Vegetarian and vegan
The important thing to remember if you're a vegetarian is that you need to eat a balanced diet to make sure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.
The main healthy eating messages are the same for everybody. As part of a healthy balanced diet, we should all be trying to do the following:
But you also need to make sure you're getting enough nutrients, especially protein, iron and selenium, which can sometimes be lacking in a meat-free diet.
Getting the nutrients you need
Getting enough protein
It's important to make sure you're getting enough protein.
These foods are all good sources, so try to include a mixture of these in your diet each day, and vary the types you choose:
Protein is made of amino acids, some of which are known as 'essential amino acids' because the body can't make them itself.
It's important to get some of each of these essential amino acids at the same time. Soya, quinoa and hemp seeds are the only vegetarian sources of the complete mix of essential amino acids. (The complete mix is also found in meat, poultry, fish and eggs.)
Although it sounds complicated, it's actually easy to get all the essential amino acids you need by eating different types of protein foods at the same time, in fact you will often being doing this already, for example by having:
It's also not a good idea to rely on one type of protein because you might be missing out on nutrients. And, if for example you rely on cheese as your source of protein, you might be having too much saturated fat.
Getting enough selenium
It's important to make sure you're getting enough selenium because selenium is important for our immune systems to function properly.
Getting enough iron
Although meat is the best source of iron, it can also be found in:
Remember that it's easier to absorb iron from food if we eat it with foods that contain vitamin C, so have some fruit or veg, or a glass of fruit juice with your meal.
What do vegetarians eat?
Vegetarians don't eat any meat, fish, seafood or animal by-products such as gelatine, but the majority of vegetarians do eat some animal products, mainly milk, cheese (made with vegetarian rennet) and eggs.
What do vegans eat?
Vegans don't eat any foods of animal origin. This includes meat, fish and dairy foods, and also honey.
If you are a vegan, you need to make sure you're getting enough protein and iron (see above), but it can also be difficult to get enough vitamin B12.
These are good vegan sources of vitamin B12:
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