Vegetarian Diet Planning

June 5th, 2009 healthwiki

Adopting a healthy vegetarian diet is not as simple as scraping meat off your plate and eating what is left. You need to take extra steps to ensure you are meeting your daily nutritional needs. Find out what you need to know about a plant-based diet.

Vegetarian diet planning
A healthy vegetarian diet consists primarily of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Because the emphasis is on nonmeat food sources, a vegetarian diet generally contains less fat and cholesterol, and typically includes more fiber.

Meat alternatives
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. In baked goods, use canola oil.

Cheese: Use soy cheese or nutritional yeast flakes, which are available in health food stores.

Eggs: In baked goods, try commercial egg replacers a dry product made mostly of potato starch.

Ensuring adequate nutrition
A vegan diet, for example, eliminates food sources of vitamin B-12, as well as milk products, which are a good source of calcium. Other nutrients, such as iron and zinc, are available in a meatless diet, but you need to make an extra effort to ensure they are in yours.

Protein: Your body needs protein to maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Vegetarians who eat eggs or dairy products have convenient sources of protein. Other sources of protein include soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Calcium: This mineral helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Low-fat dairy foods and dark green vegetables, such as spinach, turnip and collard greens, kale, and broccoli, are good sources of calcium. Tofu enriched with calcium and fortified soy milk and fruit juices are other options.

Vitamin B-12: Your body needs vitamin B-12 to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. This vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, including milk, eggs and cheese. Vegans can get vitamin B-12 from some enriched cereals, fortified soy products or by taking a supplement that contains this vitamin.

Iron: Like vitamin B-12, iron is a crucial component of red blood cells. Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit are good sources of iron. To help your body absorb nonanimal sources of iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli at the same time you consume iron-containing foods.

Zinc: This mineral is an essential component of many enzymes and plays a role in cell division and in the formation of proteins. Good sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, nuts and wheat germ.

Since no single food provides all of the nutrients that your body needs, eating a wide variety helps ensure that you get the necessary nutrients and other substances that promote good health.


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