What to Eat as a Lacto-Vegetarian: A Beginner’s Guide to Vegetarian Nutrition
As a lacto-vegetarian, you follow a plant-based diet that includes dairy products but excludes meat and eggs. This type of vegetarian diet can provide a variety of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer. However, it is important to make sure you get all the essential nutrients your body needs. Here’s a beginner’s guide to plant-based nutrition for vegans and vegetarians.
Include a variety of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy vegetarian diet. They provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that are important for overall health. Aim to include a variety of colors in your diet, as different colors indicate different nutrients. For example, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which is important for eye health, while green leafy vegetables provide a good source of iron and calcium. Include a mix of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables to ensure you always have these nutritious options.
Choose whole grains
Whole grains are an important source of complex carbohydrates, which provide energy and essential nutrients. They also contain a good amount of fibre, which can aid in digestion and gut health. Incorporate whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, and whole wheat bread into your meals to ensure you get a full range of nutrients. Pay attention to processed grains, which may not have the same nutritional benefits as whole grains.
Include dairy products
As a lacto-vegetarian, dairy products can be an important source of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Choose low-fat or fat-free options to reduce your saturated fat intake. Examples of dairy products include milk, yogurt, cheese, and kefir. If you’re looking to reduce your dairy intake, consider plant-based alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, and cashew cheese.
Incorporate plant-based protein sources
Protein is an essential macronutrient your body needs to maintain muscle mass, repair tissue, and support immune function. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources you can include in your diet, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds, also provide a good source of protein and healthy fats. Experiment with different protein sources to make sure you get a variety of nutrients.
Be aware of nutrient deficiencies
While a lacto-vegetarian diet can provide a wide range of nutrients, it is important to keep in mind potential deficiencies. For example, iron and vitamin B12 are two common nutrients in animal products. To make sure you get enough iron, include sources such as dark leafy greens, lentils and fortified grains in your diet. For vitamin B12, consider taking supplements or eating fortified foods such as nutritional yeast or plant-based milk.
Drinking enough water is important for overall health, especially when following a vegetarian diet. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, more if you’re physically active or live in a hot climate. You can also include hydrating foods such as cucumber, watermelon, and oranges in your diet to help meet your fluid needs.
Plan your meals
It’s important to plan your meals to make sure you get a wide range of nutrients. Create a meal plan that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and plant-based protein sources. This will help you stay on track and make sure you meet your nutritional needs. Consider group cooking and meal prepping to make it easier to stick to your plant-based diet throughout the week.
Following a vegan, vegetarian diet can provide a wide range of health benefits, but it’s important to make sure you get all the essential nutrients your body needs. By including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and plant-based protein sources, and being aware of potential nutrient deficiencies, you can enjoy a nutritious and delicious plant-based diet. With some planning and creativity, you can easily meet all of your body’s nutritional needs while following a vegetarian or vegan diet.