The Vegetarian Diet: A Beginner’s Guide and Meal Plan

The vegetarian diet has gained widespread popularity in late years. Some studies estimate that vegetarians account for up to 18 % of the ball-shaped population ( 1 ).

apart from the ethical and environmental benefits of cutting meat from your diet, a well-planned vegetarian diet may besides reduce your risk of chronic disease, subscribe weight loss and improve the quality of your diet. This article provides a novice ’ randomness guidebook to the vegetarian diet, including a sample meal plan for one week.

What Is a Vegetarian Diet?

share on Pinterest The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from eating kernel, fish and domestic fowl. People frequently adopt a vegetarian diet for religious or personal reasons, equally well as ethical issues, such as animal rights. Others decide to become vegetarian for environmental reasons, as livestock production increases greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to climate change and requires large amounts of water, energy and natural resources ( 2, 3 ). There are several forms of vegetarianism, each of which differs in their restrictions. The most park types include :

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
  • Lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and eggs but allows dairy products.
  • Ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and dairy products but allows eggs.
  • Pescetarian diet: Eliminates meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
  • Vegan diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products, as well as other animal-derived products, such as honey.
  • Flexitarian diet: A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat, fish or poultry.

Summary Most people who follow a vegetarian diet preceptor ’ t eat kernel, fish or poultry. other variations involve the inclusion body or exclusion of eggs, dairy and other animal products .

Health Benefits

vegetarian diets are associated with a count of health benefits. In fact, studies show that vegetarians tend to have better diet timbre than meat-eaters and a higher intake of crucial nutrients like roughage, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium ( 4, 5 ). A vegetarian diet may provide respective other health boosts a well .

May Enhance Weight Loss

Switching to a vegetarian diet can be an effective strategy if you ’ re looking to lose burden. In fact, one review of 12 studies noted that vegetarians, on average, experienced 4.5 more pounds ( 2 kilogram ) of system of weights loss over 18 weeks than non-vegetarians ( 6 ). similarly, a six-month report in 74 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that vegetarian diets were closely twice as effective at reducing body weight than low-calorie diets ( 7 ). Plus, a analyze in about 61,000 adults showed that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass exponent ( BMI ) than omnivores — BMI being a measurement of body fat based on altitude and weight ( 8 ) .

May Reduce Cancer Risk

Some inquiry suggests that a vegetarian diet may be linked to a lower risk of cancer — including those of the summit, colon, rectum and abdomen ( 9, 10, 11 ). however, current research is limited to experimental studies, which can not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Keep in heed that some studies have turned up inconsistent findings ( 12, 13 ). consequently, more research is needed to understand how vegetarianism may impact cancer hazard .

May Stabilize Blood Sugar

respective studies indicate that vegetarian diets may help maintain healthy blood carbohydrate levels. For example, one review of six studies linked vegetarianism to improved lineage sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes ( 14 ). vegetarian diets may besides prevent diabetes by stabilizing rake sugar levels in the long condition. According to one learn in 2,918 people, switching from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian diet was associated with a 53 % reduced risk of diabetes over an average of five years ( 15 ) .

Promotes Heart Health

vegetarian diets reduce several center disease risk factors to help keep your heart healthy and potent. One study in 76 people tied vegetarian diets to lower levels of triglycerides, full cholesterol and “ bad ” LDL cholesterol — all of which are risk factors for heart disease when elevated ( 16 ). similarly, another recent report in 118 people found that a low-calorie vegetarian diet was more effective at reducing “ bad ” LDL cholesterol than a Mediterranean diet ( 17 ). early research indicates that vegetarianism may be associated with lower blood blackmail levels. High blood pressure is another key hazard factor for heart disease ( 18, 19 ) .

Summary not only do vegetarians tend to have a higher inhalation of several key nutrients, but vegetarianism has been associated with system of weights personnel casualty, reduced cancer hazard, improved blood carbohydrate and better heart health .

Potential Downsides

A all-around vegetarian diet can be healthy and alimentary. however, it may besides increase your risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. meat, domestic fowl and pisces provide a effective amount of protein and omega-3 fatty acid fatso acids, angstrom well as micronutrients like zinc, selenium, iron and vitamin B12 ( 20 ). early animal products like dairy and eggs besides contain batch of calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins ( 21, 22 ). When cutting kernel or other animal products from your diet, it ’ sulfur significant to ensure you ’ re getting these essential nutrients from other sources. Studies show that vegetarians are at a higher risk of protein, calcium, iron, iodine and vitamin B12 deficiencies ( 23, 24, 25, 26 ). A nutritional insufficiency in these key micronutrients can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, anemia, bone loss and thyroid issues ( 27, 28, 29, 30 ). Including a diverseness of fruits, vegetables, solid grains, protein sources and fortified foods is an easily way to ensure you ’ re getting appropriate nutrition. Multivitamins and supplements are another choice to promptly bump up your intake and right for electric potential deficiencies .

