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Food Fact Sheet

Vegetarian diets
saturated fat, contain fewer calories and more fibre
People follow vegetarian diets for and phytonutrients/phytochemicals (these can have
a variety of reasons whatever protective properties) than non-vegetarian diets.
your reason, plan your diet to However, there are some specific nutrients you need to
ensure youre getting all the consider:
required nutrients. Protein
Types of vegetarian diets Vegetarian sources of protein include:
Vegetarians typically dont eat meat, poultry, fish or beans, lentils and chickpeas
shellfish. However different types of vegetarian diets soya and soya products e.g. soya dairy
exist: alternatives, tofu, soya nuts and soya mince
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy foods seeds
and eggs but not meat, poultry or seafood
nuts and nut butters (e.g. peanut butter)
Ovo-vegetarians include eggs but avoid grains such as wheat (found in cereals, pasta and
all other animal foods, including dairy bread), rice and maize.
Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy foods but If you eat them:
exclude eggs, meat, poultry and seafood
Vegans dont eat any animal products at all, milk and dairy products (yoghurts and cheese)
including honey.
mycoprotein a high-protein vegetarian meat
Variations include:
alternative (has added egg).
Pescetarians eat fish and/or shellfish Protein is made up of building blocks called amino
Semi-vegetarians (or flexitarians) acids. Some amino acids are essential as the body
occasionally eat meat or poultry. cant make them itself. Animal proteins contain the
complete mix of essential amino acids. Soya, quinoa
Eating for optimum health and hemp are plant foods containing all the essential
The governments eatwell plate still applies to amino acids.
vegetarians. This includes eating plenty of fruit,
Most other plant proteins provide some, with each
vegetables and starchy foods such as bread, cereals
plant providing a different combination. So, as long
and potatoes; moderate amounts of meat/fish-
as youre eating a mixture of different plant proteins
alternatives; some dairy foods or alternatives; and a
youll be getting all the essential amino acids your body
small amount of food high in fat and/or sugar.
Well planned vegetarian diets can be nutritious and
healthy. They are associated with lower risks of If you eat dairy foods, dont over rely on cheese for
heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, protein or you may end up having too much unhealthy
obesity, certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels. saturated fat in your diet.
This could be because such diets are lower in Iron
Check the label on
Eatwell Guide Red meat is the most easily absorbed source of iron,
packaged foods Use the Eatwell Guide to help you get a balance of healthier and more sustainable food.

Each serving contains
Saturates Sugars
1.3g 34g 0.9g
It shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each food group.

a day
but various plant foods also contribute:
y day
e wh
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fortified breakfast cereals


les rain
12.5% 7% 6.5% 38% 15%
tab Pota or h
ege toes igh Water, lower fat
of an adults reference intake
ndv , br
it a milk, sugar-free
Typical values (as sold) per 100g: 697kJ/ 167kcal
, ri re
Choose foods lower fru ce ve drinks including
of Raisins ,p rsi

dried fruit
in fat, salt and sugars ty les as on tea and coffee
rie ab ta s all count.
va et a nd w
v Potatoes ot Limit fruit juice


and/or smoothies




to a total of



150ml a day.




t omatoe s


leafy green vegetables


Eat at

grain Cous

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cereal Cous

Frozen Bagels

sesame seeds




wholemeal bread.
s ugar L o w f at Spag
Tuna s o f t ch e es e h etti
Plain Leaince
Chick m
nuts peas

To help your body absorb iron from plant foods, include

skimmed drink
Crisps milk Veg
Plain O il
Low fat
y o g hu r t Lower fatad
Sauce spre

a source of vitamin C with your meal (e.g. vegetables,

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ans tive
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so more fish, e
ggs, mea airy a fat a Oil & spreads
red urced beans a t and other proteins D wer tions
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fruit or a glass of fruit juice).

