What Do Vegetarians Eat? A Look at Misconceptions

Woman Eating Carrot

"What do vegetarians eat?" is one of the top questions people ask people when they decide to embrace vegetarianism.

Vegetarian Misconceptions

One reason "What do vegetarians eat?" is such a popular question is because the general public often overlook the benefits of vegetarianism and instead harbor concerns such as:

Vegetarians don't get enough protein because they don't eat meat

The problem with this misconception is the foundational belief that the best source of protein is meat. On top of that, conflicting expert opinions haggle over how much protein is necessary in the daily diet. Scientific studies place the amount of calories from protein needed each day at 10-15%. If that sounds too low to you, think about a newborn baby and how fast they grow while nursing. Breast milk is only ten percent protein, and it provides all the nutrients the baby needs to grow and develop to twice it's weight within the first six months.

What many people don't realize is that plants are an often-overlooked source of protein. That's right; plant-based protein. You don't need to eat foods from animals to take in enough protein.

Vegetarians lack calcium in their diet

With concern over bone loss, not getting enough calcium is a real concern to many people. However, what they fail to realize is that high animal protein diets tend to leech calcium from bones while those who eat a vegetarian diet can actually eat less calcium because they don't have to fight the effect of animal protein on bone health.

A Vegetarian diet is healthy

Just because someone gives up meat, doesn't mean their diet it healthy As with any diet, planning is important, because if a vegetarian consumes more calories than they need, and/or a diet high in saturated fats-it is not a healthy diet.

Vegetarian Sources of Protein

Vegetarian sources of plant proteins can supply sufficient amounts of amino acids (both essential and non-essential) amino acids, but it does take planning. Visit the Veggie Table for specific nutritional information when preparing your vegetarian menu.

Vegetarian Sources of Calcium

Unfortunately, many people think the only source of calcium is found in dairy products. However, vegetarians take in calcium from soy or almond milk, but what many people don't realize is that most fruits also contain some calcium. Here are a few other plant sources for calcium:

  • Almonds
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Lima Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Pecans
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts

Warranted Concerns

One concern that vegetarians should take to heart is whether or not they get enough Vitamin B12 due to the fact that the only unfortified sources of vitamin B12 are:

  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

If you choose to give up dairy and eggs along with meat, then you run the risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. Since B12 isn't found in fruits, vegetables or nuts, the vegetarian must take in fortified sources such at:

  • Vegan stock
  • Veggieburger mixes
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Soy milks
  • Vegetable margarine
  • Sunflower margarine
  • Breakfast cereals

Balanced Diet

It's funny how those who are not vegetarian tend to fuss about the fact that vegetarians don't eat a balanced diet, when in fact most people who are not vegetarian don't eat a balanced diet. Either way, eating a healthy, balanced diet does take some planning. Vegetarians who take the time to plan, can enjoy tasty food and take in all the nutrients they need including vitamins, minerals and protein.

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What Do Vegetarians Eat? A Look at Misconceptions