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Vegetarian Diets and Organic Foods


As a vegetarian, you can still use MyPyramid . Use the following guidelines:

  • In the meat and meat substitutes group, use the following as a substitute for 1oz of meat:
    • ¼ cup cooked dry beans, peas, or lentils
    • 1 egg or 2 egg whites
    • ½ oz (1 Tbsp) nuts or seeds
    • ¼ cup tofu or tempeh
    • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • In the milk and milk products group, use the serving sizes listed in MyPyramid. If you do not use milk, use soy milk fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Count 1cup as one serving. Fortified soy cheese or soy yogurt also may be used.

Eat according to the pyramid for the other food groups. Use whole grains as much as possible, and eat at least 1 cup of dark green vegetables each day to help meet your iron needs.

You can fit a vegetarian diet into the dietary guidelines quite easily:

  • Eat a variety of foods. Include whole grains and a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Use soy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds to replace meat and, if desired, dairy products and eggs.
  • Choose plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits. Use foods closest to their natural state, fresh and unprocessed, and minimize your intake of heavily processed foods.
  • Choose foods moderate in fat and low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. If you eat animal foods, such as dairy products, choose lower-fat versions of these foods. Try not to use these foods as your main sources of protein, because they may replace plant sources of protein in your diet-such as legumes, nuts, and seeds-which contribute the iron you need.
  • Do not restrict dietary fat in children younger than 2 years old. For older children, include some foods that are higher in unsaturated fats (such as nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, avocado, and vegetable oils, and milk products and eggs, if desired) to help meet their nutrient and energy needs.
  • Choose beverages and foods that limit your sugar intake. Minimize your intake of highly sweetened and heavily processed foods.

Vegans need to include a source of vitamin B12 (fortified foods or a supplement) in their diets. They also need to include a source of vitamin D if their exposure to sunlight is limited. People who live in the northern half of the United States do not get enough sun exposure during the winter months.

If you are raising an infant or child to eat a vegetarian diet, consider the following:

  • Infants who are consuming only breast milk should have supplements of iron after the age of 4 to 6 months. (This is not necessary if you add iron-fortified infant cereal to the child's diet at this age.)
  • If your child does not get much sun exposure, add a food source or a supplement of vitamin D to the child's diet. Most doctors suggest daily vitamin D supplements for children and teens, starting by age 2 months. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of vitamin D are right for your child.
  • Breast-fed infants of vegan mothers need vitamin B12 supplements if the mother's diet is not fortified.6

Organic foods


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 06, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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