Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Eating

Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Eating

By Dr. Jackie Ehlert

Vegetarians or vegans consume a diet consisting mainly of non-animal products.  Vegans don’t eat any dairy foods, eggs or honey. They are considered to be strict vegetarians.1

Vegetarians don’t eat any meat but some may or may not consume animal products such as eggs, milk or honey.2

To stay healthy, vegetarians need to pay more attention to what they eat to ensure they get a variety of nutrients and vitamins from the foods they eat.

Take the test: Are you getting all the nutrients you need?

1.  Do you consume at least 4 servings of calcium rich foods such as fortified soy milk and cereals, dark green leafy vegetables or cow’s milk/day?

2.  Do you consume at least 2 -3 meals/day containing protein rich foods such as nuts, peanut butter, soy foods or legumes?

3.  Are foods such as beans, seeds, iron fortified cereals, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and citrus fruits part of your daily diet?

4.  Are your foods fortified with Vitamin B12?

5.  Do you use soybean or rapeseed oils for cooking on a daily basis?

If your answered NO to any of these questions, your diet may be deficient in one or more nutrients important to your optimal health.

Read on to find out what you can do!

Food Guide for Vegans and Vegetarians

How can I stay Healthy?

Vegetarians and Vegans can meet daily recommendations by consuming a variety of foods by including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their diets.2

Nutrients of Concern and Where these Nutrients can be Found

  • Protein – Found in nuts, peanut butter, legumes such as peas, beans and lentils, soy foods, and grain products. They are also found in milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt.
  • Essential fatty acids – Most commonly found in soybean or rapeseed oils
  • Vitamin B­2 (Riboflavin) – Sources include whole grains, mushrooms, almonds and leafy green vegetables
  • Vitamin B12– Fortified foods such as soy milk and cereals
  • Vitamin D – Sunlight, eggs, dairy products and fortified vegetable margarines and soy milk
  • Calcium – Good sources include tofu, dried fruits, seeds and nuts and dark leafy vegetables
  • Iron – Can be found in beans, soy foods, fortified cereals and seeds. Citrus fruits will aid the absorption of this mineral 

The 5 Food Groups For Vegans & Vegetarians

(minimum number of servings needed/day)

  • Grains – 6 servings
  • Fruits and Vegetables – 6 servings
  • Legumes, nuts, and other protein rich foods – 5 servings
  • Fats – 2 servings
  • Calcium rich foods – 8 servings

Tips for Eating Out and Meal Planning3

  • Consume a variety of foods
  • Choose foods that can be counted towards other food groups e.g. calcium rich fruit juice can be counted as both a serving of calcium rich food and fruit
  • Include 2 servings/day of foods that supply essential fatty acids e.g. walnuts, flaxseed, olive, soybean or canola oils
  • Include at least 3 food sources of Vitamin B12/day. If a regular supply of vitamin B12 is not available, a daily supplement might be required
  • Nuts and seeds can be used in place of servings from the fats group

Check out our recipes for inexpensive & tasty vegan and vegetarian meals


  1. Vegetarian Society. (2004). Vegan Nutrition Information Sheet.
  2. Centre for Young Women’s Health. (2004). How to be a Healthy Vegetarian: A guide for teens.
  3. A New Food Guide For North American Vegetarians. (2003). Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 64, 82-86.

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