A balanced diet for vegetarians

A balanced diet for vegetarians


If you’re a vegetarian, or are tempted to cut back on the meat, make sure you’re getting all the 
nutrients you need with our guide for a healthy, balanced vegetarian diet...

a balanced diet for vegetarians   If you’re a vegetarian, or are tempted to cut back on the meat, make sure you’re getting all the  nutrients you need with our guide for a healthy, balanced vegetarian diet

A balanced diet for vegetarians




Vegetarians enjoy a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit with some also choosing to include dairy products and eggs. Studies suggest that a plant-based diet like this can be a healthier way to eat with fewer reported cases of obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes.  Typically, a varied vegetarian diet contains less saturated fat and more folate, fibre and antioxidants, plus as a vegetarian you’re more likely to exceed the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables

Reference Intake (RI) (the new term for Guideline Daily 
Amounts (GDAs))

The RIs are benchmarks for the amount of energy (kilocalories), fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, 
sugar, protein and salt that an average adult should consume each day. The RIs for fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt are maximum daily amounts. Don’t forget that we are all different with varying needs 
for energy and nutrients so this information is for guidance only:

.

Reference Intake (RI)
Energy (kcal)
2000
Protein (g)
50
Carbohydrates (g)
260
Sugar (g)
90
Fat (g)
70
Saturates (g)
20
Fibre (g)
24
Salt (g)
6


Perfect Portions

Numbers and figures are all very well but how does this relate to you? Personalise your portions with our handy guide to finding the right serving size:


Foods
Portion size
Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potato
Your clenched fist                              
Proteins like meat/poultry/fish
Palm of your hand
Savouries like popcorn/crisps
2 of your cupped hands
Bakes like brownies/flapjacks
2 of your fingers
Butter & spreads
The tip of your thumb

Breakfast

A protein-based breakfast makes for an ideal choice because it's a filling and sustaining way to start the day and needn't take any longer to prepare than toast or cereal. For example, while your bread is toasting scramble some eggs for a nutritious toast topper and on days when you have a little more time, enjoy our version of a vegetarian kedgeree.
Eggs provide a good balance of quality protein combined with fat, plus the yolks are a useful source of vitamin D, which we need for strong bones and teeth. Protein slows stomach emptying, which means you stay fuller for longer so you'll eat fewer calories during the rest of the day. If you do prefer your breakfast in a bowl, pack your porridge or cereal with a selection of nuts and seeds and finish with a generous dollop of natural yogurt.
Many people think vegetarians are at risk of being low in the mineral iron but there are plenty of plant foods that are good sources, including breakfast cereals, muesli, wholemeal bread as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Enjoy any one of these with a small glass of vitamin C-rich fruit juice to optimise your body’s iron uptake. For those who avoid dairy, like milk and yogurt, choose an alternative that is fortified with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium

Whatever you do, don't skip breakfast as this sets your blood sugar off on a roller coaster, which means you'll end up choosing the wrong foods later in the day. Remember breakfast makes an important contribution towards your daily intake and plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight


Mid-morning snack

Make every snack count with nourishing options that supply both the 'pick-me-up' you need while 
topping up your portions of fruit and veg, or deliver key nutrients like iron or vitamin D. Swap your morning biscuits for toast topped with slices of banana, bake a batch of fruit-packed muffins or blend up a fruit smoothie



Lunch

At lunch, aim for a mix of protein from beans, peas, nuts, grains or dairy products, combined with starchy carbs. You need carb-rich foods because without them you're likely to suffer that classic mid-afternoon slump. The key is to choose carbs that produce a steady rise in blood sugar, which means passing on the sugary 'white' foods and going for high fibre whole grains that help you manage those afternoon munchies.
We need some fats in our diet, but it’s important we don’t eat too much and the focus should be on the right type of fat. Fat is not only a source of energy it helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat but keep in mind that full-fat dairy, as well as some plant foods like coconut and palm oils, are high in these saturates. Heart-friendly mono-unsaturated fats are found in plant foods like avocado, olive and rapeseed oils, whilst nuts and seeds supply the heart-friendly poly-unsaturates, including the omega-3 variety. It’s these unsaturated fats that we should be eating more of, so include a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or two tablespoons of oil, or the equivalent of unsalted nuts, daily.

Mid-afternoon snack

For many it's not sugar so much as salty, savoury foods they crave in the afternoon. If this sounds like you forget the crisps and opt instead for a spiced seed mix, savoury popcorn or enjoy low-fat cream cheese on crackers or a crunchy colourful salad.

Dinner

Don't curfew carbs - they're low in fat, fibre-rich and help you relax in the evening, plus they’re filling, which means they’ll get you through to breakfast. Combine them with some healthy essential fats, such as the ones you find in nuts, especially walnuts as well as seeds like pumpkin and some protein from tofu, eggs or dairy. During the night your body will use the protein and these healthy fats for regeneration and repair, which is important for maintaining healthy skin and hair. 
This article was last reviewed on 10 May 2016 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.

A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.



Do you follow a vegetarian diet? We have lots more vegetarian-friendly recipes, but would love to hear your tips for staying healthy as a vegetarian in the comments below...





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