A vegetarian diet involves avoiding meat, poultry, and usually fish. Most vegetarians are lacto-ovo, meaning they consume dairy products and eggs. A vegan diet builds on the vegetarian diet, and further cuts out dairy products, eggs, and any other animal byproduct.
- Make sure to get enough protein. Possible sources include eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, and dairy product.
- There is a wide range of soy meat substitutes availabe to add flavor, texture, and bulk to meals.
- Vitamin B12 is important for the health of your brain and nervous system. Good sources of B12 for vegetarians include milk and eggs. Vegans can consume B12 in fortified cereal and soy milk, but may need a supplement as well.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from eggs for vegetarians. Vegans can eat it in walnuts, tofu, and flaxseed, but a supplement may be necessary.
- Iron can be found in leafy green vegetables. You may need a supplement as well.
- It can be tempting to add bulk to your diet with carbohydrates. Make sure you are eating these in moderation. Eat mostly whole grains rather than white or refined grains.
Special considerations in a vegetarian diet include:
- Blood pressure - a vegetarian diet can improve blood pressure in both hypertensive and normal people1. This can be done at home, at many pharmacies, or by a healthcare professional.
- Hemoglobin - this can identify a dietary iron deficiency. This must be performed by a healthcare professional.
- B12 level- this must be performed by a healthcare professional.
- Protein - while not essential for the average person, a total serum protein test can help identify a serious lack of protein in your diet. This test must be performed by a healthcare professional.
- If you find it difficult to consume enough protein: adding fish and converting to a pescatarian diet is a good way to get lean protein and still retain some of the benefits of vegetarianism
- Nutritional deficiencies can generally be corrected by adjusting the foods in your diet. Sometimes a multivitamin or supplement may be necessary - consult your doctor.