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Healthy Eating for Vegetarians

A vegetarian eating pattern can be a healthy option. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie and nutrient needs. 

Think about protein

Your protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant foods. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans and peas, nuts, and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh). Lacto-ovo vegetarians also get protein from eggs and dairy foods.

Bone up on sources of calcium

Calcium is used for building bones and teeth. Some vegetarians consume dairy products, which are excellent sources of calcium. Other sources of calcium for vegetarians include calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage), tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard, turnip, and mustard greens; and bok choy).

Make simple changes

Many popular main dishes are or can be vegetarian — such as pasta primavera, pasta with marinara or pesto sauce, veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, tofu-vegetable stir-fry, and bean burritos.

Enjoy a cookout

For barbecues, try veggie or soy burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and fruit kabobs. Grilled veggies are great, too!

Include beans and peas

Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Enjoy some vegetarian chili, three bean salad, or split pea soup. Make a hummus filled pita sandwich.

Try different veggie versions

A variety of vegetarian products look — and may taste — like their non-vegetarian counterparts but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links. For dinner, rather than hamburgers, try bean burgers or falafel (chickpea patties).

Make some small changes at restaurants

Most restaurants can make vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces or nonmeat items, such as tofu and beans for meat, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. Ask about available vegetarian options.

Nuts make great snacks

Choose unsalted nuts as a snack and use them in salads or main dishes. Add almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of cheese or meat to a green salad.

Get your vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is naturally found only in animal products. Vegetarians should choose fortified foods such as cereals or soy products, or take a vitamin B12 supplement if they do not consume any animal products. Check the Nutrition Facts label for vitamin B12 in fortified products.

Find a vegetarian pattern for you

Your protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant foods. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans and peas, nuts, and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh). Lacto-ovo vegetarians also get protein from eggs and dairy foods.

Go to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 page and check the appendices for vegetarian (and vegan) adaptations of the USDA food patterns at 12 calorie levels.

Adapted from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s Web site.

Recipe of the Month: Cranberry Walnut Coleslaw

 Serves 10, ¾ cup per serving



Box grater

Cutting board


Large bowl

Measuring cups

Measuring spoons

Mixing spoon

Sharp knife

Vegetable peeler



1 (1-pound) head cabbage

3 medium carrots

1 cup walnuts

1/3 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup canola oil

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cranberries



1.  Rinse cabbage and carrots. Thinly slice cabbage. Peel and grate carrots. 
2.  Chop walnuts.
3.  In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, celery seed, and salt. Add cabbage, carrots, walnuts, and cranberries. Toss to mix well.



If you buy a head of cabbage larger than 1 pound, slice up leftover cabbage to use in another meal. Try sautéing with sliced apples and seasoning with a little cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serve with chicken or pork.

This coleslaw keeps well for up to 1 day.

Save More at the Grocery Store!

Find deals right under your nose

Look for coupons with your receipt, as peel-offs on items, and on signs along aisle shelves.

Search for coupons

Many stores still send ads and coupons for promotion, so don’t overlook that so-called “junk mail.” You can also do a Web search for “coupons.” Go through your coupons at least once a month and toss out any expired ones.

Look for savings in the newspaper

Brand name coupons are found as inserts in the paper every Sunday — except on holiday weekends. Some stores will double the value of brand name coupons on certain days.

Join your store’s loyalty program

Signup is usually free and you can receive savings and electronic coupons when you provide your email address.

Buy when foods are on sale

Maximize your savings by using coupons on sale items. You may find huge deals such as “buy one get one free.”

Find out if the store will match competitors’ coupons

Many stores will accept coupons, as long as they are for the same item. Check with the customer service desk for further details.

Stay organized so coupons are easy to find

Sort your coupons either by item or in alphabetical order. Develop a system that’s easiest for you and make finding coupons quick and hassle-free. Ideas for coupon storage include 3-ring binders, accordion-style organizers, or plain envelopes.

Find a coupon buddy

Swap coupons you won’t use with a friend. You can get rid of clutter and discover additional discounts.

Compare brands

Store brands can be less expensive than some of the name brand foods. Compare the items to find better prices.

Stick to the list

Make a shopping list for all the items you need. Keep a running list on your phone, on the refrigerator, or in a wallet. When you’re in the store, do your best to buy only the items on your list.

Adapted from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s Web site.

Eating Foods Away from Home

Consider your drink

Choose water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, and other drinks without added sugars to complement your meal.

