Hong Kong dietary guidelines


The Central Health Education Unit (Department of health, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administratiive Region) has published several guidelines for vegan diets.

Guidelines for Vegetarian Diet (


Strict vegetarian: A diet which excludes all eggs, dairy products, meat, internal organs and food products of animal origin such as honey and bird's nest.
What kind of health benefits does a plant-based diet offer?

Plants are mostly rich in fibre, low in fat and calories and are cholesterol-free. Thus they often prevent constipation and increase our sense of satiety without adding too much burden to our weight and cholesterol level. Fruits, vegetables and legumes are also excellent sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals which may strengthen the immune system and regulate the alkaline acidic balance of our body as well as reduce risks of chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, etc. A vegetarian diet, however, does not guarantee optimal health unless balanced nutrition and healthy lifestyle are adopted in our daily life.

What is a balanced vegetarian diet?

Vegetarians should follow the basic guidelines for "balanced diet" to assure adequate nutrient intake:

  1. Grains and cereals: Much dietary fibre and minerals could be lost during the manufacturing process of refined grain products such as white rice and white bread. Vegetarians are recommended to choose whole grain products. For examples, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and fortified breakfast cereals.
  2. Vegetables, gourds and fruits: Eat a variety of vegetables, gourds and fruits in different colours in order to get different vitamins and nutrients. Avoid overcooking which can lead to nutrient loss.
  3. [...]
  4. Protein group: Protein could be consumed from a variety of nuts, seeds, legumes and soy products. [...]
  5. Fat, oil, salts and sweets: Choose a variety of vegetable oils and use oils and condiments only in moderate amount.

Major nutritional challenges for vegetarians

  1. Protein: Since the quality and absorbability of protein from plant sources are less optimal than that of meat, eggs and dairy products, vegetarians are recommended to eat an adequate amount and different types of nuts, seeds, legumes and soy products to prevent deficiency.
  2. Vitamin B12: [...] since there is currently no plant which is found to be safe and reliable source of vitamin B12, strict vegetarians are recommended to consume fortified soy milk and cereals and seek physician's advice on vitamin B12 supplement.
  3. Calcium and vitamin D: [...] strict vegetarians should strive for their calcium intake from tofu, sweetened soy bean curd, calcium-fortified soy milk and green leafy vegetables such as Chinese flowering cabbage and Chinese kale. Adequate exposure to sunlight can help vitamin D production through our skin and prevent bone loss.
  4. Iron: Adequate amount of legumes, black ear-fungus, fortified cereals, whole wheat bread and raisins should be consumed to prevent iron deficiency which is common among lacto- and strict vegetarians. Food that is rich in vitamin C (such as tomatoes, broccoli and oranges) can be eaten together with iron-rich food to aid iron absorption.
  5. Zinc: Sources of zinc include whole grains, brown rice, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds.

How to make vegetarian dishes healthy and tasty?
Vegetarian dishes are often prepared or consumed with significant amount of oils and condiments for better taste and increased satiety. The following cooking tips should be noted to prevent excessive fat consumption:

  • Instead of stir frying and deep frying, cook your dishes by steaming, stewing, braising or boiling.
  • Use a variety of vegetable oils. For examples, corn oil, canola oil, olive oil and peanut oil. Avoid coconut oil, palm oil and margarine in solid form which could pose a negative impact on your blood cholesterol level.
  • Make your dishes attractive and tasty with a wide-ranged of fresh ingredients. Gourds, mushrooms, seaweeds, soy products (including tofu, dried soybean skin and dried soybean curd), fresh fruits, dried fruits and small quantity of nuts and seeds could all add nice and natural flavour to your vegetarian recipes.
  • Natural spices such as Chinese prickly ash, star anise and cinnamon are good alternatives to condiments and sauces with high fat and salt content.
  • Reduce the amount of oil used by making corn starch sauce for the dishes and by cooking with non-sticky pans.

