5 things to know about your diet if you are vegetarian


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Going vegetarian the right way.

With a growing number of people following both a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, there is more and more discussion focused on the health benefits of a plant based diet. While the way you eat is a personal choice, there is extremely strong scientific evidence to show that those who follow a largely plant based lifestyle live longer; have lower body weights and a reduced risk of developing a number of lifestyle diseases including some types of cancer and diabetes. Pretty convincing stuff. So if you have been dabbling with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, or even a vegan here are some of the key aspects of your diet to consider to ensure you achieve the right nutritional balance.

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1. You will need to focus on iron rich foods

When you suddenly eliminate meat from your diet, you also eliminate the key source of well absorbed iron. It is not that the body is unable to absorb the iron found in plants, rather it will take time for it to get used to using non haem iron as its primary source of iron. Good vegetarian sources of iron include eggs, wholegrains and legumes so aiming to include at least one of these foods in your diet each day will help to ensure you have iron available for absorption.

2. You can overdo the healthy fats

Cheese, avocado, nuts and seeds are all vegetarian friendly foods but when you eliminate meat, chicken and fish is does not mean you can eat unlimited amounts of fat. In fact a vegetarian diet that is based around cheese, fries and pizza can be far less healthy than a diet that contains lean meat. A vegetarian will still only need 60-80g of fat each day which translates into a serve of cheese, nuts and avocado ( 1/3) once each day. 

3. Watch your milk choice

Coconut oil, almond and rice milks may sound like they are user friendly options for vegans and vegetarians but they can be packed full of extra sugars and little else. If you are swapping your milk to a plant based milk, make sure you are choosing once that contains added calcium and Vitamin B12. 

4. Focus on protein at lunch

Protein can be a nutrient that suffers when you shift to a vegetarian eating pattern, especially at lunch. While we often get some protein from dairy or eggs at breakfast, we are far less likely to get it at lunchtime when we pick up sandwiches and sushi on the go. Protein rich lunch options when you are following a vegetarian diet include bean salads or burritos; leftover stir fries with tofu, sandwiches with cottage cheese and edamame beans with your favourite sushi order.

5. Be careful when eating out

It can be extremely difficult to find non carby vegetarian meal options when you are eating out and you can find yourself eating a whole lot of pizza, pasta and risotto. For this reason particularly good options when you are eating vegetarian including Mexican, Japanese and other Asian cuisines where you can find tofu and legume based options relatively easily. 

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