Vegetarian diets – the basics

Vegetarian diets can be really healthy, but they need to be carefully planned to make sure all the nutrients you need to be healthy are included.

A vegetarian diet is based around plant foods. There are different types of vegetarian diets including:

  • Vegan – only plant foods are included
  • Lacto – dairy foods are included
  • Ovo-lacto – dairy foods and eggs are included.

Vegetarians need to be mindful of some particular nutrients:

  • Protein
  • Iron (and anaemia)
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B12 (especially vegan diets)
  • Calcium (especially vegan diets)
  • Omega-3.

It’s super important that when cutting out animal foods, the foods and nutrients are replaced with other nutritious food choices.

Each day try to include:

  • Eggs, dried beans, lentils, nuts or seeds
  • High-fibre breads and cereals
  • Dairy foods or calcium enriched soy foods
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy fats like olive oil
  • Foods fortified with vitamin B12 if excluding dairy and eggs
  • Flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and omega-3 fortified foods such as some types of bread.

Because children have different nutritional needs to adults, care must be taken when planning a vegetarian diet for this group. Parents and carers should seek the advice of an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) if providing a vegetarian diet to children. An APD will ensure the diet meets the extra needs for growth and development.

An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can provide tailored nutrition and dietary advice on how to best meet needs while on a vegetarian diet.