A vegetarian diet is a meal plan that contains mostly plants, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts, with little or no animal products.
Types of vegetarian diets include:
A person may choose to follow a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons, including:
Vegetarian diets most often lead to healthier outcomes:
Compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians usually eat:
A well-planned, carefully monitored vegetarian diet can deliver good nutrition. Dietary recommendations vary with the type of vegetarian diet.
For children and adolescents these diets need to be carefully planned, because it may be hard to get all the nutrients needed for growth and development. Vegetarian diets are high in fiber. High-fiber diets may lack some of the calories children need for growth, and cause some growth problems.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as the elderly, should carefully monitor their vegetarian diet to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Vitamins that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet include:
Vegetarian diets that include some animal products (lacto-vegetarian and lacto-ovovegetarian) are nutritionally sound. Vegan diets need to be carefully planned to include the right amounts of important nutrients.
The following are recommendations for feeding children on vegetarian diets:
NOTE: A registered dietician should review any specialized diet to make sure it meets you or your child's nutritional needs. This should be done before starting the diet.
Lacto-ovovegetarian; Semi-vegetarian; Partial vegetarian; Vegan; Lacto-vegetarian
National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). National Academy Press. Washington, D.C., 2005.
National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C., 2005.
Escott-Stump S. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2010. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 2010.
Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professionals Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, Il. American Dietetic Association, 2007.
Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Accessed on February 14, 2011.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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