Q. I have recently become vegetarian. What should I watch for so I don't miss out on nutrients?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 02 August 2013.
Tagged: balanced diet, energy, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, meal planning, nutrition, nuts, protein, special diets, vegetables, vegetarian

Q. I have recently become vegetarian. What should I watch for so I don't miss out on nutrients?

A. If you have only recently started cooking vegetarian meals and looking for meatless swaps, here's how to avoid the 3 most common nutrition pitfalls.

1. Iron is poorly absorbed from vegetables and grains, so add a vitamin C-rich food to your meals such as citrus fruit (eg orange juice, a good squeeze of lemon), tomato juice, a green salad, capsicum or berries. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from non-meat sources.

2. Fat can still be as high as from a meat-based diet if you eat deep-fried foods (spring rolls, fried tofu) or choose pasta or baked vegetable dishes with a creamy or cheese sauce (cheesy lasagne, creamy pasta) or pies (cheese and spinach pie). Keep those to a minimum especially if you're watching your weight - which is often one of the key reasons people start eating vegetarian in the first place.

Consider the high fat count in an average serve of four popular vegetarian dishes:

Vegetarian lasagne 35 g
Cheese and vegetable flan 40 g
Spinach and fetta cheese filo triangles  38 g
Vegetable laksa with fried tofu cubes  36 g


3. Protein from meat and chicken should be replaced with protein from lentils, chick peas, tofu, soy beans as well as eggs and cheese if you eat these. Don't just cook up veggies for dinner! A plate of veges on their own doesn't make a balanced meal. 

Canned beans or canned lentils are convenient and are nutritionally equivalent to beans you've soaked and cooked yourself.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life  is a new update on all the things you've read or heard about. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!