The healthy eating plan is essentially the same for all of us however, if you are a vegetarian then it is even more important to check you are getting all the nutrients you need from your diet. Unfortunately meat does contain some of the vital nutrients that we need to remain healthy. So if you do not eat meat you have to find alternative sources for these important nutrients.
As a guide we should all (irrespective of our diet rules) be trying to achieve the following: –
- Eat at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables every day
- Including starchy foods such as wholegrain pasta, brown rice, Cereals and pulses, lentils and peas so that they contribute about a third of your diet.
- Eat a variety of protein foods such as dairy products, pulses or eggs through the week
- Reduce the amount of frying and roasting in oil. Where possible grill, bake, boil, steam or poach your food.
- Read product labels to see how much fat, fiber, sugar and salt is contained per portion or as a percentage
- Choose products that are low in sugar and fat
- Keep salt intake to a low level, check food labels and choose low salt varieties. Try not to use salt during cooking.
- The average person should aim to drink 6-8 glasses (1.2 liters) of liquid each day and more if you take exercise.
The above is good sound advice for all but if you are on a meat free diet then you have to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need specifically iron, protein and selenium. This is because these nutrients are typically obtained from the meat in a diet.
How to get enough iron.
The chemical element Iron (Fe) is an essential dietary nutrient though it's consumption has to be regulated because larger amounts are toxic. The body actually regulates the uptake of iron however excessive take can stop this process from working resulting in damage to the gastrointestinal tract. As a guide the Upper Limit for intake of iron is 45 mg / day in adults and 40 mg / day in children under 14. Please note that this is not the recommended daily intake which is about 14 mg / day in adults.
Pulses, green vegetables like broccoli, spring greens, watercress and okra are great sources of iron. But you should be aware that your body will find it easier to absorb iron from the food you eat if you combine it with vitamin C. So take a glass of fruit juice with your meal.
It is also useful to know that drinking tea or coffee with your meal reduces the absorption of iron. So you should wait a while after eating before having a cuppa.
How to get enough protein.
The following foods are great sources of protein but it is important to have a mixture of these each day and vary the types you have during the week.
- pulses (lentils and beans)
- nuts and seeds
- milk and dairy products
- soya or soya products like tofu
- mycoprotein, which is sold as Quorn (TM)
- wheat proteins, such as cereals, bread, rice and maize
What is Selenium and How do we get it?
Selanium is a chemical element (Se) and it is an essential micronutrient for all animals and some plants. In large amounts Selenium is toxic. In humans, Selenium is a trace element nutrient which is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system.
Selenium is found in nuts, cereals, meat, fish and eggs. Brazil nuts are the richest source of Selenium so try eating a few each day as part of a snack.
Healthy eating is important and reliably easy to do. However, vegetarians must adopt a healthy eating plan that provides all the required nutrients.