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Eating Well the Veggie Way

You Can Make Any Type of Vegetarian Diet a Healthy One

Getting Enough Nutrients continued...

But the bottom line is that you can meet your nutritional needs on a vegan diet -- though you may need to include certain, high-nutrient plant foods and buy some special food products and/or supplements.

If you're a vegan, here are the nutrients you need to make sure you're getting enough of:

  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). This is found in green leafy vegetables, whole and enriched grains, mushrooms, yeast, beans, seeds, and nuts.


  • Vitamin D. If you don't get out in the sun (with your hands, arms and face exposed) for at least five to 15 minutes per day, consider including a fortified food or supplement containing vitamin D. Some margarines and breakfast foods are fortified with vitamin D (check the labels).


  • Vitamin B-12. This is found only in animal foods so if you've cut out all dairy, eggs, meat, fish, and fowl, you'll probably need to add it to your diet. You may find it in some fortified soy milks, yeast, and breakfast cereals (like Grape-Nuts): The body can store enough B-12 for up to four years, so it can take a while for a deficiency to show up. If a deficiency develops, nerves can be damaged irreversibly and brain function can decrease.


  • Calcium. Fortified soy milk and orange juice are among the best vegan sources for calcium. Calcium is also found in tofu, almonds, beans, and green leafy vegetables.


  • Iron. There are some plant sources of iron -- whole grains, prune juice, dried fruits like raisins; beans; nuts and seeds; leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli, peaches; apricots; and blackstrap molasses. But this type isn't absorbed as well by the body as the iron in animal foods. Eating these plant foods with vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables will increase iron absorption.


  • Zinc. Whole grains, wheat germ, beans, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of zinc.

Eat a Wide Range of Foods

The key to eating healthy vegetarian meals all the time is variety, including fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, nuts and seeds, and legumes (beans). The more variety in the meal, the more likely you'll be getting enough protein, vitamins and minerals.

Good sources of protein in a plant-based diet include lentils, beans, soy products, nuts, nut butters, and whole-grain breads and cereals.

It was once thought that vegetarians had to eat certain plant foods together to get complete protein (with all the essential amino acids provided), but simply eating a variety of protein-rich plant foods within the same day seems to be good enough.


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