Are vegetarian diets always healthier?

Nutrition team

Despite the fact that vegetarian diets tend to be, on average, lower in fat and calories than diets containing meat, this is not always the case. If you are trying to lose weight when following a vegetarian diet you must eat carefully to ensure your diet provides enough protein, vitamins and minerals but is also one that isn't high in fat.

The vitamins and minerals that a vegetarian risks missing out on are iron and vitamin B12. To ensure you get enough iron, eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, pulse vegetables, dried fruit and fortified breakfast cereals. It may be useful to keep a supplement in the house for the weeks you know you probably haven’t been careful to take enough iron-rich foods.

Since vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products, you also need to make sure to eat fortified breakfast cereals and low fat dairy products such as yoghurt and semi-skimmed milk to get enough. Vegans really need to take a B12 supplement.

Cheese is often eaten in large quantities as a good source of protein in a vegetarian diet but is best to cut down if trying to lose weight because of it’s high fat content. When you are eating cheese use a small amount of a strongly flavoured cheese like Danish blue or mature Cheddar or go for the reduced fat versions that are available.

Cheese contains calcium in a form that is readily absorbed by the body but so does semi-skimmed milk, skimmed milk and very low fat yoghurts - so eat plenty of these low fat foods rather than high fat cheese to ensure you get enough calcium each day.

Be careful with how you cook your food! The same rules apply as with meat eaters. Use a minimum of fat when frying and avoid adding butter to bread and high fat dressings to salads.

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.