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Skipping meats: Ways to get all the nutrients your body needs on a vegetarian diet

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MILWAUKEE -- These days a lot of people are moving toward plant-based eating because it's healthy. If you do it right. Registered dietitian, Jenny Crouse with Children's Hospital, Kohl’s Cares and Mission: Healthy Kids, joins Real Milwaukee with more details.

A vegetarian eating pattern can be a healthy option for kids and adults. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie and nutrient needs. Your diet should include all the food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy or dairy substitutes, proteins and healthy fats.

What is a vegetarian diet?

  • A vegetarian diet does not include meat and some, or all, other animal foods. There are many types of vegetarians:
  • Vegans. No food from animals. This includes red meat, milk, cheese, honey, eggs, fish and poultry.
  • Lacto-vegetarians. No red meat, eggs, fish or poultry. Will drink milk and eat milk products.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians. No meat, fish or poultry. Will drink milk and eat milk products and eggs.
  • Flexitarians. Follow a plant-based diet. Will sometimes eat small amounts of fish, poultry and red meat.

What important nutrients do vegetarians need to pay attention to?

  • Protein. You need protein for healthy skin, bones, muscle and organs. Eggs and milk products are good sources if you are a vegetarian. If not, other ways to get enough protein are by eating a diet high in soy products, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat substitutes and tofu.
  • Calcium. You need calcium for strong bones and teeth. If you consume milk products, you will get enough calcium. If you do not, other plant sources that are high in calcium include: green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and turnip greens. Tofu and soy milk are also are good sources.
  • Vitamin D. This vitamin is important to get calcium into bones. Cow`s milk is a great source of Vitamin D, but most alternative milks are supplemented as well. Sunlight helps the body produce Vitamin D. If you do not drink milk, daily sunlight will help. Vegans also drink soy milk or eat cereals with added Vitamin D.
  • Iron. Iron is important for red blood cells. It is very high in meat products. Other good sources include: beans, peas, lentils, dark green vegetables and dried fruit. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron. Strawberries, citrus fruits, and tomatoes are some foods high in Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is important for your body to make red blood cells. It is found in all animal products, but there are no good plant sources. You can get Vitamin B12 from cereals or soy products that have added vitamin B12, or take a supplement.
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