Vegetarian Cooking And Living Made Easy

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to Eat Healthy as a Vegetarian

How to Eat Healthy as a Vegetarian

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Adopting a healthy vegetarian diet isn't just taking meat off your plate and eating what's left. You need to take extra steps to ensure you're meeting your daily nutritional needs. A well-balanced vegetarian diet consists mostly of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.


  1. Instead of using the standard food pyramid, using a vegetarian food pyramid may be helpful. This food pyramid outlines various food groups and food choices that help form the foundation of a healthy vegetarian diet.
  2. Look into meat alternatives, such as tofu, soy, or tempeh. These products are now frequently found at mainstream grocery stores. Some of them actually have the same taste and texture as meat, whereas others just have the nutritional value.
  3. Find alternatives for egg and dairy products if you are following a vegan diet.
    • Milk – Drink fortified soymilk, rice milk, or almond milk in place of cow’s milk
    • Butter – When sautéing, use olive oil, water, vegetable broth, wine or fat-free cooking spray instead of butter. For baked goods, use canola oil.
    • Cheese – Use soy cheese
    • Eggs – For baked goods, you can use egg replacers, which is a dry product made mostly of potato starch.
  4. Ensure that you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. The more restrictive your diet, the harder it is to get everything you need. You need to be conscious that you are getting all the required vitamins and nutrients.
    • Protein – eggs and dairy products, soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains
    • Calcium – dark green vegetables (spinach, turnip, collard greens, kale, and broccoli, tofu enriched with calcium and fortified soy milk, fruit juices
    • Vitamin B-12 – milk, eggs, and cheese, enriched cereals, fortified soy products, a vitamin supplement
    • Iron – dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, dried fruit
    • Zinc – whole grains, soy products, nuts, wheat germ
  5. Start with vegetarian dishes with which you are already familiar. Make a list of some meatless meals you already prepare, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry.
  6. Make meatless substitutions. Choose meals that could easily be meat-free with a couple of substitutions. One example is meatless chili Many dishes may only require one or two substitutions!
  7. Experiment with new meal ideas. Look up vegetarian recipes online or look through vegetarian cookbooks for some ideas. The more variety you have in your vegetarian or vegan diet, the easier it will be to meet your nutritional needs
  8. Locate your local farmers market. By buying close to home you are helping local farmers, buying fresher foods, not paying for transport from foreign countries which may allow pesticides that have been banned in the US. Chances are also good they are not coated with waxy residue to make them look shiny and not artificially ripened. Dirt on your veggies isn't a bad thing!
  9. Eat your vegetables! Vegetables and fruits provide nutrients and vitamins. Try to buy from local farmers markets and organically if possible. For best results, grow your own. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and its like-minded counterparts tend to have plenty of iron. Eat vegetables that are colorful and fresh. The more color and variety the more vitamins and nutrients you are ingesting. Since most people take in more protein than is actually necessary you don't have to worry about replacing all the protein you give up with meat.
  10. Find protein and fiber in legumes. Beans are inexpensive, available year round and easier to prepare. Lentils are possibly the perfect food as they contain more protein pound for pound than steak, not fat and plenty fiber. They're also available in several varieties.
  11. Whole grains are essential to any diet and should be consumed at every meal. Eat plenty of short grain brown rice, wild rice and avoid the flavored and par boiled rice mixes. Also add nuts and seeds into your diet. They provide healthy fats. Don't be confused with "mixed grains" and et cetera as it may just contain a small sample of healthier grains mixed in with processed flour. Read the labels and look in the organic or health food section of the store. Chances are the refrigerated breads have less preservatives and chemicals.
  12. Avoid processed foods. Even foods that say they are fortified don't come near the original nutritional content of the food. It simply means the nutrients were taken out and only some were put back in later.
  13. Don't drink sodas, even diet. Some people believe that sodas are filled with chemical additives that affect your brain and body and that Nutra-sweet is extremely unhealthy and can cause seizures and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Splenda isn't as "natural" as the label implies. Do your research. If you must sweeten you should use natural and organic sugar or Stevia.
  14. Drink soy, rice or other non-cow milks. Cows milk is incredibly fatty and usually loaded with steroids and antibiotics.
  15. Eat a good breakfast. Try smoothies, hot or cold whole grain cereals, fruits and a cup of green tea or organic coffee. Cereals should be low in sugar, and again high in whole wheat and mixed grains.
  16. Plan your lunches and dinners and don't feel as if you must eat salads all the time. If you do eat salads try to branch away from the iceberg salads and create more exotic salads with peppery greens, dried fruits, cheeses and nuts.
  17. Look at the deli of your local health food stores for great ideas. It's a great way to sample sea vegetables and vegetarian items you may not be comfortable cooking with as a beginner.


  • Spend a good part of your food allowance on fresh foods from the produce section or a farmers' market. (Support your local economy!)
  • Build up a large supply of squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, spinach and salad greens, and fruits. Don't buy more than you can eat if you're buying fresh.
  • Things such as squash or tomatoes can easily be added with some noodles and a little bit of sauce and cheese into a crock pot all day to create a tasty casserole. Prepare with a small salad and another vegetable such as broccoli or green beans.
  • To save money, buy produce that is in season. These tend to be cheaper and of better quality.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Talk to your physician about your diet and make sure you are eating appropriately for your health needs
  • Consider taking a multi vitamin if you are a picky eating vegetarian.
  • Check out the Meatless Monday Recipe Archive for healthy vegetarian recipes.
  • Include Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. One good way to do so is to add grounded flax seed to your cereal or smoothie. Flaxseed is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, which can be converted into EPA and DHA). Best is to ground the seeds yourself with a mixer one portion at a time.


  • Read labels. Many times, products that don't seem like they'd have meat product in them actually do. Vegetable soups are often made with chicken or beef stock.
  • Gelatin is made from bones. Avoid marshmallows and gelatin desserts.
  • learn to avoid certain E numbers. Sometimes even bread cannot be trusted! Take for example M&Ms. It includes E120 for coloring some of the M&Ms red. This is done by squashing a lot of insects.

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Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Eat Healthy as a Vegetarian. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


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