Vegetarian diets are fads for some, but true lifestyles for others. A vegetarian diet can meet all or your nutritional needs if you eat the right amount of food, in the right variety, for your calorie requirements.
Protein is important to your growth and maintenance, but you can get enough in your diet when you put a little thought into meal planning.
-Find proteins that are low in fat like beans, instead of eating high-fat cheese for example, to replace meat.
-Soy milk is a tasty replacement for dairy milk, with fewer calories, less fat and necessary calcium.
-Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost protein like soybeans or tofu.
If you are new to a vegetarian diet, you may prefer look alike foods:
Soy burgers look like hamburgers
Crumbles look like ground beef
Soy sausage patties or links imitate popular breakfast meats
Other sources for protein include nuts, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers).
With a few subtle changes you can change your favorite foods into a tasty vegetarian delight. Pasta dishes, pizza, lasagna, stir fry, lo mein, kabobs, burritos and tacos are all delicious when made without meats.
Many restaurants offer special modifications to their menus to fit the popular vegetarian diets.
Tips for Following a Vegetarian Diet
The MyPlate Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series provides consumers with the following easy-to-follow tips.
1. Think about 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). Lacto-ovo vegetarians also get protein from eggs and dairy foods.
2. Bone up on sources of 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).
3. Make simple changes
Many popular main dishes are or can be vegetarian such as pasta primavera, pasta with marinara or pesto sauce, veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, tofu-vegetable stir-fry, and bean burritos.
4. Enjoy a cookout
For barbecues, try veggie or soy burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and fruit kabobs. Grilled veggies are great, too!
5. Include beans and peas
Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Enjoy some vegetarian chili, three bean salad, or split pea soup. Make a hummus filled pita sandwich.
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 bean burgers or falafel (chickpea patties).
7. Make some small changes at restaurants
Most restaurants can make vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces or nonmeat items, such as tofu and beans for meat, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. Ask about available vegetarian options.
8. Nuts make great snacks
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.
9. 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.
10. Find a vegetarian pattern for you
Go to www.dietaryguidelines.gov and check appendices 8 and 9 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 for vegetarian adaptations of the USDA food patterns at 12 calorie levels.
For a comprehensive list of vegetarian resources visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/VegetarianNutritionResourceList.pdf