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Healthy eating on a vegetarian diet

Updated: Nov 2, 2023


Vegetarian diets have gained traction over recent years for a number of reasons. Alongside being environmentally and economically friendly, they also boast a number of health benefits including a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.


A balanced vegetarian diet can be achieved at any stage of life; with children, pregnant/breastfeeding women and older adults included. However, special consideration is needed for certain nutrients and when planning meals.


We’ve delved into the role of each of these nutrients and how you can incorporate these into your vegetarian diet each day.



Protein

Protein is essential for cell repair and growth, enzyme/hormone production and helps to maintain nerve, muscle and immune functions. Vegetarian sources include;


  • Eggs

  • Lentils, chickpeas, beans

  • Soy products (tofu, soy milk, tempeh)

  • Dairy products (milk, egg, cheese)

  • Nuts/seeds

  • Wholegrains, quinoa and amaranth


Iron

Iron plays an important role in moving oxygen around our bodies. As such, it has a big impact on our energy and concentration levels.


There are two different types of iron that are found in our food; haem and non-haem iron.

  • Haem iron: Higher bioavailability and absorption rate. Haem iron is found in animal flesh and is therefore not consumed in a vegetarian diet.

  • Non-haem iron: Lower bioavailability and absorption rate however, absorption increases when non-haem iron is consumed with vitamin C.


You can find non-haem iron in;

  • Eggs

  • Lentils, chickpeas, beans

  • Leafy green vege (kale, spinach, broccoli)

  • Tofu, tempeh

​TOP TIPS:

  • As Vitamin C increases absorption of iron, we recommend eating fruit/vege alongside plant-based iron-rich food

  • Tannins (found in tea/coffee) and calcium (found in dairy products) reduce iron absorption. We recommend consuming these separate to your main meal.



Zinc

Zinc assists us with regulating many of our body functions - wound healing and immunity included. Zinc is abundant in many foods, with high sources found in;

  • Lentils, chickpeas, beans

  • Grains

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Eggs

  • Dairy e.g. milk, yoghurt and cheese

  • Soy products


Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins; vitamins essential for sight, immunity, blood clotting, muscle and bone health. They also support our overall health and wellbeing and keep us feeling full for longer at main meals. We can find vegetarian sources of omega 3 in;


  • Flaxseed, chia or canola oil

  • Hemp seeds

  • Walnuts, chia seeds and linseeds

  • Soybeans

  • Eggs


Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient for cell division, making red blood cells and for our nerve health. Vitamin B12 can be found in;


  • Eggs

  • Dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese)

  • Fermented foods i.e kimchi, sauerkraut

  • Nori

  • Fortified nutritional yeast



Vegetarian Meal Ideas


Breakfast
  • Weetbix/muesli/oats with soy or cow’s milk, yoghurt, fruit and a spoonful of flaxseeds, chia seeds or nut butter

  • Wholegrain toast with nut butter/ avocado and tomato/ hummus

  • Wholegrain toast with eggs your way

  • Homemade baked beans

  • Shakshuka

  • Chia pudding topped with fruit

Lunch

  • Wholegrain salad sandwich with falafel/egg/cheese, avocado and salad

  • Vegetable and legume (lentils/beans) soup with a slice of wholegrain toast

  • Stuffed eggplant (with lentils/beans + vege)

  • Frittata/quiche

Dinner

  • Tofu/chickpea and vegetable stir fry

  • Tacos or burritos filled with beans, salad, avocado, cheese and salsa

  • Chickpea and vegetable curry

  • Lentil bolognaise

  • Falafel wraps

  • Salad with chickpeas and fresh mozzarella

Snacks

  • Banana/Apple with nut butter

  • Yoghurt bowl with fruit and chia/flax seeds

  • Boiled egg

  • Vege sticks with hummus

  • Wholegrain crackers with hummus or cheese

 

Want further individualised support to ensure your vegetarian diet offers variety and is nutritionally balanced?

The Wellness Studio is an online nutrition practice who specialise in lifestyle change, weight management and weight loss, women's health, gut health, low FODMAP diets, management of chronic health conditions, paediatric food allergies, and fussy eating/food intolerances.




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