Healthy Eating for Lifetime
How can I make healthy choices if I don't eat meat?

Vegetarian or 'plant-based' diets can be a very healthy eating style. By not eating meat, you automatically consume less cholesterol and saturated fat. All the other rules still apply, however, of practicing variety, balance and moderation.

By looking at the Food Guide Pyramid below, it is easy to see there are many non-animal sources of the protein. To start, get in the habit of having some kind of cooked beans (legumes) every day. 

  • Some examples of these are: 
  • green or red lentils, 
  • peanuts, 
  • split peas, 
  • pinto, 
  • soy (beans, tofu, tempeh) , 
  • garbanzo, black, white, kidney, navy beans, and so many more. 

You are probably already familiar with some of them as chili with kidney beans, refried pintos used in Mexican-style dishes, red beans and rice, lentil soup or chili, garbanzo beans made into hummus. Beans are available in many forms and with different spicing to give them a great flavor. Nuts are high in protein but also deliver a lot of fat compared to beans. Enjoy them in moderation. If you are choosing a meat-free diet, it is important to choose at least one serving from these options every day. One cup of cooked beans give you the protein in 2 ounces of meat.

For more, please visit the Nutrition Center.

Source: King County Government, (

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Last Editorial Review: 5/14/2004