Vegetarian Eating: A Guide

A well balanced vegetarian diet meets healthy eating recommendations and is nutritionally adequate for all stages of life including childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and lactation.


  • Lacto-ovovegetarians include dairy and eggs in their diet but exclude animal flesh

  • Lacto-vegetarians include dairy in their diet but exclude eggs and animal flesh

  • Ovo-vegetarians include eggs in their diet but exclude dairy and animal flesh

  • Vegans exclude all animal-derived foods from their diet including eggs and dairy and generally honey


Important for growth and repair of all body cells, formation of enzymes and hormones, normal functioning of muscles and nerves and immune protection.

Protein Food Sources are legumes (eg., beans, lentils, chickpeas), soy foods (eg., tofu, tempeh, soy

milk, soy yoghurt), textured vegetable protein (TVP), eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy foods (eg., milk, yoghurt and cheese), quinoa, amaranth grain, wholegrains.


Important for oxygen transport around the body.

Iron food sources are legumes, iron-fortified foods (eg., breads and cereals), tofu and tempeh, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, eggs, fried druit, quinoa, amaranth grain, wholegrains.

Tips to increase iron absorption are:

  • Consume foods high in vitamin C (citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, broccoli) with meals.

  • Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals, as tannins in tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption.

  • Avoid taking calcium supplements with meals.


Important for strong bones and teeth, proper nerve and muscle function and blood clotting.

Calcium food sources are dairy foods, calcium fortified foods (eg., soy, nut, oat and rice milks and fruit juices), almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, unhulled tahini (sesame seed paste), amaranth grain, dried apricots, figs, soybeans, calcium set-tofu, asian greens, kale, collard greens, broccoli.

Tips to increase absorption of calcium are:

  • Ensure adequate vitamin D.

  • Limit salt intake, as salt increases calcium excretion.

  • Limit caffeine intake, as caffeine in tea, coffee, cola and high energy drinks inhibits calcium absorption.

  • Phytic acid in bran and raw vegetables inhibits absorption so have some of your vegetables cooked and choose wholegrain breads and cereals instead of adding bran.


Found in every part of our body and has a wide range of functions. It is important for growth and development, would healing, healthy skin and a strong immune system.

Zinc food sources are legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese, cow’s milk and soy products, eg., tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy yoghurt.

Tips to increase zinc absorption are:

  • Soak legumes before cooking or use canned legumes.

  • Consume sprouted beans, grains and seeds and bread that contain yeast.

  • Consume foods containing organic acids such as citric acid (in fruit and vegetables) at meals.


Helps with calcium absorption into bones and is important for the immune system.

Vitamin D food sources are eggs, vitamin D-fortified foods, eg., margarine and some milks. Vitamin D is also obtainable by the action of sunlight on bare skin.


Plays a critical role in good health and protection against disease.

Omega-3 food sources are flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans, seaweed, tofu, eggs (omega-rich eggs are also available), chia seeds, linseeds (stored in the fridge), omega-3 fortified soy

milks (soy milk that has omega-3 added).

Tips to achieve optimal intake ratio of essential fatty acids are:

  • Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Increase omega-3 consumption and reduce omega-6 consumption by replacing sunflower, safflower and

corn oils with canola, soybean or olive oil.


Required for cell division, the formation of red blood cells and maintenance of the nervous system.

Vitamin B12 food sources are: B12-fortified foods (eg., soy milk, meat analogues, veggie burgers and Marmite that have had vitamin B12 added). A vitamin B12 supplement will be needed if these foods are not eaten regularly.

Source: Prepared by the National Vegetarian Interest Group – Dietitians Association of Australia

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