There are lots of question surrounding what it means to be a vegetarian. What is good vegetarian food? What should you take into consideration when going vegetarian? Do you need to go completely vegetarian to eat vegetarian?
It depends, of course, on WHY you eat vegetarian food.
If you eat vegetarian for the sake of the environment, consider buying organic food. If it’s possible buy locally grown vegetables that are in season. The vitamin content is higher on fresh produce.
If you are a meat eater with a meat-free day a week, you don’t need to think about protein and vitamin B12. If you are a beginner vegetarian or a fully-fledged vegetarian, or leaning towards a vegan diet, it is a lot more important to know how to compose a meal that gives you enough nutrition. A recipe like ”Pasta with Broccoli” may be too low in protein.
Vitamin B12 is especially present in meat and fish, but can be found in eggs, milk and cheese. Vegans should consider taking B12 supplements.
Proteins are another source of debate amongst vegetarians and vegans. How much do you need? It depends on age, sex and your metabolism.
NFA recommends a daily intake of 10-20 E% protein. That means that 10-20 % of the total daily energy intake should come from protein. If your daily need is 2000 calories a day, you should eat around 75 g of protein. So, how do you get enough? Easy, you eat food containing protein. Here are a few examples:
- 1 medium sized egg contains 6 g of protein
- 50 g of cashew nuts contain 9 g of protein (but also 22 g of fat!)
- 100 ml / 3 1/2 oz kidney beans contain 8 g of protein
- 100 ml / 3 1/2 oz semi skimmed milk contains 3 g of protein
- 1 slice of cheddar cheese contain 7 g of protein
- 100 ml / 3 1/2 oz boiled lentils contain 8 g of protein
- 1 slice of whole meal bread contain 3 g of protein
- 100 ml / 3 1/2 oz cottage cheese contains12 g of protein
It does not have to be more difficult than that. Just add a few protein rich foods to each meal and you will get the right amount of protein.
You can read more about the calculation here:
Vegetarian vs. vegan
Some foods are perceived as “vegetarian” when they are actually not. Vegetarians usually eat dairy products, but they may not realize that some foods contain animal products. For example, cottage cheese and other cheeses may contain rennet, an animal product. If you want the complete vegetarian options read food labels carefully… and find alternatives.
Gelatin is an animal product and can be replaced with pectin.
If you are a vegan, it becomes a bit trickier to find completely animal free foods. Honey has “traveled” through a bee and some strict vegans will not eat it.
One might think that Quorn works fine for vegans, but it contains egg white. Even most store bought pesto contains parma cheese which comes from animals.
Good luck now and bon appetit!