Vegetarian and vegan eating

A vegetarian diet is one that does not include any kernel or seafood. however, there are many variations to this – some people following a vegetarian diet may eat eggs and dairy foods, while others may avoid one or both. A vegan diet is another shape of vegetarianism where entirely establish foods are eaten and all foods from animal sources are avoided ( kernel, seafood, dairy, eggs and sometimes beloved and gelatin ). vegetarian diets can have many health benefits. They can offer all the essential vitamins and minerals necessity for a long and healthy animation provided they are well-planned. Breastfeeding mothers and children who have a vegetarian diet necessitate to take particular concern to make sure they get all the essential nutrients they need for healthy emergence and development.

Types of vegetarian diets

Although ‘ vegetarian ’ normally means ‘ plant-based ’ there are a few different types of vegetarian diets. What interpretation of vegetarian diet a person follows depends on many things including health, environmental, ethical, religious or economic reasons. The main types of vegetarianism are :

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – people who do not eat any meat and seafood, but include dairy foods (such as milk), eggs and plant foods
  • Lacto-vegetarian – people who do not eat meat, seafood and eggs, but include dairy foods and plant foods
  • Ovo-vegetarian – people who do not eat meat, seafood and dairy foods, but include eggs and plant foods
  • Vegan – people who avoid all animal foods and only eat plant foods.

Two other diets that are not rigorously vegetarian but still focus on reducing or limiting the come of animal products eaten are :

  • Pescetarian – people who do not eat any meat, but include seafood, dairy foods, eggs and plant foods
  • Flexitarian – people who mainly have a plant-based diet but that sometimes includes small portions of meat and seafood; sometimes also called ‘semi-vegetarian’.

People following pescetarian or flexitarian diets frequently do so to get the health benefits of eating a largely vegetarian diet without giving up meat wholly.

Health benefits of a vegetarian diet

A well-adjusted vegetarian or vegan diet can provide many health benefits, such as a reduce risk of chronic diseases, including : Vegetarians and vegans besides have lower rates of illness and death from some degenerative diseases.

Meeting nutritional needs on a vegetarian diet

If you choose to be vegetarian or vegan, plan your diet to make sure it includes all the essential nutrients. This is even more authoritative if you are fraught, planning a pregnancy, breastfeeding or have young children following a vegetarian diet. Eating a wide kind of foods will make it easier to meet your nutritional requirements.

Essential nutrients that are harder to obtain in a vegetarian diet, if not carefully planned – include protein, some minerals ( specially cast-iron, calcium and zinc ), vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

Protein sources for vegetarians

Protein is essential for many bodily processes, including weave build and repair. Protein is made up of smaller build blocks called amino acids. These amino acids are classed as non-essential ( can be made by the body ) and essential ( must be obtained through the diet ).

A ‘ complete ’ protein has all the nine all-important amino acids necessary for dietary needs. Most establish foods, however, are not complete proteins – they only have some of the nine necessity amino acids. Soy products, quinoa and amaranth seeds are some of the few exceptions of a complete vegetable protein.

It was once thought that vegetarians and vegans needed to combine plant foods at each meal to ensure they consumed complete proteins ( for exercise, bake beans on toast ). recent research has found this is not the casing.

Consuming respective sources of amino acids throughout the day should provide the arrant complement of protein. by and large, if energy ( kilojoules or calorie ) consumption is sufficient, vegetarian diets can meet or exceed their protein requirements, but some vegan diets may be gloomy in protein.

Some beneficial vegetarian sources of protein include :

  • legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils)
  • nuts and seeds

  • soy products (including soy beverages, tempeh and tofu)
  • whole (cereal) grains

    (such as oats and barley)

  • pseudo-cereals (such as quinoa and amaranth)

It ’ randomness recommended that vegetarians and vegans eat legumes and nuts daily, along with wholegrain cereals and pseudo-cereals, to ensure adequate alimentary intakes.

Minerals for vegetarians

If you ’ re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you need to make certain you get the correct amount of essential dietary minerals.

Some of these minerals and their suggested food sources include :


Iron is an significant mineral that is involved in diverse bodily functions, including the transportation of oxygen in the blood. Although vegetarian and vegan diets are generally high in iron from plant foods, this type of cast-iron, called non-haem cast-iron, is not absorbed a well as the cast-iron in kernel ( heme iron ). Combining non-haem iron-containing foods with foods high in vitamin C and food acids ( such as fruit and vegetables ) helps your body absorb the iron. good vegetarian food sources of iron admit :

  • cereal products fortified with iron (such as breakfast cereals and bread)
  • wholegrains
  • legumes
  • tofu
  • green leafy vegetables
  • dried fruits. 


zinc performs numerous all-important functions in the body, including the development of immune system cells. estimable vegetarian food sources of zinc include :

  • nuts
  • tofu
  • miso
  • legumes
  • wheatgerm
  • wholegrain foods. 