and fish p nd pu Choo ugar op Choose unsaturated oils
proc er week lses, 2 portions of sustainably lower
and use in small amounts
esse , one of which les s
Eat less often and d meat is oily. Eat
in small amounts
Per day 2000kcal 2500kcal = ALL FOOD + ALL DRINKS

Source: Public Health England in association with the Welsh government, Food Standards Scotland and the Foods Standards Agency in Northern Ireland Crown copyright 2016
Calcium fish a week, one of which should be oily. The short
versions may not have the same benefits. Although
Dairy foods are rich in calcium. If youre not eating
our bodies can convert some ALA into EPA and DHA,
these, include plenty of the following: the conversion isnt very efficient. To maximise this
tofu conversion:
calcium-fortified foods e.g. soya milk, yoghurts avoid foods high in saturated fats
and puddings; rice/oat drinks; and fruit juice
limit vegetable oils high in linoleic acid (an
green leafy vegetables, especially kale and pak-
omega-6 fat) such as safflower, sunflower and
choi, but not spinach. Although spinach contains
corn oils and instead obtain this fat from whole
calcium it is bound to a compound called oxalate.
plant foods such as soya
This greatly reduces it absorption making it a poor
source of unusable calcium. focus on plant foods that contain ALAs
brown/white bread If you dont eat fish, consider a supplement made
sesame seeds/ tahini from algae derived DHA, include sea vegetables
nuts into your diet or eat foods fortified with DHA.
dried fruit e.g. apricots and figs.
Vitamin D Phytates found in plant foods such as wholegrains and
beans reduce zinc absorption, so its important to eat
Our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight during the
good sources of zinc-containing foods. Eat fermented
spring and summer. At other times of the year eat soya such as tempeh and miso; beans (soak dried
foods that contain vitamin D, such as: beans then rinse before cooking to increase zinc
most margarines absorption); wholegrains; nuts; seeds and some
fortified brands of soya milks, yogurts and fortified breakfast cereals.
desserts check the label Selenium
fortified breakfast cereals check the label Meat, fish and nuts are good sources of selenium. If
dried skimmed milk you dont eat meat/fish include some nuts into your
fortified yoghurts diet, especially Brazil nuts.
eggs. Iodine
Additional supplements are recommended for all If youre a vegan include small amounts of iodised salt
pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under or sea vegetables for your iodine.
five-years-old, people aged over 65 years and people Extra care is needed during pregnancy, breastfeeding,
who are not exposed to much sun. Speak to your weaning and in childhood to make sure that all
doctor or a health professional. nutritional needs are met. Speak to a dietitian or other
health professional.
Vitamin B12
Eggs and dairy foods contain Vitamin B12. Vegans Summary
should include fortified foods containing Vitamin B12 Well-planned vegetarian diets are
(check the label): appropriate for all stages of life
yeast extract and have many benefits. These
soya milk, yoghurts and desserts guidelines will help you enjoy all
the health benefits and ensure
breakfast cereals youre eating a nutritious and
certain brands of rice drinks and oat drinks. complete diet.
Further information:
Omega-3 fats Food Fact Sheets on
There are two types of omega-3s: other topics including
long versions found in oily fish docosahexaenoic Healthy Eating,
acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Supplements, Calcium
and Vitamin D can be
short versions from vegetable oils, particularly
found at
flaxseed, walnut, rapeseed and soya oils alpha
linolenic acid (ALA).
The long versions are particularly good for us and
current advice recommends eating two portions of
This Food Factsheet is a public service of The British Dietetic Association (BDA) intended for information only.
It is not a substitute for proper medical diagnosis or dietary advice given by a dietitian. If you need to see a
dietitian, visit your GP for a referral or: for a private dietitian. To check your dietitian
is registered check
This Food Fact Sheet and others are available to download free of charge at
Written by Lynne Garton, Dietitian.
The information sources used to develop this fact sheet are available at
BDA October 2014. Review date October 2017. Updated March 2016.