Get answers to your nutrition and healthy eating questions. Visit www.eatrightontario.ca or call us toll-free at 1-877-510-510-2.
Get answers to your nutrition & healthy eating questions.
Call us toll-free† at 1-877-510-510-2 to speak directly with a Registered Dietitian.
A well-planned vegetarian eating plan can be healthy and delicious! From hearty lentil soup to savoury veggie burgers, there are many exciting food choices. The key to being a healthy vegetarian is making sure you get all the nutrients you need. If you are vegetarian or would like to become vegetarian, read on to find out about putting together a healthy eating plan for you.
There are different types of vegetarian eating plans. One of the most common is the lacto-ovo vegetarian plan. Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry and fish, but do eat milk products and eggs. A lacto-ovo eating plan includes:
Vegetarians who also eat fish and seafood are called pescetarians or pesco-vegetarians.
People at any age or stage – from babies to older adults – can follow a vegetarian eating plan. The important thing is to make sure you get all the nutrients you need for good health; and if your child is vegetarian, to make sure they get the nutrients they need to grow and develop well.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to include sources of vitamin B12, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Speak to your doctor, dietitian or healthcare provider about a prenatal supplement.
If you’re over the age of 50, you will need a little more calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. You may also want to talk to your doctor, dietitian or healthcare provider about supplements.
Not matter your age, make sure to follow Canada’s Food Guide and speak to your doctor, child’s paediatrician, healthcare provider or Registered Dietitian about a vegetarian eating plan that will work for you. You can also call or email a Registered Dietitian at EatRight Ontario who can help you get started with information about vegetarian food sources and meal planning.
There are many health benefits to vegetarian diets. A well-planned, healthy vegetarian eating plan will be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fibre and vitamins such as vitamins C and E.
Studies have also shown that a well-planned vegetarian eating plan can help protect against:
A vegetarian eating plan can provide all the nutrients you need but this does require some planning. Being a vegetarian does not guarantee good health. If you eat mostly breads, fried foods, cheese, white pasta and sweets and very little vegetables and protein, you may be missing important nutrients. And with any eating plan, sweet, fatty or salty foods, such as chips and baked goods, should be limited.
The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is choosing a wide variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Here is an example of what a well-planned day can look like:
Foods you may choose
Oatmeal, skim milk, banana, walnuts
Vegetables, hummus (chickpea spread)
Tofu and vegetable stir-fry, quinoa, apple, water
Low-fat yogurt, fruit
Black bean burrito, salad, water
Dried fruit, unsalted almonds, skim milk
Before starting a vegetarian eating plan make sure to speak to your doctor, healthcare provider or Registered Dietitian. You can also call or email an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian who can provide you with information and handouts on the nutrients you need for good health.
Here are the nutrients you will need to pay special attention to if you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian:
Protein helps keep your red blood cells and muscles working well. Vegetarian sources of protein include milk products, legumes (beans, lentils, peas), soy, nuts, seeds, eggs and whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat.
Zinc helps in wound healing and boosts the immune system. You can get zinc from legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Iron helps carry oxygen around the body. Vegetarians need about twice as much iron as non-vegetarians. This is because we don’t absorb the iron from plant foods as well as the iron in meat sources. Iron is found in:
The omega-3 fats promote heart health in adults and brain and eye development in infants. They are mostly found in fish and seafood. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats are fortified soy beverages and orange juice, omega-3 eggs, tofu, canola oil, soybean oil, flax seed and walnuts.
If you would like a handout on food sources of these nutrients, call 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.
Well-planned vegetarian diets can be healthy for people of all ages and can provide you with all the nutrients you need for good health. But planning is key!
An EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian can help. Call 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email to learn about the nutrients you need, healthy food choices, menu planning and to receive handouts. You can also try the My Menu Planner Vegetarian Eating Plan to help you get started.
Four steps to a balanced vegan eating pattern
What you need to know about following a vegan eating plan
What you need to know to raise a healthy vegetarian child
This site is maintained by Dietitians of Canada.
Copyright © Dietitians of Canada 2016. All rights reserved.
Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.