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Vegetarians Should Plan For Nutrients
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Planning a balanced vegetarian diet requires substituting foods that provide needed nutrients for those foods they eliminate.
Vegetarians are usually stereotyped as people who do not eat red meat, fish or poultry. There are, however, several different kinds of vegetarians.
"A lacto-ovo-vegetarian's eating pattern is based on vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs and dairy products," said Dr. Barbara McLaurin, human nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
"A vegan, or total vegetarian, has a similar eating pattern except it excludes eggs and dairy products."
Health concerns can arise for vegetarians because of limited food choices. Planning healthy meals becomes important for receiving enough protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B-12.
To supplement protein and energy in a vegetarian's diet, foods such as tofu, low-fat dairy products, nuts, peas, bread, potatoes and corn are suggested.
"Getting protein on a daily basis is a key to maintaining a healthy vegetarian diet," McLaurin said. "Vegetarians can meet all nutritional needs if they carefully plan their meals."
Foods with vitamin C, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits or juices, and broccoli, can provide calcium.
"Vegetarians, especially women, should pay close attention to their calcium needs because calcium deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis," McLaurin said. "To meet vitamin B-12 needs, select dairy products, eggs, and some brands of nutritional yeast and soy milk."
To help vegetarians plan healthy diets and get necessary nutrients, McLaurin suggests these tips:
- Choose a variety of foods, including grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs;
- Choose whole or unrefined grain products instead of refined, or use fortified or enriched cereal products;
- Use low-fat or nonfat milk and dairy products.