Vegetarian Nutrition

Eating a vegetarian diet can be quite a challenge. Although definitions of vegetarianism vary, most  vegetarians don’t not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or any by-products of the death of these animals. They do, however, eat eggs and some dairy products.

Anyone who restricts the available food sources in their diet needs to be sure that they are getting adequate amounts of both the three key macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) as well as the essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).  The Vegetarian Society therefore recommends that on a daily basis a vegetarian should be eating the following:


• 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables

• 3- 4 servings of cereals/grains or potatoes

• 2- 3 servings of pulses, nuts and seeds

• 2 servings of milk, cheese, eggs or soya products

• a small amount of vegetable oil, margarine or butter

• some yeast extract that has been fortified with vitamin B12


Replacing common sources of protein can be one of the biggest challenges for those who follow a vegetarian diet.  Vegetarian foods that contain protein include: 


• Dairy products

• Eggs

• Nuts and seeds

• Peas, beans, lentils

• Soya products and mycoproteins

• Wheat protein (seitan)

• Whole grains (rice and cereals)


There are also various forms of protein powder available that vegetarians can eat, including soy protein isolate or pea protein powder.  Nutritionists recommend that women need about 45g of protein per day, while men require 55g per day. However, for anyone who exercises regularly, particularly in sports that require the building and maintenance of a large muscle mass, such as rugby or bodybuilding, the demands can be considerably higher.

Getting adequate amounts of carbohydrates is rarely a problem on a vegetarian diet, carbs are found in fruit, vegetables, milk, cereals, bread, rice, and pasta.


To ensure that you get enough essential vitamins, consider the following common vegetarian sources of vitamins: 


  •  Vitamin A- Carrots, tomatoes, peaches & margarine.
  • Vitamin B- Cereals, nuts, pulses and green vegetables.
  • Vitamin B12- Bananas, soya milk, some cereals and veggie burgers.
  • Vitamin C- Fresh fruit, salad vegetables and potatoes.
  • Vitamin D- Most margarines, milk, cheese and butter.
  • Vitamin E- Eggs and vegetable oil.
  • Vitamin K- Fresh vegetables, cereals and bacterial synthesis in the intestine.


With a bit of knowledge and planning it is possible to eat a healthy vegetarian diet, enjoying the many benefits that come from this way of eating.