National vegetarian week - Be a healthy veggie

This week is national vegetarian week so we take a better look at vegetarianism

A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, including beef, chicken, pork, or fish and may or may not choose to eat other animal products such as eggs, dairy, gelatine, or honey.

There are different types of vegetarians:

Flexitarian: Flexitarians are also known as semi–vegetarians. They occasionally eat fish or meat, but generally avoid animal products most of the time.

Pesci–vegetarian: Pesci–vegetarians or “Pescatarians” eat fish, dairy, and eggs but don’t eat poultry or any other meats.

Lacto–ovo vegetarian: Lacto–ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but do eat eggs and dairy products (ovo means eggs and lacto means dairy). This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.

Lacto–vegetarian: Lacto–vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, poultry or eggs, but do eat dairy products.

Ovo–vegetarian: Ovo–vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, poultry or dairy, but do eat eggs.

Why do people decide to be vegetarian?

People decide to become a vegetarian for many reasons. Some people choose to become a vegetarian for environmental, ethical (animal rights), and/or health reasons. You may relate to many of these reasons or have different reasons altogether. Deciding to become vegetarian is a personal choice.

Are vegetarian diets healthy?

Vegetarian diets can be healthy and may even lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. However, eating balanced meals and snacks requires some extra attention when you are a vegetarian. Because vegetarians take out certain foods from their diets, they often need to work to add in foods that will provide the same nutrients found in animal products. By eating a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products, and whole grains, vegetarians can get adequate nutrients from non–meat sources. Vegetarians, especially vegans, need to pay attention getting enough protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega–3 fatty acids.


Carbohydrates provide energy and vitamins for your brain and muscles. Grain products, especially whole grains, are very important because they provide the carbohydrate, fibre, and many vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Vegetarians should be sure to eat a variety of whole grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta and tortillas, brown rice, oats, bulgur, and quinoa.

Fat is needed by your body to stay healthy. Fat provides essential fatty acids and helps your body absorb certain vitamins. Excellent sources of healthy fats include nuts or nut butters, oils, and avocados.

Protein is needed for your muscles to grow. Vegetarians need to be sure to substitute protein-containing vegetarian foods when replacing meat. Nuts, nut butters (including peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower seed butter), soy foods (such as tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, tempeh, and Edamame), legumes (such as beans, peas, hummus, and lentils), meat substitutes (such as veggie burgers or Seitan), dairy foods (such as milk, yogurt, and cheese), and eggs all provide protein.


Zinc is important for growth and your immune system. Zinc is found in whole grains (refined grains such as bread or pasta made from white flour or white rice are not sources of zinc), fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products, soy foods, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Iron is important for your blood and is found in beans, seeds, soybeans, tofu, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and dried fruit such as apricots, figs, or prunes. Since plant–based iron is not absorbed as well as iron found in meat, adding vitamin C can help your body to absorb iron better. When you are eating plant-based iron foods, try to maximize the amount of iron you can absorb by including foods rich in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits and certain vegetables such as tomatoes).

Calcium is needed to build strong bones. Calcium is found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt (there is more calcium found in traditional yogurt compared to Greek yogurt), and cheese. You can also find calcium in broccoli, butternut squash, black beans, white beans, soybeans, and tofu. However, plant sources of calcium have less calcium per serving and are more difficult for our bodies to absorb compared to dairy products. Some foods that aren’t naturally high in calcium have calcium added to them; these foods are called “calcium–fortified.” Soy milk, enriched rice milk, orange juice, cereal, and cereal bars are a few examples. If you choose to not eat dairy, eating calcium fortified foods is a great way to ensure you are eating enough calcium. Look at the Nutrition Facts Label to find out which brands are highest in calcium.


Claire Edwards