Savor a salad

Start your meal with a salad packed with vegetables to help you feel satisfied sooner. Ask for dressing on the side and use a small amount of it.

Share a main dish

Divide a main entree between family and friends. Ask for small plates for everyone at the table.

Select from the sides

Order a side dish or an appetizer-sized portion instead of a regular entree. They’re usually served on smaller plates and in smaller amounts.

Pack your snack

Pack fruit, sliced vegetables, low-fat string cheese, or unsalted nuts to eat during road trips or long commutes. No need to stop for other food when these snacks are ready-to-eat.

Fill your plate with vegetables and fruit

Stir-fries, kabobs, or vegetarian menu items usually have more vegetables. Select fruits as a side dish or dessert.

Compare the calories, fat, and sodium

Many menus now include nutrition information. Look for items that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Check with your server if you don’t see them on the menu.

Pass on the buffet

Have an item from the menu and avoid the “all-you-can-eat” buffet. Steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes have fewer calories than foods that are fried in oil or cooked in butter.

Get your whole grains

Request 100% whole-wheat breads, rolls, and pasta when choosing sandwiches, burgers, or main dishes.

Quit the "clean your plate" club

Decide to save some for another meal. Take leftovers home in a container and chill in the refrigerator right away.

Adapted from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s Web site.

Recipe of the Month: The Works Pizza

1 large onion
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium red bell pepper
8 ounces button mushrooms
2 medium tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) block mozzarella cheese
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 frozen or refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough, defrosted
Non-stick cooking spray
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, no salt added


•Baking Sheet

•Box Cutter

•Can Opener


•Cutting Board

•Large skillet

•Measuring spoons

•Sharp knife


1 large onion

1 medium green bell pepper

1 medium red bell pepper

8 ounces button mushrooms

2 medium tomatoes

1 (6 ounce) block mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 frozen or refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough, defrosted

Non-stick cooking spray

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, no salt added

Optional Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

15 (2-inch diameter) turkey pepperoni slices



1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Rinse and peel onion. Rinse peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Dice onion, peppers, and tomatoes into ½-inch pieces. Slice mushrooms ¼-inch thick.

3. Grate cheese.

4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Cook for 3 minutes.

5. Transfer vegetables to a colander. Stir in tomatoes. Let sit 3–5 minutes to drain excess liquid.

6. While veggies are draining, shape dough into a 12-inch pizza round. Use your fingers to stretch and spread the dough.

7. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place pizza dough in center of sheet.

8. Mix dried basil and dried oregano into tomato sauce. If using dried parsley, add now. Spread a layer of sauce across dough.

9. Sprinkle cheese evenly across dough. If using turkey pepperoni, add a layer of slices now.

10. Bake pizza until cheese is melted and crust is browned on the sides and bottom, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

11. Add vegetable mixture. Return to oven and bake until pizza is cooked through, 5–10 minutes more. Remove from oven.

12. Let rest for 2 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 pieces.


Look for prepared whole wheat pizza dough in the refrigerator section of your store.

Try making a calzone. Lightly coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Lay dough on sheet. Cover half the dough with sauce, cheese, and veggies. Fold the dough in half over toppings and seal the edges. Bake for 6 minutes. Turn over, then bake an extra 6 minutes.

Top pizza with any seasonal veggies you like. Try broccoli, red onion, zucchini, or others.

Recipe of the Month: Yogurt Parfait


•6 cups or bowls

•Cutting board

•Measuring cups

•Measuring spoons

•Sharp knife


1. If using fresh fruit, rinse, peel, and/or trim as needed. If using thawed frozen fruit, drain any excess juices. Cut fruit into ¼-inch thick slices. There should be about 3 cups total.

2. Layer ¼ cup yogurt into each of 6 cups or bowls. Top with ¼ cup sliced fruit and 2 Tablespoons granola.

3. Repeat layers one more time, ending with a layer of granola.

4. If using, top with sliced almonds.


Layer parfait just before serving to keep granola crunchy.

Use any high-fiber cereal you like instead of granola.

Try topping with rinsed, chopped fresh mint leaves for extra flavor and color.

To save money, use fresh fruits that are in season. When seasonal fruits are hard to find, use thawed frozen fruit.

Use leftover fruit in Fruit Smoothies.

Use Homemade Granola.

