Healthy nutritional guidelines for vegetarians are much the same as they are for people who eat meat. The real difference is that the vegetarians are more likely to eat all of the fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that are recommended in the guidelines.
Interestingly the US government produced a new food pyramid in 2005 but retracted their promotion in the face of huge opposition from the beef, dairy, sugar and food-processing industries. The new recommendations cut the amount of beef, dairy and sugar back from what was recommended previously. It also recommends that people eat more fruits, vegetables, drink more water and use less caffeine than before.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the Harvard School of Public Health thought that this new pyramid didn’t go far enough. Both published and released a new healthy eating guidelines that were plant-based to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, colon cancer, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. Plant based diets have been shown to have the most protection against common degenerative disorders.
Healthy nutritional guidelines for vegetarians must be well balanced which means eating a variety of foods that include grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and beans. A vegetarian food pyramid might have a base of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, followed by nuts, seeds, egg whites and plant oils and topped with eggs and sweets (eaten only occasionally).
Each of the vegetarian food groups provides some, but not all, of the nutrients you need. No one food is more important than another. For your good health you must eat a variety of all groups – but this guideline is appropriate for those who also eat meat.
Vegetarians should include a variety of foods to ensure that they get protein, calcium, iron and zinc from plant sources. Most plant sources aren’t a good source of Vitamin B-12 or Vitamin D. If you don’t get sun exposure to make your own Vitamin D then you should take a supplement for D and strict vegans should always take a vitamin B-12 supplement.
As with others who eat meat, it is very important to drink enough water and fluid each day. Although vegetarians get more water from their foods than do omnivores they don’t get enough not to drink. You should have at least 8 8-ounces of water each day. Don’t use soft drinks, caffeinated drinks or alcohol. These drinks aren’t nutritious and caffeine and alcohol will only dehydrate you instead of rehydrate.
Healthy nutritional guidelines for vegetarians are really not that much different than those for omnivores. Vegetarians must keep a watchful eye on their intake of protein and calcium, eat well balanced variety of foods and drink plenty of water.
Vegetarian Nutrition: Food-Pyramid
MayoClinic: Vegetarian Diet
Nutrition.gov: Eating Vegetarian
Choose My Plate: tips for Vegtarians
National Agricultural Library: Vegetarian Nutrition
The Vegetarian Resource Group: Vegetarian Nutrition
MedlinePlus: Vegetarian Diet