Eating a Healthy Vegetarian Diet

By Josianne Cadieux, Sargent Choice Nutrition Center Dietetic Intern


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Vegetarians have been found to have lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. However, these health benefits only hold true if a person consumes a healthy vegetarian diet including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, plant based protein sources (beans, tofu, tempeh), and healthy fats.

It is important to be aware that nutrient deficiencies can be a problem for people consuming vegetarian diets. Nutrients of greatest concern include riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Tips to make sure you’re getting enough Calcium: If you do not consume dairy products, you may not be getting enough calcium. Fortified soy and rice beverages are a good source of calcium. Other calcium-rich foods include broccoli, soybeans, almonds, tofu, figs, bok choy and kale.

Tips to get make sure you’re getting enough Iron: The iron in plant foods is not as readily available to our bodies as the iron in meat. Iron is found in eggs, dried beans and lentils, whole grains, iron-enriched cereals and pasta, dark green leafy veggies, dried fruit and some nuts and seeds. To help better absorb iron, make sure to include a vitamin C-rich food (such as citrus fruit or juice, tomatoes or tomato juice, broccoli, cauliflower, red or green peppers, melons, berries or kiwi fruit) at each meal.

Boston University’s Sargent Choice Nutrition Center offers free nutrition counseling to students, so if you are thinking about becoming vegetarian/vegan or you are already vegetarian/vegan and want to make sure you are getting everything that you need, make an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians.

Vegetarian and Vegan Recipe Resources:

Sargent Choice Vegetarian Recipes

Eating Well Vegetarian Recipes

Vegan Yum Yum

Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

The Post Punk Kitchen


Havala, Suzanne. ­Being Vegetarian for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. Indianapolis, IN, 2001.

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Hans posted on June 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I am not a vegetarian, but at least 90% of my food intake is plant based. My wife and children still like to have meat, dairy and eggs once in a while so that’s what we do.

Josianne, you mention in the article that we should get our calcium. When i was talking to my fittness instructor about my plans to transition from a Animal protein, dairy and carbohydrate based diet towards a Vegetarian diet, he gave me this recommendation too. He also said that in his opinion it is almost impossible to get enough protein to build muscle.

I decided to go vegetarian anyway. I started eating salads, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, soy, cold pressed oils, nuts and seeds and cut back completely on animal protein, dairy, and processed foods for a while. The amazing thing was that i not only experienced a great increase in energy, but actually increased my muscle mass!

The strongest and most muscular animals in the world are vegetarians. Gorillas for instance are extremely muscular and have very big bones!

nando posted on July 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I agree that some fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of some cancer. for example is cauliflower and broccoli, they could lower the risk of breast cancer. if we eat the other ones such these, we could prevent any diseases too…

distillery equipment posted on July 27, 2022 at 2:41 am

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