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How To Compensate For Meat Nutrients In A Vegetarian Diet

How To Compensate For Meat Nutrients In A Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly popular with more and more people giving up meat for a range of reasons, including concerns about the environmental sustainability of meat production, ethical considerations such as the treatment of animals and due to their religious beliefs.

A carefully planned vegetarian diet can be very health, however without sufficient research and planning a removing meat from your diet could lead to significant nutritional deficiencies, which can result in health problems down the road. Read on to discover how you can compensate for key nutrients found in meat when adopting a vegetarian diet.
Different types of vegetarian diets

Firstly, there are three main types of vegetarian diets, whilst all focus on consuming plant foods they do differ in subtle ways.

• Vegan: Only plant foods may be consumed
• Lacto: In addition to plant foods, dairy products may also be included.
• Ovo-lacto: Eggs and dairy products can be consumed in addition to plant foods

Poorly planned vegetarian diets place you at risk of nutritional deficiencies
When choosing to switch to a meat free diet it is important to not make a rash decision and dive in head first without doing your research. By simply cutting out meat products without considering, what you will replace them with can quickly result in you becoming deficient in a number of nutrients that are important for good health.

Many experts recommend starting out slow, like eliminating meat from menus one or two days per week. This allows you to ease into the lifestyle and to find new dishes and recipes to replace that steak or chicken that used to sit on your plate.

Poorly planned vegetarian diets are commonly deficient in the following nutrients:

• Protein
• Omega-3 fatty acids
• Iron
• Vitamin B12
• Calcium
• Zinc

However, with a little planning, deficiencies in these nutrients can be avoided by replacing animal products such as meat with vegetarian options that provide similar critical nutrients.

Try to include some of the following foods each day:

• Legumes such as dried beans and lentils
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole grain or wholemeal breads and cereal products
• Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese or calcium and vitamin D enriched soy products
• 5 to 7 servings of vegetables (One serving is half a cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of uncooked vegetables)
• 2 to 4 servings of fruit (A serving is a medium sized piece of fruit such as an apple or banana)
• Small quantities of heart healthy unsaturated plant fats such as olive oil, canola oil or an avocado
• Tofu or tempeh, low fat soy protein products that can replace meat in your favorite dishes
• Food products fortified with B12 if avoiding dairy and eggs. Those who do not want to consume B12 fortified products should discuss supplementation of this vitamin with their general practitioner or a dietitian.

A bowl of cornflakes and soy milk will give you your daily requirements of B12 and Zinc
• Walnuts, flaxseed oil, and omega-3 fortified foods such as soymilk, yogurt, and breads.

Minimize your intake of less nutritious discretionary foods

For many vegetarians who fail to plan their diet it is quite common to become reliant on less healthy foods such as cakes, muffins, chips and meat free takeaway foods.

This can be problematic, as these foods tend to be high in saturated fat, sugar, salt and low in the essential nutrients that your body requires. Over consumption of these foods will also displace healthier foods from your regular diet. Feel free to consume these foods occasionally but don’t let them become part of your staple diet.

Vegetarian diets and children

Children have nutritional needs that differ significantly to adults. For parents wishing to put their child on a meat free diet it is incredibly important to consult with a dietitian so that all their nutritional needs are met. Failure to provide adequate nourishment to growing children can affect growth and development and have long-term health consequences.


As you can see, with just a little planning a meat free diet need not be deficient in nutrients. If you are considering changing to a vegetarian lifestyle be sure to do your research and seek professional assistance from a dietitian to ensure you don’t place yourself or your loved ones at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

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