While my diet is pretty plant-based, I am not a vegetarian. Many of my clients are vegetarians or have children who have recently become vegetarian. Some complain that vegetarian diets get boring or do not feel filling; parents show concern that their veggie kids aren’t getting the nutrients they need.
Let me dive into some tips that can help you maintain a vegetarian diet that is fun and healthy!
My number-one question for all vegetarian diets is: Where do you get your protein from? If you are a vegetarian and feel sluggish at all, it may just be that you are not getting enough protein. Protein feeds your muscles and your blood. Consider it the fuel that keeps you moving.
Sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, tofu, tempeh, and some whole grains like quinoa. Low-fat dairy (Milk, cheese, Greek yogurt for example) and eggs are also good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
You may have heard that you need to eat a combination of proteins in each meal to get complete proteins, but that is not true as long as you have a decent amount of protein in every meal.
One way to assure you are getting enough nutrients is to eat as many colors of fruits and veggies as possible. This blog goes into detail of what nutrients are found in each color.
You don’t need to eat a salad every day to be a vegetarian. There are so many fantastic vegetarian recipes out there. Hop on to Google or Pinterest and you will certainly find hundreds of easy recipes to try!
It’s so easy to become a junk food vegetarian. Try not to rely too heavily on boxed food; the refined flour and sugar can spike your blood sugar and cause inflammation throughout your body.
While I just told you to be careful about packaged food; there are some healthy options like whole-grain bread. Look for foods that are fortified with vitamins to give you a boost in nutrients. If you are lacto-ovo vegetarian, milk is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Sadly, your body doesn’t absorb iron from plants as well as it does from meat so it is essential that you get plenty of high-iron vegetarian foods in your diet such as beans and legumes, dried fruits, molasses green vegetables, and whole grains. Many cereals are fortified with iron just make sure that the cereal of choice is low in sugar (5 grams or less) and high in fiber ( 4 grams or more) as well.
Getting enough B-12 is very difficult in a vegetarian diet. I highly encourage vegetarians to take a B-12 supplement.
If you have any questions about a vegetarian or vegan diet, please feel free to email our team and we’ll help you out!
By Kelly Springer, RD, MS, CDN