Weather you are a vegetarian by choice or for religious reasons, it is imperative that you make conscious healthy choices (don’t stock up on carbohydrates). Although vegetarian eating patterns can be a healthy option, but not all vegetarians are necessarily healthy. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amounts to meet your calorie needs and prevent nutrient deficiencies.
You need Protein
Your protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant foods. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans and peas, nuts, and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh). Vegetarians also get protein from eggs and dairy foods.
Don’t forget Calcium
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth. Some vegetarians consume dairy products, which are excellent sources of calcium. Other sources of calcium for vegetarians include calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage), tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard, turnip, and mustard greens; and bok choy).
Barbecues are not only for meat lovers
For barbecues, try veggie or soy burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and fruit kabobs. Grilled veggies are great, too!
Include beans, legumes and lentils
Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans, legumes and lentils is recommended for everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Enjoy some vegetarian chili, three bean salad, spicy lentil soup or make a hummus pita sandwich.
Veggies for Vegetarians
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 bean burgers or falafel.
Most restaurants can make vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces or non-meat items, such as tofu and beans for meat, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. Ask about available vegetarian options.
Snack on Nuts
Choose unsalted nuts as a snack and use them in salads or main dishes. Add almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of cheese or meat to a green salad.
Get your Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is naturally found only in animal products. Vegetarians should choose fortified foods such as cereals or soy products, or take a vitamin B12 supplement if they do not consume any animal products. Check the Nutrition Facts label for vitamin B12 in fortified products.
Ideas for Healthy Vegetarian meals:
- Hummus with veggies and pita triangles
- Stuffed bell peppers with feta cheese, zucchini, olives, tomato and basil
- Aloo Gobi
- Spinach Lasagna
- Falafel sandwich
- Portobello mushroom sandwich layered with stir-fried onions and peppers
- Cabbage, carrots, mushrooms stuffed in pita pockets
- Pasta primavera
- Pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
- Veggie pizza
- Tofu-vegetable stir-fry
- Bean and low-fat cheese burritos or tacos
- Polenta topped with homemade tomato sauce, grated with parmesan cheese
- Focaccia (flat bread similar to pizza) with or without cheese
- Split-pea soup with rye bread