US Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines
Follow the Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid
The Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid is a general guide to healthy eating and a balanced diet for vegetarians (ovo-lacto vegetarians and ovo vegetarians) and vegans. For optimum vegetarian nutrition and calorie-intake, the Vegetarian Pyramid advises eating foods from a variety of food groups each day. These dietary guidelines also help you to maintain or improve your fat levels and body weight. The Vegetarian Food Pyramid advises limiting fat intake because most Americans diets are too high in fat, especially saturated fat.
Balanced Vegetarian Diet - Eat from All Food Groups
Use the Vegetarian Food Pyramid to maintain a healthy balanced diet by eating foods from all the food groups. Each of these vegetarian food groups provides some, but not all, of the nutrients you need. Foods in one group can't replace those in another. No one food group is more important than another - for good health, you need them all. Vegans should pay special attention to their vitamin B12 and vitamin D intake by eating fortified foods or taking vitamin B12/ vitamin D supplements.
[Note: Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that those who choose foods of only plant origin must supplement the diet with vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. Adequate intake of these nutrients are even more important for growing children and pregnant and lactating women.]
General Dietary Guidelines for Vegetarian/Vegan Eating
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Protein
Plant sources of protein alone can provide all the protein required by vegetarians and vegans provided a variety of plant foods are consumed. Complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same time if they regularly appear in the diet. See Protein in Vegetarian Diet and Protein in Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Iron
Although vegetarian diets are higher in total iron content than nonvegetarian diets, iron reserves are lower in vegetarians because the iron from plant foods is less well absorbed. That said, iron deficiency anemia rates are similar in vegetarians and nonvegetarians. Remember that it's easier to absorb iron from food if we eat it with foods that contain Vitamin C, so have some fruit or veg containing vitamin C, or some fruit juice with your meal. For details, see Iron in Vegetarian Diet and Iron in Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Vitamin B12
Plant foods are not a reliable source of B-12 for vegetarians. Vitamin B-12 in spirulina, sea vegetables, tempeh, and miso has been shown to be inactive B-12 analog rather than the active vitamin. Although dairy products and eggs contain vitamin B-12, research indicates that lacto-ovo-vegetarians have low blood levels of vitamin B-12. Thus use of fortified foods or supplements are advised for vegans or vegetarians who limit animal foods. For details, see Vitamin B12 in Vegetarian Diet and Vitamin B12 in Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Vitamin D
Vitamin D is poorly supplied in all vegetarian diets unless vitamin D-fortified foods are eaten. Vegan diets in particular may lack Vitamin D. However, vegan vitamin D-fortified foods - such as soy milk and cereals, are becoming more widely available. Exposure to direct sunlight exposure is a major source of vitamin D, so dietary intake is not important if sun exposure (to hands, arms, and face for 5 to 15 minutes per day) is adequate. For more, see Vitamin D in Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Calcium
Ovo-lacto vegetarians have calcium intakes that are comparable to those of nonvegetarians. But calcium intakes of vegans are generally lower than those of lacto-ovo-vegetarians, although vegans may have lower calcium needs than nonvegetarians because diets that are low in total protein and more alkaline have been shown to 'use-up' less calcium. Fortunately, calcium is well absorbed from many plant foods, and vegan diets can provide adequate calcium PROVIDED the diet regularly includes foods rich in calcium. See Calcium in Vegetarian Diet and Calcium in Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Zinc
Most studies show that zinc levels in hair, serum, and saliva are in the normal range in vegetarians. However, because of the lower uptake of zinc from plant foods, vegetarians should attempt to meet or exceed the zinc RDA. See also Zinc in Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Pregnancy
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian and vegan diets can meet the nutrient and calorie needs of pregnant women. Birth weights of infants born to well nourished vegetarian women have been shown to be similar to birth-weight norms and to birth weights of infants of nonvegetarians. Diets of pregnant and lactating vegans should be supplemented with 2.0 micrograms and 2.6 micrograms, respectively, of vitamin B-12 daily and, where sun exposure is limited, with 10 micrograms vitamin D daily. Supplements of folate are advised for all pregnant women, although vegetarian women typically have higher intakes than nonvegetarians.
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines - Summary
Optimum Vegetarian Health
For optimum diet and nutrition, the American Dietetic Association advises all vegetarians/vegans to consult a registered dietitian or other qualified nutrition professional, especially during periods of growth, breast-feeding, pregnancy, or recovery from illness.
Vegetarian Dietary Guidelines Related Links
Vegetarian Diet Information
Vegetarianism is a healthy option and vegetarian
diets can be perfectly healthy eating plans but care should be taken to
ensure optimum nutrition. So, whether following an ovo-lacto or other
type of vegetarian food plan, or vegan diet, for a healthy body and weight
make it a balanced eating plan and take regular exercise. Always consult
a doctor before beginning a weight loss diet or new fitness routine.