Vegetarian diets vary
greatly between individuals, as do eating patterns. However, a typical vegetarian
diet can closely match current dietary recommendations for healthy eating.
Nutritional guidelines from a number of expert bodies form the basis for current healthy eating advice. The most important of these include the National Advisory Committee on Nutrition Education report (NACNE, 1983) and three reports by the Department of Health's Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA, 1984; COMA, 1991; COMA, 1994a).
There is a high level of consensus concerning healthy eating recommendations. Cannon (1992) analysed one hundred reports on food, nutrition and public health published between 1961 and 1991 and found that experts worldwide agreed that diets high in fat and saturated fat and with insufficient fruit, vegetables, cereals and other starchy foods were a major cause of coronary heart disease, some cancers, obesity, diabetes and constipation.
Current healthy eating advice focuses on reducing total and saturated fat intake while increasing the consumption of complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre. The major sources of total fat and saturated fat in the diet are meat and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates and fibre are provided by plant foods.
By far the easiest method of successfully implementing dietary advice is to limit the intake of foods of animal origin and increase the consumption of fruit, vegetables, cereals and pulses.
As a basic guide, it is recommended that a vegetarian diet should include the following each day:
· 3 or 4 servings of cereals/grains - provides energy, fibre, B vitamins, calcium and iron.
· 2 or 3 servings of pulses, nuts or seeds - provides protein, energy, fibre, calcium, iron and zinc
· 4 or 5 servings of fruit or vegetables, including:
dark green leafy vegetables - for folate, calcium and iron;
red, orange and yellow vegetables - for beta-carotene;
fresh fruit - for vitamin C;
dried fruit - for fibre and iron.
· 2 servings of dairy or soya products - provides protein, energy, calcium and other minerals, vitamin B12, vitamin D.
· A small amount of plant oils, margarine or butter - provides energy, essential fatty acids, vitamin E (plant oils) and vitamins A and D (margarine or butter).