Being a vegetarian is as simple as cutting out meat and fish, but getting a balanced diet as a vegetarian is not quite so straightforward.
Vegetarians can be as unhealthy as meat eaters – eating too many calories, too much sugar, not enough fibre and even not enough fruit and veg. At Tutto Bene, we want to support vegetarians to get the nutrition they need.
Firstly, what is a healthy balanced diet for a vegetarian? The Vegetarian Eatwell Guide is a great starting point.
Vegetarians need at least five portions of fruit and veg a day (that’s five 80g portions*); a banana or handful of summer fruits on your porridge for breakfast, or a portion of mushrooms or grilled tomato with your poached egg on toast gets you off to a good start. Have a portion of salad sticks and a piece of fruit for lunch, and then have a stir fry with two portions of veg or a bean burger with two portions of veg for dinner; it’s not as hard as you might think to have five. Don’t forget though that no matter how much juice and smoothie you drink, it can only count as one portion, so make sure you get four different whole fruits and vegetables in the mix to get the variety of vitamins and minerals – including iron – and the fibre you need.
Meals should be based on starchy carbohydrates; think wholegrains such as brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, porridge and bran. This a great way of getting some extra fibre, iron and folate alongside your energy. You also digest wholegrains slower than white starchy carbohydrates, so you will feel fuller for longer.
The dairy group is essential for calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iodine and B12; we need about three portions a day. The low-fat versions of milk (200ml), cheese (a small matchbox-sized piece) and yoghurt (a small pot*) all count; watch out though for added sugar in low-fat yoghurts. Dairy alternatives with added calcium can be used instead, but they don’t always add the other minerals dairy is good for. Good bone health depends on the calcium, so give the body a boost with absorbing calcium by having enough vitamin D. The Department of Health recommend vitamin D supplements for under-fives and over-65s all year round, and everyone else during the autumn and winter months – mainly because we don’t get enough sun!
We need some fats and oils, but only a small amount. As a population, we need to cut down on foods high in fat, sugar and salt, but we do need some fat; therefore, a little oil, butter or margarine is ok, but not too much.
Finally, we must consider the protein group, which the Vegetarian Eatwell Guide calls: ‘Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins’; vegetarians can get all the protein they need without fish and meat. This group not only supplies our bodies with protein, but also with B12 (in eggs), fibre (in beans, pulses and nuts) and iron (in eggs, beans, pulses and nuts). It is important as a vegetarian to eat a variety of protein-rich foods to get the balance of amino acids the body needs. For iron absorption, it is also critical to eat these foods with fruits and vegetables which are rich in vitamin C.
So how might Tutto Bene be able to help vegetarians?
Our range of products includes Quinoa Burgers, which are a source of wholegrain starchy carbohydrates and protein. As with all Tutto Bene products, they have no added salt, so they are a great quick meal.
You could also try our range of bean and lentil pastas: Organic Yellow Chickpea Pasta Twirls, Organic Green Pea Pasta Quills and Organic Red Lentil Pasta Curls. These cook in just three minutes, so they are an easy way to get some protein into a meal.
All our products have recipe suggestions for you to try on our website, so why not have a go?
*Portion sizes in this article are based on adult portion sizes.