changes
Many dishes can be made vegetarian-pasta primavera, pasta with marinara, or presto sauce, veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, tofu-vegetables stir fry, bean burritos, etc. These changes can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake.
4. Enjoy a cook out
For barbecues, try veggie or “garden” burgers, marinated tofu or tempe or veggie kabobs. Grilled veggies are great, too!
5. Include beans, and peas
Because of their high nutrient content, consuming dry beans and peas is recommended for everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarian alike. Enjoy some beans and rice… or maybe a three bean salad or split pea soup.
6. Try different veggie versions
A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links. For dinner, rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers.
7. Make some small changes at restaurants
Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fries, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.
8. Nuts make great snacks
9. Get your vitamin E
To help meet vitamin E recommendations, choose specific nut and seed choices more often — sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts (filberts). These are among the best sources of vitamin E in the Meat and Bean Food Group (they are referring to the Protein group).
10. Choose fats wisely
Fatty acid that are necessary for health are called “essential fatty acid.” Choose excellent source of these, such as some nuts (walnuts) and seeds (flax seeds). Make a waldorf salad, with apples, celery, walnuts and low-fat dressing.