Variety for vegetarians

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 April, 2008, 12:00am

This week Stephanie Smailes, 17

Stephanie asks: I have recently become vegetarian and want to know what kinds of nutritious foods I can eat in place of meat.

Wynnie says: Vegetarian diets can be healthy but eating balanced meals requires extra attention.

Eating a variety of foods which include legumes, eggs, soy foods and nuts will ensure you get the protein you need to grow. Also make sure you get enough iron, calcium, zinc, vitamins D and B12.

Aim to eat at least five portions a day of fruit and vegetables and base your meals around wholegrain foods such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or quinoa.

Here's a sample menu for you to follow, this will ensure you'll meet all your nutrient requirements.

Breakfast: Bowl of porridge with chopped banana and reduced fat milk, half a grapefruit, glass of orange juice.

Lunch: Whole-meal pitta bread with reduced-fat hummus and grated carrots, reduced-fat fruit yoghurt, fruit salad.

Dinner: Grilled salmon steak with boiled new potatoes, bowl of green salad with reduced-fat dressing, fruit sorbet

Suitable snacks: Yoghurt drinks, fruit, breadsticks, rye crisp breads, pumpernickel bread with hummus.

For vegans

Breakfast: Two Weetabix with handful of strawberries and fortified soya milk, whole-meal bread with vegan margarine, glass of orange juice

Lunch: Lentil and vegetable soup, whole-grain bagel with vegan cheese and cucumber, fortified soya yoghurt, orange

Dinner: Tofu and vegetable curry with brown rice or quinoa, soaked dried fruit sprinkled with muesli with fortified soya yoghurt

Suitable snacks: Handful of sesame/pumpkin seeds, fruit, pumpernickel bread with peanut butter.

The United States Department of Food and Agriculture offers the following tips for vegetarians:

Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don't overload meals with high-fat cheeses to replace the meat.

Calcium-fortified soy-based beverages can provide calcium in amounts similar to milk. They are usually low in fat and do not contain cholesterol.

Vegetarian products often look and taste like their non-vegetarian versions, but are usually lower in saturated fat and are cholesterol free. Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice. You can experiment with vegetarian meat substitutes such as textured vegetable protein, tofu or tempeh.

Stephanie's diary

Breakfast: Toast with jam, a cup of tea

Mid-morning snack: Fruit - usually a banana, kiwi, or orange

Lunch: Fish siu mai, potato salad with vegetables or tuna sandwich

Afternoon snack: Flapjacks, seaweed, tea

Dinner: Pasta with ratatouille, pesto, or tomato sauce or steamed fish with rice or potatoes or a Thai dish with seafood or vegetables

Exercise: Muay Thai boxing once a week for an hour, and daily toning exercises such as sit-ups and leg raises