Adopting a vegetarian diet shouldn't just entail omitting animal products from your next shopping list. If you're considering making the switch to being a vegetarian, follow our tips to ensure your new diet meets your body's needs.
Remember, first of all, that any diet change should aim for a balanced range of wholesome foods with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. Make sure you are still getting enough (but not too many) calories for your activity level and weight-control goals. Continue to restrict saturated and trans fats and simple carbohydrates.
It is always advisable to speak with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet.
If you’re changing from a non-vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, keep these pointers in mind.
- Omit meat and increase intake of legumes (dried beans and peas), nuts, seeds; use meatless "meats" (textured vegetable protein products) additionally.
- Increase intake of soy as it is an exceptionally good source of protein. Soy products include soybean flour, tofu, soy milk and textured vegetable protein (made to resemble meat).
- Increase intake from all five food groups to supply adequate calories.
- Maintain your calorie requirements. An adequate intake of calories is essential, otherwise the body will use lean muscle tissue proteins for energy.
- Increase foods which replace the nutrients found in significant amounts in milk, especially calcium and riboflavin. For example: Fortified soy-based drinks, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
- Since there is no practical source of vitamin B12 in plant products, use a B12-fortified soybean milk or speak to a medical professional about whether taking a vitamin B12 supplement is advisable.
- As vegans can become deficient in vitamin D, discuss with a medical professional whether a vitamin-D supplement is advisable in your particular circumstances.