Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter Responds:
Vegetarian diets can contain ample protein, particularly if dairy products and eggs are consumed.
There are many protein choices that will provide sufficient nutrients. Dried beans, nuts and cooked legumes are good sources of protein, fiber, B vitamins and trace minerals.
However, several nutrients are either lacking or very low in meatless diets. These include iron, zinc, vitamins B12 and D, and possibly calcium. Thus, vegetarians are advised to consume specific foods on a daily basis to ensure adequate intakes of these nutrients.
Good choices include:
- Dried fruits and fortified breakfast cereals (for iron)
- Nuts (for iron, zinc, and essential fatty acids)
- Fortified non-dairy soy beverages (for vitamin B12, calcium and D)
- Green leafy vegetables (for calcium)
The health benefits of vegetarian diets include a reduced risk of:
- heart disease,
- high blood pressure,
- certain cancers, and
It is important to choose a variety of foods and to maintain a balance with the portions and to practice moderation. This message is good for everyone, vegetarian or meat eater.
Enjoy those crunchy vegetables and the benefits of a healthy diet!
Resources for more information include:
- The American Dietetic Association
- Vegetarian Resource Group
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Deborah Richter is a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga. She teaches diabetes education classes and provides outpatient nutrition counseling. She has helped her clients to lose weight, reduce their blood pressure and feel better about themselves through healthy eating choices.
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