Vegetarian Diets: Nutritional Adequacy
The days of thinking of a vegetarian diet as a diet that few
people adhere to are behind us. It is vastly becoming a popular way
of life. Most airlines and restaurants now offer vegetarian meals.
More and more people are turning towards vegetarian diets as a way of
life. Some people choose a vegetarian diet as a way to eat healthy
and achieve their health goals. For others the choice to become a
vegetarian is a selective choice to avoid consuming food and food
products from animal origin. There are three common types of
- Vegan or Total Vegetarian-only foods of plant origin
are included in this diet plan.
- Lacto-Vegetarian-includes all plant products and dairy
products but no meat or eggs.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian-includes all plant products, dairy
products and eggs.
When comparing the Recommended Dietary Allowances with the lacto
and lacto-ovo vegetarian diets these diets are nutritionally adequate
with some exceptions. You can get enough protein from a total
vegetarian diet as long as the variety and amounts of food consumed
are adequate. Concerns are:
- A potential deficiency of the total vegetarian diet
is calcium especially for females at all ages, teenagers and
young adult males. A viable option for ensuring adequate
calcium intake is a calcium-fortified milk alternate
available in supermarkets.
- Other nutrients of concern
in the total vegetarian diet are B12, riboflavin, iron,
vitamin A, vitamin D, high quality protein and total
- It is difficult for the total vegetarian
diet to provide the energy needs for children due to the
volume of food required. Ideally all vegetarians should be
seen by a registered dietian to assess the adequacy of their
diet and determine the need for further vitamin and or
mineral supplementation needs.