Summary Cutting out kernel and animal-based products can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. A well-adjusted diet — possibly alongside supplements — can help prevent deficiencies .

Foods to Eat

A vegetarian diet should include a divers desegregate of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and proteins. To replace the protein provided by kernel in your diet, include a kind of protein-rich implant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, bean curd and seitan. If you follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, eggs and dairy can besides boost your protein intake. Eating nutrient-dense unharmed foods like fruits, vegetables and solid grains will supply a range of important vitamins and minerals to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet. A few healthy foods to eat on a vegetarian diet are :

  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, oranges, melons, pears, peaches
  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots
  • Grains: Quinoa, barley, buckwheat, rice, oats
  • Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts
  • Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocados
  • Proteins: Tempeh, tofu, seitan, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina, eggs, dairy products

Summary A healthy vegetarian diet includes a variety show of alimentary foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and plant-based proteins .

Foods to Avoid

There are many variations of vegetarianism, each with different restrictions. Lacto-ovo vegetarianism, the most common type of vegetarian diet, involves eliminating all meat, domestic fowl and fish. other types of vegetarians may besides avoid foods like eggs and dairy. A vegan diet is the most restrictive form of vegetarianism because it bars kernel, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and any other animal products. Depending on your needs and preferences, you may have to avoid the follow foods on a vegetarian diet :

  • Meat: Beef, veal and pork
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey
  • Fish and shellfish: This restriction does not apply to pescetarians.
  • Meat-based ingredients: Gelatin, lard, carmine, isinglass, oleic acid and suet
  • Eggs: This restriction applies to vegans and lacto-vegetarians.
  • Dairy products: This restriction on milk, yogurt and cheese applies to vegans and ovo-vegetarians.
  • Other animal products: Vegans may choose to avoid honey, beeswax and pollen.

Summary Most vegetarians avoid meat, poultry and pisces. Certain variations of vegetarianism may besides restrict eggs, dairy and other animal products .

Sample Meal Plan

To help get you started, here ’ s a one-week sample distribution meal plan for a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet .


  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit and flaxseeds
  • Lunch: Grilled veggie and hummus wrap with sweet potato fries
  • Dinner: Tofu banh mi sandwich with pickled slaw


  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms
  • Lunch: Zucchini boats stuffed with veggies and feta with tomato soup
  • Dinner: Chickpea curry with basmati rice


  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with chia seeds and berries
  • Lunch: Farro salad with tomatoes, cucumber and feta with spiced lentil soup
  • Dinner: Eggplant parmesan with a side salad


  • Breakfast: Tofu scramble with sauteed peppers, onions and spinach
  • Lunch: Burrito bowl with brown rice, beans, avocado, salsa and veggies
  • Dinner: Vegetable paella with a side salad


  • Breakfast: Whole-wheat toast with avocado and nutritional yeast
  • Lunch: Marinated tofu pita pocket with Greek salad
  • Dinner: Quinoa-black-bean meatballs with zucchini noodles


  • Breakfast: Smoothie of kale, berries, bananas, nut butter and almond milk
  • Lunch: Red lentil veggie burger with avocado salad
  • Dinner: Flatbread with grilled garden vegetables and pesto


  • Breakfast: Kale and sweet potato hash
  • Lunch: Bell peppers stuffed with tempeh with zucchini fritters
  • Dinner: Black bean tacos with cauliflower rice

Summary Above is a sample menu of what one week on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet may look like. This design can be adjusted for other styles of vegetarianism as well .

The Bottom Line

Most vegetarians avoid meat, poultry and pisces, though some besides restrict eggs, dairy and early animal products.

A poise vegetarian diet with alimentary foods like produce, grains, goodly fats and plant-based protein may offer several benefits, but it may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies if ailing planned. Be certain to pay close up care to a few samara nutrients and round out your diet with a variety of healthy hale foods. That way, you ’ ll enjoy the benefits of vegetarianism while minimizing the side effects. Read this article in spanish .

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Category : Health

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