Alan Sage mentioned an interesting reason for refining his vegetarian diet. He said he noticed that fish have eyes and quit eating them. That interesting way of looking at food made me wonder about what it is vegetarians actually should eat. Plants Penetrate Protein Marketplace
From 1954-1992, the FDA recommended the four basic food groups: meat proteins, beans, eggs, and nuts; dairy products; grains; and fruits and vegetables. The FDA uses the food pyramid, which recommends proper portioning of food. I have taught both ways, but I didn’t know much about vegetarian eating. How do vegetarians maintain their nutrient intake without eating meat and sometimes other foods, depending on the kind of vegetarian one becomes?
The USDA guidelines suggest vegetarians especially focus on getting enough of these nutrients: protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B-12. I suppose it’s not a problem for the other nutrients, as they are inherently in veggies. There are also many plant proteins that make good eating. Beans, nuts, butters made from nuts, peas, and anything soy is in this category. Milk products, as well as eggs, are another good protein source if you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
Iron is another important nutrient and it’s in lots of foods. Cereals, spinach, kidney beans, turnip greens, whole wheat bread and some dried fruits boost the iron you needed for carrying oxygen in the blood. Calcium comes from milk products, along with a range of things from cereals, soy, and dark green leafy vegetables like bok choy and collards.
Zinc is needed for biochemical reactions and a healthy immune system. Again, beans, cereals, and wheat germ and pumpkin seeds. Milk, too, if that’s your category. Vitamin B-12 is the last critical nutrient. It’s in fortified foods (and animal products) and comes from milk products, eggs, and fortified cereal, soy drinks, yeast, and veggie burgers.
Eating a variety of food supplies the other needs. There’s no need to overload on fatty cheeses for protein; stick with the low fat beans and peas. Also, empty calories in the “discretionary group” should be eaten with care. This includes desserts, oils, sugary anything, and alcoholic beverages.