calcium is full of life for impregnable bones and teeth. It besides plays a crucial character in other systems of the soundbox, such as the health and serve of nerves and brawn tissue. thoroughly vegetarian food sources of calcium admit :

  • dairy products

  • plant-based milk drinks fortified with calcium (check the label)
  • cereals and fruit juices fortified with calcium (check the label)
  • tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • some brands of tofu (check the label)
  • leafy dark green vegetables (especially Asian greens)
  • legumes
  • some nuts (such as almonds and Brazil nuts)


dietary iodine is needed to make essential thyroid hormones involved in metabolic processes. This includes increase and energy use, arsenic well as brain and cram growth during pregnancy and in early childhood. good vegetarian food sources of tincture of iodine include :

  • bread (except those marked as ‘organic’ or ‘no added salt’)
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • seaweed
  • some plant-based milk drinks that include seaweed extracts (check the label)
  • iodised



Vitamin B12 sources for vegetarians

Vitamin B12 is significant for crimson blood cell production – it helps to maintain healthy nerves and a healthy brain. People following a vegan diet are at risk of developing vitamin B12 lack because it is merely found in animal products.

vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 include :

  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • some soy beverages (check the label)
  • some vegetarian sausages and burgers (check the label).

( Although it ’ south much believed that mushrooms, tempeh, miso and sea vegetables are a source of B12, this is not true. These foods contain a compound with a like structure to B12, but it doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate work like B12 in the body. )

If people following a vegan diet don ’ thymine get their B12 prerequisite from these foods, they are advised to take B12 supplements to avoid vitamin B12 insufficiency – including anemia. This is particularly significant for breastfeeding mothers where vitamin B12 deficient breastmilk can interfere with normal brain development of the baby.

Vitamin B12 absorption becomes less effective as we old age, so supplements may besides be needed by older people following a vegetarian diet.

Check with your doctor before starting on any vitamin and mineral supplements.

Vitamin D sources for vegetarians

Vitamin D is important for firm bones, muscles and overall health. Although humble amounts of vitamin D are present in food, it is not a true ‘ vitamin ’ because it can besides be produced by the body after exposure to UV radiation in sunlight.

The main informant of vitamin D for most Australians is sunlight. There are few foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D. There is very short vitamin D in most people ’ mho diets, unless they eat fatso fish, eggs, liver-colored or foods fortified with vitamin D ( such as margarine ). Fortified low-fat and skim milk is another source of vitamin D, but it is present in low amounts.

Vegetarian sources of vitamin D include :

  • eggs
  • some margarines (check the label)
  • some cereals (check the label)
  • some dairy and plant-based milk drinks (check the label).

As the sun is besides a major informant of vitamin D, dietary inhalation is entirely authoritative when exposure to UV light from the sun is inadequate – such as people who are housebound or whose clothe covers about all of their skin.

Vegetarian and vegan eating throughout life

Well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can be appropriate for all stages of a person ’ s liveliness. however, special care needs to be taken for vegetarian diets during pregnancy and breastfeed, and infancy and childhood. This specially applies to those who follow a vegan diet.

Strict vegan diets are not recommended for very young children.

Vegetarian and vegan eating during pregnancy

A vegetarian diet can be safely followed during pregnancy provided you eat regularly to ensure you have enough energy. Include a assortment of foods from the five food groups each day to meet your food needs.

Most women will need supplements of nutrients that are unmanageable to obtain equitable from food ( such as folic acerb and tincture of iodine ). Vitamin B12 supplements will besides be needed for women following vegan diets for optimum brain exploitation in their baby.

Vegetarian and vegan eating while breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding and on a vegetarian diet, you can obtain all the nutrients and energy you need ampere long as you include a wide-eyed crop of foods from the five food groups each day. Depending on your individual circumstances, supplements may be recommended by your health professional.

If you are breastfeeding and on a vegan diet, a vitamin or mineral accessory may be required. This is particularly the sheath with vitamin B12. A severe miss of vitamin B12 in breastmilk can interfere with a baby ’ sulfur mind development and can besides cause anemia in the beget.

Breastfeeding mothers on vegan diets are recommended to continue to breastfeed – ideally for two years or longer.

Check with a dietician to make sure your diet contains the right sum of energy and nutrients to support your health and wellbeing and the optimum development of your baby, specially if you are entirely breastfeeding or following a vegan diet.

Vegetarian and vegan eating for babies and young children

up to the old age of six months, babies entirely need breastmilk or baby recipe.

From around six months, most babies are cook to be introduced to solids – although breastmilk or baby formula are distillery their independent beginning of nutriment until 12 months.

Vegetarian and vegan foods can be safely introduced to babies and young children, provided all their energy and nutrient needs are met. This requires careful planning.

