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    Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on August 30, 2012


    Vegetarian Resource Group. Virginia Messina, MPH, RD; Vesanto Melina, MS, RD; Ann Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, FADA, A New Food Guide for North American Vegetarians. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    © 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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    Kathleen Zelman: If you're into body building …or sports training, and you don't eat meat, it's going to take some careful planning to get the calories and nutrients you need. Deficiencies of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 can definitely hurt exercise and strength training performance. WebMD's senior medical editor, Bruni Nazario, is a vegetarian and avid cyclist. When she started to feel she wasn't getting the most out of her training, she decided to ask for some nutritional advice. We met at a local supermarket to discuss her current eating plan.

    Brunilda Nazario: My major concern is that I feel I'm just not getting enough nutrients. I'm tired for such a healthy lifestyle and I'm gaining weight.

    Kathleen Zelman: Well let's start with the nutrients of concern. If you fill your grocery cart with a rainbow of colors, this way you can make sure that you're getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need from produce and that's really the foundation of a healthy vegetarian diet. So you choose deep red kinds of strawberries, a great source of vitamin C. You choose things like sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes will give you energy. It's a complex carbohydrate, but it's also rich in beta carotene, lots of nutrients, and quality calories. Dark leafy greens, another one of my favorites, super foods by dieticians' standards, because they contain calcium and iron, and those are two nutrients that are typically lacking in vegetarian diets, and you need to make sure your diet is rich in that group. So let's move over to the protein aisle, and we'll talk about dairy and some of the ways you can get good protein to make sure your diet is adequate. Well in addition to eggs and dairy, we have stocked your little basket here with some good sources of protein. And I know you eat fish, but how often do you really get a chance to eat it?

    Brunilda Nazario: I usually eat it about once a month.

    Kathleen Zelman: Which is not enough. And even though we can replace the protein from fish, fish contains omega 3 fatty acids that is not abundant elsewhere, so eat your salmon. Other sources of omega 3 fatty acids would be flax seed, soy beans, canola oil, or when you choose your eggs, there are eggs that are omega 3 enriched. You can also take a dietary supplement to make sure you get your omega 3s.

    Brunilda Nazario: Okay.

    Kathleen Zelman: But back to the other sources of protein, we've put in your basket some nuts. Do you like nuts?

    Brunilda Nazario: I love nuts.

    Kathleen Zelman: They are good for you. Almonds, there are studies that show 5 or 6 almonds takes your appetite away, helps you slim down and still get some protein Good when you are on the bike. Tofu, any kind of soy products also a good source of omega 3s, peanut butter.

    Brunilda Nazario: I love peanut butter. Usually I eat peanut butter when I'm riding my bike. I take a little package of it, and I stick it in my jersey or my shorts, and I eat it while I ride.

    Kathleen Zelman: Which is great because it has some sugar, and also some protein and fiber, and it gives you some energy.

    Brunilda Nazario: So Kathleen do I need more protein than your average person because of my active lifestyle?

    Kathleen Zelman: You need more calories, and so what we have to be careful with you because you're feeling the weight gain, and you're getting to that point in your life, you need to make sure that all of the calories are smart calories, so that when we look at foods, we try to use the low fat version. And if you get enough calories that will take care of the protein needs, as long as you choose your foods properly. Okay, let's talk about milk. How much milk do you drink, and what kind of milk?

    Brunilda Nazario: Usually I drink one to two glasses of non-fat milk a day.

    Kathleen Zelman: Fluid milk is fortified with vitamin D, which is excellent to work with the calcium that's contained in the milk, and it's also a great source of protein. So milk is terrific for you, a couple of cups a day, even more would be better.

    Brunilda Nazario: Okay.

    Kathleen Zelman: Now let's talk about cheeses, the last kind of dairy.

    Brunilda Nazario: I love cheese, all kinds.

    Kathleen Zelman: Good, good. Now do you try to eat the low fat cheeses?

    Brunilda Nazario: No Kathleen

    Kathleen Zelman: That's alright, it's not a problem, because cheese is also a good source of calcium. But you just need to keep your portions smaller, um because there is more fat in cheese than there is in the low-fat yogurt, or the skim milk. And the last thing we have to talk about, about vegetarians is your daily supplement. Do you take a multivitamin?

    Brunilda Nazario: Yeah, I usually take once a day.

    Kathleen Zelman: Excellent, because in addition to eating all of this healthy food, you need to make sure that you take a once daily multivitamin for your age and for your sex. Pay attention to B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iron all of those nutrients are the those ones that vegetarians tend to be shy in, and you're good to go.

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