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Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit

Nutrition - Vegetarianism

Vegetarian Eating

A well-planned vegetarian diet can be healthy for everyone. Vegetarians primarily eat foods that come from plant-based sources such as vegetables and fruit, grain products, beans, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds. Some types of vegetarians may also eat eggs and fish, drink milk and consume other dairy foods.

Vegetarians need to focus on a variety of foods to get all the nutrients they need for health. This takes some planning and depends on what foods you choose to exclude from your diet. A dietitian can help you plan a healthy vegetarian diet.

Generally, vegetarian eating tends to be:

  • Low in saturated fat and cholesterol

  • High in fibre, folate, vitamin C and E, potassium and magnesium

 

Vegetarians and Canada's Food Guide

Vegetarians should follow Canada's Food Guide by choosing:

  • A variety of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruit. Include one dark green and one orange vegetable each day

  • Whole grain breads, pastas, cereals and other whole grains

  • Cow's milk or fortified soy beverage:

    • Fortified rice beverage and fortified almond beverage are good sources of calcium and vitamin D but are not nutritionally equivalent to cow's milk and fortified soy beverage. Speak to a healthcare professional or dietitian if you have questions about how these beverages can fit in your diet

  • Fish, beans, lentils, eggs, tofu, soy-based meat substitutes, nuts, nut butters and seeds

Focus on the Alternatives in the Milk & Alternatives and Meat & Alternatives groups. Simply cutting out meat, fish, poultry or dairy without substituting alternatives from the same food group could leave you deficient of certain nutrients.

Be sure to get all of your recommended servings from the four food groups each day. Your body needs specific nutrients that are common to each of the food groups (e.g. dairy products provide calcium).


What Type of Vegetarian Are You?

There are many different types of vegetarians:

Type

Does Eat

Does NOT Eat

Pesco-Vegetarian

Fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts

Meat, poultry or products containing these foods

Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian

Eggs, dairy products, grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts

Meat, fish, poultry or products containing these foods

Lacto-Vegetarian

Dairy products, grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs or products containing these foods

Vegan

Grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey or products containing these foods

 

Important Nutrients for Vegetarians

Nutrient

Why It's Important

Vegetarian Sources

Calcium

Needed to build strong bones

Helps regulate heartbeat and blood clotting

Helps muscles contract

Dairy products, fortified soy beverages, dark leafy green vegetables, almonds, tofu set with calcium (read label), canned salmon with bones, canned sardines with bones

Iron

Helps blood cells deliver oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body

Helps all body cells work properly

Helps the brain develop early in life

Eggs, beans, lentils, whole grains, cereals, enriched tofu, breakfast bars, pasta, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables

Omega-3

Reduces inflammation in the body

Important for heart health

Helps reduce triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in the bloodstream

Helps control blood pressure

May help lower risk of other chronic diseases

Fish (salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies), omega-3 eggs, fortified yogurt, walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil

Protein

Is a part of every cell in the body

Builds and repairs muscle, tissue, skin, nails and hair

Dairy products, soy products, eggs, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, whole grains

Vitamin B-12

Helps make red blood cells and DNA

Only found in animal foods, therefore of special concern for vegans.

Fish, eggs, cow's milk, cheese, fortified soy or rice beverages, fortified soy-based meat substitutes

Vitamin D

Needed to build strong bones

Fresh or canned fatty fish, cow's milk, fortified soy beverages, margarine, egg yolks, some yogurts (check label).

Some vegetarians with more limited diets may need to pay attention to other nutrients, including zinc, riboflavin, vitamin A and iodine. Speak to a healthcare professional or dietitian if you have questions.

My Food Guide by Health Canada allows you to build your own Food Guide with foods that you like. Use My Food Guide to help you build a vegetarian food guide filed with foods you eat that will provide the right nutrients for a healthy vegetarian way of eating.  The wide selection of foods from each of the four food groups, including multicultural food choices can help you plan your meals and snacks. www.myfoodguide.ca

For more information on vegetarian eating go to EatRight Ontario.




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Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
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