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How to stay healthy as a vegetarian How to stay healthy as a vegetarian

How to stay healthy as a vegetarian

Being vegetarian benefits the body in many ways. A vegetarian diet can help lower cholesterol, and blood pressure, aiding in the prevention of heart disease. Additionally, vegetarian food is fibre-rich which helps regulate bowel movements, prevent constipation, and reduce the risk of colon cancer. It also adds vitamins and minerals to your nutrition plan.

A fibre-rich diet also helps in weight loss and maintenance as it keeps you full for longer. Fruits and vegetables, an integral part of this diet provide the body with vital vitamins and minerals that promote general health, immunity, and a glowing complexion.

How can you define a vegetarian?

People who generally exclude meat, fish and chicken from their diet and eat a variety of plant-based foods are called vegetarians. Most vegetarian diets are rich in fibre and low in fat, especially the unhealthy saturated kind.

Within this group there are three kinds of vegetarians:

Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, plant-based oils, herbs and spices all come under the umbrella of vegetarian foods.

  • Total vegetarians / Vegans: Those who exclude all kinds of meat and animal-based products such as milk, butter and eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarians: Those who do not consume meat, chicken and fish but allow milk and milk products.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: Those who consume milk, milk products and eggs but exclude all kinds of meat.

For those who are vegetarians, or for those working towards enhancing their plant-based diet, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of vegetarian food, the type of nutrition each offers and tips on how they nourish you. 

The Vegetarian Diet Ready Reckoner


Type of food


Whole grains

Wheat, corn, oats, rice and cereal products such as bread and pasta.

Whole-wheat or whole grain products should be preferred over their white counterparts because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They also decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes


Red and white beans, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans and soybeans

A rich source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals – very essential for vegetarians

Vegetables and fruits

All kinds of vegetables and fruits of all colors and their juices

Full of nutrients and antioxidants to really qualify a vegetarian diet as 'healthy'

Nuts and seeds

Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds

Choose unsalted, raw or roasted nuts and seeds. Consume in moderation as they are high in calories.

Vegetable oils

Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil

Include oils high in unsaturated healthy fats such as canola oil and olive oil. Avoid butter and margarine.

Milk and dairy products

Milk, cheese, yogurt and labneh

Opt for low-fat or skimmed products. If you are a vegan, ensure that you get enough calcium from fortified soy milk and Vitamin D from exposure to the sun.



Consumed by lacto-ovo-vegetarians, they are rich in proteins and Vitamin B12

Tips for a healthy Vegetarian diet

1. Combine protein sources:

Good quality proteins are found in meats and animal products such as milk, dairy and eggs. They constitute all the amino acids that our bodies need for growth and tissue repair.

However, proteins from plant sources lack some types of amino acids. To get complete protein from plant sources, it is recommended you consume a combination of legumes and grains in the same meal. For example, lentils with rice (moujaddara), fava beans (foul moudammas) eaten with bread or white beans with rice.

2. Have sufficient 'at risk' nutrients

Vegetarians are often found to be deficient in some key nutrients, such as the ones listed below, which make it even more important to include them in a vegetarian diet:

  • Vitamin B12: Plant foods are naturally lacking in Vitamin B12. So vegans who avoid dairy products and eggs need a regular source of this vitamin. To avoid deficiency, a good solution would be a fortified breakfast cereal.
  • Protein: Proteins from plant foods can meet protein needs if the right food combination is eaten. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians easily get their protein from dairy products and eggs.
  • Iron: Some vegetarians have a lower iron count than non-vegetarians. Iron from plant food does not absorb as well as that from meat, so vegetarians need to increase their iron intake and consume a Vitamin C-rich food source to enhance iron absorption.
  • Zinc: Vegetarians also appear to have a lower intake of zinc than recommended. Soy foods, legumes, nuts and supplemented foods are good sources.
  • Calcium and vitamin D: Calcium intake of lacto-vegetarians is comparable to non-vegetarians. But when milk products are excluded, calcium levels drop. Such vegetarians are advised to have soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D, in addition to getting adequate sun exposure.
  • Riboflavin: Vegetarians also have low levels of riboflavin than non-vegetarians. This can be corrected through the consumption of milk, almonds, fortified breakfast cereals, yogurt, soy, bananas and broccoli.

3. Drink plenty of water and other fluids

As a vegetarian you need to drink as much as two to three liters of fluids a day including water, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, a variety of hot teas and soups. A generous fluid intake is very important for a healthy body.

4. Make your lifestyle healthy

Individuals following a vegetarian diet normally follow healthy lifestyle habits. For a healthy body, perform regular physical exercise, eat a variety of food and try to maintain a healthy body weight.

Last word

Well-planned vegetarian diets are healthy and help prevent chronic diseases. You must be cautious to follow a planned diet that includes fortified foods to prevent nutrient deficiency.
Make sure to ask your dietician to guide you on how to include the 'at risk' nutrients by choosing the right foods in the right combinations for a complete balanced diet.

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