Nutrition for Vegetarians
On this page:
- What is a vegetarian?
- What can I eat?
- What is a serving size?
- Try it!
- Some nutrients of special concern
- For your grocery cart
- UHS’ top five meat substitutes
- Vegetarian resources
What is a vegetarian? Being a vegetarian means different things to different people. A lacto-ovo vegetarian does not eat meat but does eat dairy (lacto) and eggs (ovo). A vegan refrains from eating all animal-derived food, including honey and gelatin. In this guide, vegetarian simply describes someone who abstains from eating meat.
But a vegetarian diet involves more than just not eating meat! In order to feel and look your best, you need to include meat alternatives like beans, eggs, nuts and tofu, which provide similar nutrients.
Any healthy eating pattern (vegetarian or otherwise) needs to include a variety of foods and some healthy fats and oils. Check with a dietitian if you’re not sure that you’re getting everything you need.
Tip: UHS has a nutrition clinic onsite.
Here’s a Vegetarian Food Pyramid from the Seventh Day Adventist Dietetic Association, with recommendations for intake:
Grains: 1 slice bread, 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
Fruits: 1 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup fruit juice or 1/2 cup dried fruit
Vegetables: 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked
Protein: 1 egg or 2 egg whites, 1/4 cup cooked dry beans or tofu, 1 tablespoon nut butter, 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds
Dairy (calcium-fortified foods and beverages e.g. soy milk can be substituted): 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces cheese (choose low-fat or fat-free products)
Fat: 1 teaspoon oil, 2 tablespoons light salad dressing, 1 tablespoon low-fat mayo, 1 teaspoon soft margarine
Try it! Record your servings for one day and compare it with recommended number of servings for a 2000-calorie diet here. Write the # of servings you eat in one day in a format like this:
|Breakfast||Lunch||Dinner||Snacks||My total servings||Recommended for
|Dairy or equivalent||3|
Protein: A main concern for vegetarians is getting enough quality protein. Of the 20 amino acids available from dietary protein, nine Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained from food.
Many grains, vegetables and legumes are surprisingly good sources of protein. If you eat enough wholesome foods to meet your caloric needs and get a variety of vegetables, grains and legumes over the course of the day, you should have no problem getting enough protein in your diet.
Vitamin B12: A vitamin B12-fortified food, such as fortified soy beverage or breakfast cereal is absolutely essential if you consume little or no milk products and don’t eat eggs.
Calcium: If you don’t include dairy products in your diet, you may not be getting enough calcium. Fortified soy and rice beverages are a good source of calcium. Other calcium-rich foods include broccoli, soybeans, almonds, tofu, figs, bok choy and kale.
Iron: The iron in plant foods is not as readily available to our bodies as the iron in meat. Iron is found in eggs, dried beans and lentils, whole grains, iron-enriched cereals and pasta, dark green leafy veggies, dried fruit and some nuts and seeds. To help absorb iron better, include a vitamin C-rich food at each meal such as citrus fruit or juice, tomatoes or tomato juice, broccoli, cauliflower, red and green peppers, melons, berries or kiwi fruit.
See WebMD for more food sources of vitamins and minerals.
Vegetarian eating can be as easy as substituting tangy marinara for meat sauce, opting for black bean burritos instead of beef tacos, or enjoying creamy soy or rice milk in place of cow’s milk. Today, we no longer need to make a special trip to a health food store to fill our shopping carts with a wide array of vegetarian choices. Nearly all supermarkets carry vegetarian selections.
Tip: Most vegetarian products are found in the refrigerated or produce sections of grocery stores.
1. Veggie Burgers: Black bean and portobello mushroom veggies burgers by Morning Star and Boca.
2. Morning Star Vegetarian Sausage: Made from textured soy protein (TVP), tastes and smells of sausage.
3. Boca Chick’n Patties: Eat them alone for a high-protein snack, combine with cheese, lettuce and pita bread, or slice the patty to put on a salad.
4. Morningstar Farms Veggie Crumbles: Another TVP product, you can use these anywhere you’d use ground beef.
5. Quorn imitation “poultry” products: These include nuggets, cutlets, a roast and more.
Tip: Wondering how to use these products and others? Check out recipes in the Web Resources section.
Ann Arbor Restaurants (734 area code):
Earthen Jar, 311 S 5th Ave # 1, 327-9464
Eastern Flame, 304 S Ashley St., 864-5236
Seva, 314 E Liberty St., 662-1111
Tip: All UM residence hall dining services offer one or two vegetarian options at each meal, and East Quad received the PETA award for its veggie-friendly menu. Use MyNutrition, an online tool, to help you make smart, healthy choices in Michigan's residential dining halls.
Vegan with a Vengeance
Tip: Ann Arbor has a vegetarian meet-up group.
At UHS (734 area code):
Nutrition Clinic 763-3760
Appointment Scheduling 764-8325
Text Telephone (for deaf or hard of hearing) 647-9717