Vegetarianism 101

How to Be a Well-rounded Vegetarian

There are 4.8 Million vegetarians in the U.S. who claim they never eat meat, fish or poultry. As Tamara Vitale notes in the book Eat Right, "Not all vegetarian diets are healthy... The question is not whether eliminating meat is healthier or not; the question is whether you are making wise food choices in general."

Cutting out such a large food group can make it difficult to absorb all the necessary nutrients you need to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet. Read on for some tips on how to be a well-rounded vegetarian.

Tips on Being a Well-rounded Vegetarian

Milk Products

  • Watch out for cheese. It's rich in protein but high in calories and saturated fat.
  • Eat yogurt instead of drinking milk and choose low- or non-fat products. You will still absorb necessary nutrients like protein and calcium and will avoid fat at the same time.
  • Add small amounts of grated cheese to your meal only if there is not another source of protein.
  • Add more beans and less cheese to burritos. This will boost protein and limit fat.
  • Substitute greens and grains for meat, instead of grated cheese.


  • Eat Beans. Beans are full of protein and are easy additions to vegetarian meals. They also add many other important vitamins and minerals to the vegetarian diet.
  • Drain and rinse when using canned beans--this cuts out a lot of the sodium content.


  • Buy cheap, quick protein like, butter, nuts and seeds. Nuts are full of heart-healthy fats--but they're also extremely high in calories, so don't overdo it.


  • Eat eggs! Although eggs are high in fat and cholesterol, they are also loaded with protein, iron and many other nutrients.?
  • Limit your cholesterol and fat intake by using egg whites instead of whole eggs in your cooking and baking. Egg whites do not contain any fat, but are rich in protein.


  • Substitute soy milk for cow's milk. Soy milk is full of protein and contains more fiber than cow's milk.
  • Add tofu to a salad or a side dish. Tofu is made from soymilk and has added calcium and protein.
  • Top your favorite pasta dish with tempeh. Tempeh is high in fiber, easy to digest, low in sodium, and provides natural antibiotics.
  • Warm up your day with some miso soup. Miso is a nourishing, high-energy whole food that helps maintain health and vitality.

Avoiding Supplements

  • Avoid supplements unless you eat limited choices daily or eliminate major food groups.
  • Eat enough fortified cereals and dark, leafy greens and you won't need supplements.
  • Keep your meals colorful. This usually means you're getting a wide variety of nutrients.

10 Healthy Tips for Snacks and Meals

1.?Top vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit and cinnamon.
2.?Make your own trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal.
3.?Put some non-fat yogurt on top of whole-grain granola.
4.?Throw some canned peaches on low- or non-fat cottage cheese.
5.?Dip vegetable sticks and pita bread in hummus.
6.?Make a healthy burrito with a whole-wheat tortilla, refried pinto beans, a sprinkle of cheese and salsa.
7.?Add some cottage cheese and salsa to a baked potato.
8.?Stir-fry some vegetables, scramble a few eggs with a little soy sauce and throw it on a bowl of brown rice.
9.?Try using a whole-grain bun for a veggie burger, then load it with tomatoes and lettuce. Add a fruit salad as your side dish.
10.?Add protein to your salad. Try using garbanzo beans, sliced hard-boiled eggs, almonds, sunflower seeds or a small amount of cheese.

Vitale, T. (2007). Vegetarianism 101. D. Espinoza & S Malloy (Eds.), Eating Right! Healthy Eating in College and Beyond (pp.55-63). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education INC.

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