Eating a vegetarian diet

A vegetarian diet is based on plant foods. It includes fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, seeds, and nuts. Some vegetarians also eat dairy foods and eggs. There are three common vegetarian diets:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs, yogurt, cheese, and other milk products, as well as plant foods.
  • Lacto vegetarians eat dairy and plant foods but not eggs.
  • Vegans eat only plant foods.


Why eat vegetarian?

People choose to be vegetarians for health, cultural, social and religious reasons. A vegetarian diet is a healthy way to eat. You just have to plan your meals carefully so that you get all the nutrients you need. Most vegetarian diets are high in fiber and low in fat and cholesterol. That means eating vegetarian can:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Decrease digestive problems including:
    • Bowel diseases
    • Gallstones
    • Colon cancer

Vegetarian basics

A vegetarian diet can be a healthy way to eat for people of all ages. But meals and snacks must be planned to include non-meat sources of protein, vitamins and other nutrients. Here are some guidelines for healthy meal planning:

  • Eat a wide range of foods. This will help you get all the nutrients you need.
  • Eat a number of plant proteins throughout the day.
  • Plan for enough calories each day. Also make sure that your calories come from foods that are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • If you eat dairy foods, choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese.

Do you need supplements?

A vegetarian diet can easily supply all the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals that a person needs. But some people have special needs. They may include children and teens, pregnant and lactating women, women past midlife, the elderly and vegans. If you are in one of these groups, you may need extra calories, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12 or zinc. The lists below can help you choose foods that are good sources of these nutrients. And be sure to ask your health care provider about taking vitamin supplements.

For more information about healthy eating, check out the Nutrition section in Fairview’s Health Library.

We want to hear from you!

Have you considered adopting a vegetarian diet? What questions have you considered? If you are a vegetarian, what is your favorite protein source? What are the three things you would never be without in your kitchen? Comment below.


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