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Vegetarian Eating

What is a vegetarian diet? A vegetarian diet includes mostly plant based foods and may include some animal products.

 

Types of vegetarian diets:1

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets include milk and dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.
  • Lacto-vegetarian diets include milk and dairy products, vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.
  • Vegan diets include vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and plant-based beverages only. It doesn’t include any animal products.

Are there any health benefits to being a vegetarian?

A vegetarian diet may lower the risk of:1

  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • type 2 diabetes
  • some cancers and
  • high cholesterol

Vegetarian diets may be:1

  • higher in fibre, vitamins and minerals
  • lower in saturated and trans fat
 
Basket of vegetables
 

What is a healthy vegetarian diet?

A healthy vegetarian diet includes more than just veggies and involves good planning.

Steps to planning a healthy vegetarian diet:

  • Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you plan your meals.
  • Choose a variety of healthy foods each day including vegetables and fruits, protein foods, and whole grain foods.
  • Choose plant-based protein foods such as beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products and unsweetened fortified soy beverage. This will make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs.

Key nutrients2

Some nutrients are harder to get from vegetarian diets. Careful planning will help to ensure you include vegetarian or vegan sources of the following key nutrients. Note: not all examples will be appropriate for all vegetarian diets.

Protein

Found in foods like milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, beans and lentils.

Iron

Found in foods like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy products, certain fruits (e.g. prunes, raisins, apricots), certain dark green vegetables (e.g. collards, okra, bok choy), blackstrap molasses and whole grain or fortified cereals, breads and pastas.

Calcium

Found in foods like milk, some fortified plant-based beverages, fortified orange juice and tofu (made with calcium). Not all plant-based beverages are fortified with calcium. To see if a product contains calcium, check the Nutrition Facts on the food label.

Vitamin D

Found in foods like cow’s milk, some fortified plant-based beverages, fresh or canned fatty fish and egg yolks. Not all plant-based beverages are fortified with vitamin D. To see if a product contains vitamin D, check the Nutrition Facts on the food label.

Zinc

Found in foods like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains and yogurt.

Vitamin B12 

Found in foods like cheese, eggs, some fortified plant-based beverages and meat substitutes (e.g. textured vegetable protein), and Red Star nutritional yeast. Not all plant-based beverages or meat substitutes are fortified with vitamin B12. Check To see if a product contains vitamin B12, check the Nutrition Facts on the food label.

Omega-3 fatty acids 

Found in omega-3 eggs, fortified yogurt, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, ground flax seed and certain oils (e.g. canola, flax seed, soybean, walnut).

Registered Dietitian

Some of the examples listed do not fit in all types of vegetarian diets. If you are worried that you or your family are missing any key nutrients, contact a Registered Dietitian to help you plan a healthy vegetarian diet.

 
Date of creation: December 19, 2013
Last modified on: November 22, 2019
 

References

1Unlock Food. (2018, October 22). What you need to know about a healthy vegetarian eating plan. Retrieved from
https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Diets/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-a-Healthy-Vegetarian-E.aspx
2Dietitians of Canada. (2014, November 27). Eating guidelines for vegans. Retrieved from
http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vegetarian/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx