A vegetarian diet does come with its own set of advantages – for one, it helps lower levels of unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol. And for another, it adds fiber vitamins and minerals to your nutrition plan.
Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, plant-based oils, herbs and spices
all come under the umbrella of vegetarian foods. In addition to these, some vegetarians consume milk and dairy products while some others allow themselves eggs too.
For those who are vegetarians, or for those working towards enhancing their plant-based diet, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of vegetarian food, the type of nutrition each offers and tips on how they nourish you.
The Vegetarian Diet Ready Reckoner
|Type of food||Tips|
|Whole grains||Wheat, corn, oats, rice and cereal products such as bread and pasta.||Whole-wheat or whole grain products should be preferred over their white counterparts because they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. They also decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes|
|Legumes||Red and white beans, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans and soybeans||A rich source of proteins, vitamins and minerals – very essential for vegetarians|
|Vegetables and fruits||All kinds of vegetables and fruits of all colors and their juices||Full of nutrients and antioxidants to really qualify a vegetarian diet as ‘healthy’|
|Nuts and seeds||Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds||Choose unsalted, raw or roasted nuts and seeds. Consume in moderation as they are high in calories.|
|Vegetable oils||Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil||Include oils high in unsaturated healthy fats such as canola oil and olive oil. Avoid butter and margarine.|
|Milk and dairy products||Milk, cheese, yogurt and labneh||Opt for low-fat or skimmed products. If you are a vegan, ensure that they you get enough calcium from fortified soy milk and Vitamin D from exposure to the sun.|
|Eggs||Consumed by lacto-ovo-vegetarians, they are rich in proteins and Vitamin B12|
Tips for a healthy Vegetarian diet
1. Combine protein sources:
Good quality proteins are found in meats and animal products such as milk, dairy and eggs. They constitute all the amino acids that our bodies need for growth and tissue repair.
However, proteins from plant sources lack some types of amino acids. To get complete protein from plant sources, it is recommended you consume a combination of legumes and grains in the same meal. For example, lentils with rice (moujaddara), fava beans (foul moudammas) eaten with bread or white beans with rice.
2. Have sufficient ‘at risk’ nutrients
Vegetarians are often found to be deficient in some key nutrients, such as the ones listed below, which make it even more important to include them in a vegetarian diet:Vitamin B12
- Found only in animal products
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians can obtain it from milk, dairy products and eggs
- A good source is fortified breakfast cereals
- Eat a lot of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, hindbeh, silk (swiss chard) and parsley
- Include legumes like lentils and beans
- To enhance the absorption of iron from these food sources, include some Vitamin C through orange juice, green pepper, strawberries and mangoes
- Make it part of your diet through legumes, soy beans, nuts and fortified breakfast cereals
- Through milk and dairy products
- If you are a strict vegetarian, drink fortified soy milk
Consume a variety of riboflavin-rich foods such as milk, yoghurt, bananas, asparagus, broccoli, lentils and peas
Note: Fortified milk, fortified juice and fortified breakfast cereals can help in meeting the needs of vegetarians for the above nutrients.
3. Drink plenty of water and other fluids
As a vegetarian you need to drink as much as two to three liters of fluids a day including water, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, a variety of hot teas and soups. A generous fluid intake is very important for a healthy body.
4. Make your lifestyle healthy
Individuals following a vegetarian diet normally follow healthy lifestyle habits. For a healthy body, perform regular physical exercise, eat a variety of food and try to maintain a healthy body weight.