It depends on the vegetarian. It is completely possible to have a very healthy well balanced vegetarian diet, but honestly in my experience as a vegetarian it can be easier or harder to do this depending on where you live. There are lots of protein rich alternatives to meat: nuts, beans, tofu, quinoa, eggs (though some people rule this out) and dairy products. The easiest places for me to be a vegetarian were California and Portland, Oregon, where there were a lot of options. I also pulled it off in Korea thanks to plentiful tofu. Now I live in Chile where I’m the only vegetarian I know and it’s a little more challenging to meet my dietary needs and preferences.
Absolutely. Like americalibre said, it totally depends on the vegetarian (just as it does the non-vegetarian), but if done correctly, vegetarians can easily fulfill if not go beyond any dietary requirements. There are a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and other food items that will provide an abundance of nutrients (and flavor!).
Unfortunately what happens is that people who go vegetarian don’t fully explore all of their options so they end up resorting to pre-packaged, processed, unhealthy choices like ice-cream and pizza (no meat, but not necessarily the healthiest options out there).
Some food items I’ve found recently that are tasty and nutritious are:
Adding on to the previous answers, protein, particularly complete proteins, have always been the biggest challenge for any vegetarian I’ve known. In addition to the ones already listed, spirulina, hemp seed, amaranth, and buckwheat are all complete proteins. Also, combinations of food can make complete proteins such as hummus on pita bread, nut butter on whole grain bread, pasta with beans, veggie burgers on bread, and split pea soup with whole grain bread. All of these are delicious and healthy ways to get complete proteins as a vegetarian.
Yes. You are able to get almost all your nutrients from plant sources. If you are including eggs and dairy products, then you can get all your vitamins. The following is my answer to another question asking what vegan diets lack.
Vitamin B12. People use this as a basis to claim that humans are meant to eat meat, because B12 is essential to normal function of the brain and nervous system as well as for blood formation. B12 is actually in bacteria that lives in the intenstines or gut of the animal (like cows), and the bacteria also found in soil. If you eat dirt, you might be consuming a good amount of vitamin B12, but I would not suggest doing that. Going by this, it seems that the easiest and most common sense way of getting B12 is through consuming animal products. Do not fear, many cereals are fortified with the stuff, as well as soy products, energy bars, and nurtitional yeast. Unreliable sources claim that you can also get sufficient amount of vitamin B12 through laver (seaweed), barley grass and fermented products.Some other sources claim that humans’ intenstinal tracts contains bacteria that produces B12, but that might not be enough.
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