Simple Guide to Vegetarian Nutrition

The foods we eat, and our overall wellbeing, are intrinsically linked. Whether a vegetarian or not, good nutrition plays a vital role in whole body health and happiness. With the right foods on our plate we can boost our immunity, promote a healthy digestive system and supply the energy to keep us felling focused, fit, strong and active. Choosing a meat-free diet packed with a huge variety of fresh vegetables, and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes is ideal in providing our bodies with abundant and balanced vegetarian nutrition.

The simplest way to approach vegetarian nutrition is to understand all the foods we eat contain a varying degree and combination of nutrients and our bodies need these to function, repair cells and maintain overall health. For a vegetarian eating a variety and combination of nutrient dense foods is key to meeting our daily nutritional requirements of essential vitamins and minerals. Go for a mix of colourful vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds each day and choose predominately whole grains and unprocessed foods for the very best in vegetarian nutrition.

The following is a simple guide to vegetarian nutrition and the nutrient dense pant-based foods that offer the very best source of essential vitamins and minerals, including those of particular importance to vegetarians. For a happy and healthy vegetarian diet aim to included a good variety and combination of these foods each day.

3 nutrients of particular importance to vegetarians

Omega-3

Omega-3 is an important nutrient essential for healthy brain and heart function. As fish is often the common source for non-vegetarians, it can be lacking in a vegetarian diet without inclusion of the following foods.

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds (linseeds), also available as flax oil and flax meal
  • Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil
  • Sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Walnuts and walnut butter and oil

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient vital to healthy brain and nerve function. Strict vegetarians who avoid dairy and eggs must be sure to eat B12-fortified foods or include a B12 supplement to meet dietary requirements.

  • B12-fortified cereals
  • B12-fortified non-dairy milks
  • B12 supplement
  • Nutritional yeast (check that the one you buy is fortified with B12; this can differ from brand to brand)
  • Free-range eggs
  • Dairy products

Vitamin D

When exposed to adequate daily sunlight, the body makes vitamin D, important for bone health and defense against disease. If you are restricted by lifestyle or live in a climate where sun exposure is at a minimum, be sure to include the following foods in your diet.

  • Free-range eggs
  • Vitamin D-fortified milks and cereals

Guide to Essential Vitamins + Minerals


We hear a lot about meat and how it’s a great source of protein but there are a wide variety of foods rich in amino acids that provide an abundant source of vegetarian protein. Essential for growth, cell repair and to maintain optimal healthy – a rich daily dose of protein is fundamental to our diet.

What about Complete Protein?

A complete protein source is one that contains all nine essential amino acids (these are the amino acids our body cannot produce on it’s own and therefore need to be obtained from the foods we eat). Most plant-based sources of protein do not offer a complete protein source, as although they contain different amino acids, all nine are not present in the one food source. This is not an issue though. The trick to vegetarian complete protein is simple – eat a variety of protein rich plant-based foods each day. This provides our body with a variety of all nine amino acids from different sources that it will combine, providing a complete protein source for our body. Plus foods like hemp seeds, chia seeds and chlorella offer a plant-based source of complete protein and are a great addition to a healthy vegetarian diet.

Good vegetarian sources of protein

  • Soy and Soy products such as soy milk, cheese and yoghurt, tofu, tempeh and edamame (soy beans)
  • Chlorella
  • Legumes such as kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, chickpeas, lentils and peanuts and products made from these such as hummus and peanut butter
  • Whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, rice, oats, barley, amaranth
  • Seeds such as chia, hemp, sesame, sunflower and products made from these such as seed and nut butter combinations and tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Nuts such as raw almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans and nut butters
  • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese and natural yoghurt
  • Free range eggs
  • Fortified foods such as cereals and non-dairy milks

Minerals are essential to the proper function of our bodies – carrying out a variety of tasks and promoting healthy growth, repair and immunity. We can obtain all the necessary essential minerals from the foods we eat and a healthy vegetarian diet should be rich in the following fresh and whole food ingredients.