Shopping on a budget

There are many places where you can shop:

Grocery stores

Man and woman shopping for fruit at supermarket

Man and woman shopping for fruit at supermarket

Ethnic markets

Oriental sweets on the market

Oriental sweets on the market

Dollar Stores

Man at supermarket

Man at supermarket

Retail supercenters

Walmart Supercentre storefront

Walmart Supercentre storefront

Wholesale clubs

One shopping woman with cart at supermarket

One shopping woman with cart at supermarket

Farmers' Markets

Person giving change to customer at produce stand

Person giving change to customer at produce stand

Find a store that takes your SNAP EBT card near you:

Small steps lead to BIG changes


Create an eating style that can improve your health now and in the future by making small changes over time. Consider changes that reflect your personal preferences, culture and traditions. Think of each change as a “win” as you build positive habits and find solutions that reflect your healthy eating style.


  • Focus on whole fruits more often than drinking 100% juice.
  • Vary your veggies to include green, red, and orange choices.
  • Choose whole-grain foods more often than refined grains. Make at least half the amount of grains you eat each day whole grains.
  • Buy low-fat or fat-free cheese more often than regular cheese.
  • Mix up your protein foods to include seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, soy, eggs, lean meats, and poultry.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts labels to find products with less saturated fat and sodium.
  • Cut back on sugary beverages such as fruit drinks and soda.


Why is physical activity important?

Regular physical activity can produce long term health benefits.

People of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from being physically active.

The more physical activity you do, the greater the health benefits. 

Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and make your heart beat faster.

Aerobic activities can be moderate or vigorous in their intensity. Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. For moderate activities, you can talk while you do them, but you can't sing. For vigorous activities, you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath. 

Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger.

These include activities like push-ups and lifting weights. It is important to work all the different parts of the body - your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. 

Bone-strengthening activities make your bones stronger.

Bone strengthening activities, like jumping, are especially important for children and adolescents. These activities produce a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength. 


Increase your chances of living longer
Feel better about yourself
Decrease your chances of becoming depressed
Sleep well at night
Move around more easily
Have stronger muscles and bones
Stay at or get to a healthy weight
Enjoy yourself and have fun


Enjoy foods from other countries

1. Cook with others

Learn about cooking different traditional or regional foods from others who use authentic recipes and ingredients and explore ways to improve the nutrition of some of your own family favorites. Cooking dishes at home allows you to add variety to meals. If needed, adapt recipes by cutting back on gravies, creams, and sauces; adding more vegetables; or baking instead of frying.

2. Blend Cultures

Many popular foods and beverages in America blend the cuisines of many cultures. Celebrate our Nation’s diversity and be inspired by dishes that include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seafood, lean meats, and low-fat dairy

3. Add a touch of spice

Combinations of herbs and spices often remind us of dishes from our own heritage or our favorite ethnic food. Add flavor to meals with herbs and spices, such as chili, garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, curry, or cilantro, which can replace salt and saturated fat.

4. Use familiar foods to make exotic dishes

Use foods you know and prepare new recipes, such as adding curry to chick peas, cilantro to brown rice, or mango to your salad or smoothie. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

5. Find the salt and sodium and go with lower numbers

All packaged foods are labeled to show amounts of sodium. Use “low-sodium” soy sauce, or broth or canned beans labeled “no salt added.” Check nutrition labels and use products that are lower in sodium or are salt-free.

6. Think about beverages

Many cultures offer tasty beverages, such as fruit drinks, alcoholic drinks, rich coffees, and sweet teas. Consider using frozen fruits to create a great tasting smoothie, or adding spices, low-fat dairy, and small amounts of sugar to make beverages. When buying prepared beverages, choose items with less sugar and fat. To manage calories, drink water or other unsweetened beverages instead of sugary drinks.

7. Delight in cultural gatherings

Celebrate traditions, especially those that help you stay physically active. Have fun with traditional dances, sports, and games that make you move. Balance what you eat with regular physical activity.

8. Show children what's important

Children learn to cook from their elders. Show kids how meals and dishes from various traditions are prepared. Let them taste foods they made, as you share related stories and customs from your own heritage or expose them to other cultures, but consider ways to cut back on high-calorie foods and ingredients.

9. Make smart choices when dining out

Eating out offers tempting new dishes that make it easy to overeat. Choose lower calorie dishes, such as stir fries, kabobs, or whole-wheat pastas with tomato sauce. Split a dish or ask for a take-home container at the start of a meal to save part of what’s served on your plate.

10. Remember, all types of foods fit in MyPlate

MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully, using foods from the food groups. The MyPlate website provides practical information, tips, tools, and recipes that will help you build a healthier diet.