Vegetarians with special nutritional needs

Children, adolescents, pregnant women, lactating mothers, elderly and people with chronic diseases should consult their physicians and dietitians for an individualized diet plan before they follow a vegetarian diet because of their special nutritional needs.

Last Modified: 2012/12/10"


Student Health Service

Vegetarian Diet & Nutrition (


What is vegetarian diet
it is a kind of diet that includes mainly fruits, vegetables and grains but excludes all meat

  • it has become more popular in recent years for the following reasons:
  • some people believe that vegetarian diet is healthier
    • some have religious reasons and refrain from eating meat
    • some have special beliefs such as environmental protection and animal rights protection
    • some people simply want to control their weight and therefore cut down on meat consumption

Main types of vegetarian diet

  • strict vegan
    • consumes only fruits, vegetables and grains
    • does not take dairy products, eggs and meat
  • lacto-vegetarian
    • consumes only dairy products, fruits, vegetables and grains
    • does not take eggs and meat
  • lacto-ovo-vegetarian
    • consumes only dairy products, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains
    • does not take meat
  • fruitarian
    • consumes only fruits, dried fruits, nuts and honey

Examples of vegetarian food

  • whole wheat and grains   
    • brown rice, bread, oatmeal, bran, whole wheat cracker
  • nuts
    • peanuts, lotus seed, almond, macadamia nut, hazel-nut, brazil-nut, gingko
  • beans and bean products
    • soya bean, lentil, split pea, green pea, kidney bean, chicken pea
  • fruits and vegetables
    • asparagus, brussel sprout, cucumber, carrot, potato, pumpkin, mushroom, fruits

Choosing vegetarian diet


  • vegetarian food is rich in fibre which helps in maintaining normal body weight by giving a sensation of fullness
  • decrease the risk of colon cancer, piles and constipation
  • because of its low fat content, the risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, cancers, obesity, gallstones may also be reduced


  • some nutrients are only found in meat, eggs and dairy products. Since vegetarians do not take meat and some even do not take eggs and dairy products, they may become deficient in these nutrients. Nutrient deficiency may result in malnutrition, tiredness, anaemia and other illness
  • vegetarians need to be particularly careful in the choice and combinations of food. They may have to take vitamins or other dietary supplements as advised by their doctors
  • if one wishes to control weight by switching to a vegetarian diet, he/she must be careful about the quantity of food intake, choice of food, cooking methods and amount of oil used

Important facts for vegetarian children and youth

  • Children and youth are at an important stage of development. They need a variety of nutrients to grow healthily. If children are vegetarian for religious or other personal reasons, their diets must include a wide range of foods in appropriate combinations so that they have sufficient nutrients to promote growth
  • Vegetarian food, in general, do not have a strong taste and is not particularly appetizing. Parents need to make extra efforts and be more creative in their cooking and recipes in order to increase their children's interest in food and stimulate their appetite
  • The protein content of vegetables is, in general, lower than that of animal products. Therefore, in order to obtain the different types of protein, the amount and variety of food intake are of great importance for vegetarians. Beans, nuts and dairy products can be consumed in various combinations e.g. cashew nut, hazel-nut and apricot served in low-fat yoghurt; legumes and chicken peas served in sauce made of cottage cheese
  • Only dairy products, liver, meat and eggs can provide us with vitamin B12. If these foods are not taken, vitamin B12 supplements or vitamin B12 fortified cereals, soya bean milk or other foods must be taken. Read the food labels during shopping to find out whether vitamin B12 has been added
  • Vegetarian food also contains calcium, iron, zinc and other minerals. A variety of food must be taken in order to obtain the different types of minerals
    • Foods rich in calcium include broccoli, almonds, turnip greens, beancurd (tofu) and dairy products. However, salty foods and drinks that contain caffeine increase the loss of calcium
    • Food rich in iron include spinach, prunes, dried apricots, iron-added breakfast cereals and water-melon. Intake of foods rich in vitamin C like fresh fruits increase the absorption of iron
    • Foods rich in zinc include beans, nuts and wheat germs

Last Review Date : 28 Dec 2012"