For some babies – particularly those being introduced to vegan eating, supplements may be recommended to ensure some substantive nutrients typically provided by animal-based foods are supplied in adequate amounts ( such as iron and vitamin B12 ). As children grow, they need loads of nutrients – a vegetarian diet should include :

  • Protein alternatives (such as nuts, eggs, legumes and tofu).
  • Energy for growth and development.
  • Iron to prevent anaemia.
  • Vitamin B12.
  • Vitamin D and calcium to prevent bone disease. 
  • Suitable fats from non-meat sources.
  • Food in the correct form and combination to make sure nutrients can be digested and absorbed (such as foods high in vitamin C alongside iron-rich plant foods).

If you wish to introduce your child to vegetarian or vegan eat, seek advice from a dietician, repair or your maternal and child health breastfeed to ensure they are getting all-important nutrients for optimum growth and growth.

From around six months, solids from all five food groups should be introduced gradually, with first base foods being rich in iron, protein and energy for growth.

Iron is important for babies and children

Iron is an authoritative food for growth and is vital for babies and young children. By six months of senesce, the stores of iron a baby has built up during pregnancy are normally depleted, which is why their first foods need to be iron-rich.

This is crucial for babies following vegetarian and vegan diets because vegetarian sources of iron ( ‘ non-haem ’ iron ) tend not to be as easily absorbed by the body as animal sources of iron ( ‘ heme ’ cast-iron ).

Combine foods containing vitamin C with foods that are high in iron – such as offer an orange with bake beans on pledge. Vitamin C enhances the assimilation of cast-iron. Non-animal sources of iron include :

  • plain cooked tofu, pulses and legumes (such as baked beans, lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, borlotti beans)
  • dark green vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, green peas and kale)
  • ground seeds and nuts (such as almond meal or smooth nut butters to reduce the risk of choking)
  • dried fruits (such as figs, apricots and prunes) – offer with meals rather than on their own as they can stick to budding teeth and promote tooth decay)
  • baby cereals fortified with iron

Cook pulses thoroughly to destroy toxins and to help digestion. Undercooked pulses can cause vomiting and diarrhea in young children.

Babies and children on vegetarian and vegan diets have high-energy needs

If your child ’ south diet is high in fiber, their little pot can well feel full before they ’ ve consumed adequate department of energy or nutrients to meet their needs. High character foods can besides lead to poorer absorption of some nutrients ( such as iron, zinc and calcium ).

Babies and children on vegetarian or vegan diets can get adequate energy and boost their concentration of nutrients by eating a wide variety show of foods and including lower fiber foods ( such as white bread and rice ), in accession to wholegrain and wholemeal varieties.

Another way to ensure vegetarian children meet their department of energy needs is to give them frequent meals and snacks.

Feed and rest patterns vary from baby-to-baby, equally well as with historic period. A 7–9-month-old baby ’ sulfur feed and sleep pattern might look something like this table : On waking On waking, breastmilk or formula feed  Breakfast  Iron-fortified baby cereal or similar Finger food (e.g. soft fruit) Sleep Lunch  Savoury meal (e.g. spinach and lentil dahl) Finger food (e.g. cooked pasta pieces) Breastmilk or formula feed Sleep Dinner Savoury meal (e.g. chickpea and vegetable stew) Finger food (e.g. cooked vegetables) Breastmilk or formula feed Before bed Breastmilk or formula feed This is an example only – your child ’ s eating and sleep and settling everyday may be different.

Try to include a mix of refined and unrefined ( wholegrain ) cereals and a variety show of energy-giving foods in your child ’ mho diet :

  • hummus and other bean/pulse dishes
  • full-fat dairy (such as yoghurt, cottage cheese and custard)
  • well-cooked egg 
  • smooth nut and seed butters (such as peanut, almond and tahini)
  • avocado
  • starchy foods (such as pasta, flour, white rice, white bread and potatoes)
  • vegetable oils

    (such as extra virgin olive oil and canola oil) or vegan spreads in cooking.  

Milk, infant formula and plant-based milks

up to the long time of six months, breastmilk or baby formula is the alone food your baby needs.

Until 12 months, breastmilk or baby convention should calm be the chief drink in, although small amounts of full-fat cow ’ s milk can be used in cooking. Goat ’ s or sheep ’ s milk is not recommended. Do not give your child unpasteurized milk ( raw milk ) – it can cause gastrointestinal illnesses.

Plant-based milks such as soya milk ( except soy follow-on recipe ) and other nutritionally incomplete plant-based milks ( such as rice, oat, coconut or almond milk ) are not suitable alternatives to breastmilk or infant formula for babies under 12 months.

After 12 months, under the guidance of your nanny, doctor of the church or dietician, full-fat fortified soy drink or calcium-enriched rice and oat beverages ( at least 100mg of calcium per 100mL ) can be used. Your child ’ randomness diet should contain early adequate sources of protein and vitamin B12 before these milks are introduced.

If you are going to place your child on a vegetarian or vegan diet,  seek advice from a health professional on how to maintain a balanced diet and any supplements needed.

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