2.5 million Australians are now eating all or almost all vegetarian. Research conducted by Roy Morgan has found that the trend in vegetarian eating continues to grow — with 2.5 million people (12.1% of the population) in Australia now eating all or almost all vegetarian. The 2018 data shows a continued growth in people choosing kinder, more sustainable meals — up from 2.1 million people (11.2%) eating all or almost all vegetarian in 2016, and 1.7 million people (9.7%) in 2012.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetarian diets continue to increase in popularity. Reasons for following a vegetarian diet are varied but include health benefits, such as reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Yet some vegetarians rely too heavily on processed foods, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. And they may not eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods, thus missing out on the nutrients they provide.
The key is to be aware of your nutritional needs so that you plan a diet that meets them.
How many types of Vegetarians are there?
- Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included.
- Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
- Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow fish.
- Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.
Some people follow a semi vegetarian diet — also called a flexitarian diet — which is primarily a plant-based diet but includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
Planning a healthy eating schedule
To get the most out of a vegetarian diet, choose a variety of healthy plant-based foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and whole grains. Cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and refined sugars.
Vegetarian diet: Daily amounts based on 2,000-calorie diet
- Vegetables – 2.5 Cups a day
- Fruits – 2 Cups a day
- Whole Grains – 6.5 ounces a day
- Dairy – 3 cups a day
- Protein foods – 3.5 ounces a day
- Oils – 27 grams a day
*All foods are assumed to be in nutrient-dense form, lean or low-fat, and prepared without added fats, sugars, refined starches or salt.
Source – 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Keep in mind that the more restrictive your diet is, the more challenging it can be to get all the nutrients you need. A vegan diet, for example, eliminates natural food sources of vitamin B-12, as well as milk products, which are good sources of calcium.
To be sure that your diet includes everything your body needs, pay special attention to the following nutrients:
- Calcium and Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Iron and Zinc
Getting started with a Vegetarian Diet
One way to transition to a vegetarian diet is to gradually reduce the meat in your diet while increasing fruits and vegetables. Here are a couple of tips to help you get started:
- Ramp up. Each week increase the number of meatless meals you already enjoy, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce or vegetable stir-fry. Find ways to include greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and collards, in your daily meals.
- Substitute. Take favorite recipes and try them without meat. For example, make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and adding an extra can of black beans. Or make fajitas using extra-firm tofu rather than chicken. You may be surprised to find that many dishes require only simple substitutions.
- Branch out. Check the internet for vegetarian menus. Buy or borrow vegetarian cookbooks. Check out ethnic restaurants to sample new vegetarian cuisines. The more variety you bring to your vegetarian diet, the more likely you’ll be to meet all your nutritional needs.