Iron

Importantly assists the lungs in transporting oxygen and promotes resistance to disease and infection. Tip: Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron efficiently, so team your vitamin C rich foods with these iron foods.

  • Beans, Lentils & Pulses
  • Nuts such as almonds, pine nuts, pistachio nuts and hazel nuts
  • Seeds such as hemp, pumpkin, sesame seeds and products made from these such as seed and nut butter combinations and tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Dried apricots and prunes
  • Whole grains such as amaranth, oats, quinoa and spelt
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Raw Cacao (available as powder and nibs from health food stores)
  • Spirulina (available as powder and tablets from health food stores)
  • Edamame
  • Iron fortified foods such as breakfast cereals

Calcium

Vital for healthy growth and maintenance of bones and brain function. The presence of vitamin D helps calcium absorption. While dairy products are the popular source of calcium, there are lots of options for plant-based sources.

  • Tofu (choose calcium set – simply check the ingredients on the tofu you buy)
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Kale
  • Okra
  • Nuts such as brazil nuts and almonds and nut butters made from these
  • Seeds; especially sesame and tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Dried fruit such as apricots and figs
  • Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals
  • Calcium-fortified non-dairy milks
  • Dairy Products

Zinc

A vital mineral for many systems of the body especially the immune system and in supporting the body’s healing ability.

  • Nuts: especially cashews and almonds (and nut butters made from these)
  • Seeds; especially hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame (and products made from these such as seed and nut butter combinations and tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Wheat Germ
  • Raw Cacao (available as powder and nibs from health food stores)
  • Dried Fruits such as apricots, peaches, and prunes
  • Avocados
  • Zinc-fortified foods such as breakfast cereal and mock-meats (vegetarian burgers/sausages)

Iodine

Essential for many metabolic functions and the proper function of the thyroid gland

  • Seaweeds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Dairy Products

Our bodies need an assortment of different vitamins to function properly and it obtains these vitamins from the foods we eat. A vegetarian diet that includes a variety of vitamin rich plant-based foods is essential to strong immunity and overall good health. Raw fruits and vegetables and whole unprocessed foods offer the very best in powerful vitamin dense ingredients.

Vitamin A

for healthy skin and vision

  • Kale, Spinach, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables like salad rocket
  • Red and yellow capsicums (peppers)
  • Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
  • Dried apricots and peaches
  • Melons and mangoes
  • Dairy products

B Group Vitamins

(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), folate, pantothenic acid and biotin – to help release energy, metabolise nutrients and assist nerve function

  • Whole grains such as barley, brown rice and oats
  • Legumes such as lentils , chickpeas and kidney beans
  • Yeast such as brewers yeast and nutritional yeast (available from health food stores)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • A variety of fresh fruit and vegetables including avocados,
    bananas, green leafy vegetables and mushrooms

Vitamin C

essential to overall good health by promoting resistance to infection and stimulating the immune system, also supports healthy bones, skin and red blood cells. The body cannot store vitamin C so it is essential to eat vitamin C rich foods on a daily basis. Tip: team your vitamin C rich foods with your iron foods as vitamin C helps our bodies in efficient iron absorption.

  • Citrus and berries
  • Kiwi fruits
  • Red capsicums (peppers)
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower

Vitamin E

Required by the body for red blood cell formation, healing and protection against free-radicals.

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetable oils and spreads
  • Wheat germ and wholegrain cereals
  • Avocados
  • Free range eggs

Vitamin K

Required for blood clotting abilities and bone health, the body is able to manufacture at least half of our daily needs

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Seaweed
  • Carrots

The information provided above is a general guide only and not a complete guide to essential vitamins and minerals or substitute for professional nutritional or medical advice. When switching to a plant-based diet, it can be a great idea to seek the advice of a nutritionist or general practitioner, especially if you have specific nutritional requirements, medical needs, questions, or concerns.