Eating well doesn’t just happen on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. If you forgo meat, making no other changes to your diet, chances are you will come up short when it comes to meeting your vitamin and mineral needs. Including dairy foods and eggs is a surefire way to get your protein needs met, but other nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D, are often lacking.
Daily Meal Plan
For a 2,000-calorie daily vegetarian meal plan, Loma Linda University School of Public Health recommends 6 servings of whole grains, 3 servings of legumes and soy, 8 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of fruits, 1 serving of nuts and seeds, 2 servings of vegetable oils, 2 servings of dairy products and ½ egg. Depending upon your activity level, your individual calorie needs may vary somewhat, however.
Skimp on breakfast and you are likely to feel sluggish mid-morning. Milk or yogurt is an excellent breakfast choice; both are good sources of calcium and protein. Try a cup of Greek nonfat yogurt for an extra protein boost over regular yogurt. Add a ¼ cup of wheat germ, an excellent source of zinc, and a banana or cup of blueberries for a healthful meal. Whole-grain waffles or pancakes with applesauce and a glass of nonfat milk is another nutritious idea. If you are a cereal-lover, go for a packet of plain instant oatmeal, or even better, put some Scottish oats in your slow cooker the night before and enjoy a steaming hot bowlful with little morning effort. Add a poached egg for even more protein.
Spread ½ cup of hummus on a slice of whole-grain bread, and add lettuce and tomato to up your veggie intake. Peanut or almond butter on whole-grain bread with a sliced banana makes a filling and delicious lunch. A cup of lentil soup with some whole-grain crackers and a slice of low-fat cheese is another satisfying choice. Finish your meal off with a cup of grapes or 1/3 cup of raisins for added iron. Choose nonfat milk instead of ice tea or soda pop for extra vitamin D, B12, protein and calcium.
Iron-rich leafy greens are excellent dinner vegetables which can be served as a side dish or tossed into a soup or stew. Try a stir-fry with tempeh, a good source of protein and zinc. Other meatless main dish ideas include bean burritos, pasta primavera, black bean tacos, stuffed baked potatoes or vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on whole-grain bread. For dessert, choose nonfat frozen yogurt with fresh raspberries, a baked apple or fruit compote.
Between-meal snacks are an excellent way to optimize both your energy and your nutritional intake, providing you make wise choices. Eat 1 cup of roasted soynuts and you’ll meet your daily zinc requirement of 8 milligrams. A handful of almonds with some dried cherries or cranberries works well, too. Keep a granola bar or some dried fruit and nuts in your purse so you have nutritious choices always on hand.
Sue Roberts began writing in 1989. Her work has appeared in such publications as “Today’s Dietitian” and "Journal of Food Science." Roberts holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Public Health in nutrition from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Science in food science from Michigan State University. She is a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist.