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What Do Vegetarians Eat?

Meat-eaters often cannot imagine a diet not centered around meat and may wonder: what exactly do vegetarians eat, and aren't they always hungry?

A balanced vegetarian diet can be filling, nourishing and very satisfying without the presence of meat.  The key is to choose from all the available plant-based food categories.  These include:

  • Grains - rice, wheat, barley, rye, spelt, corn and other grains are a mainstay when answering the question of 'what do vegetarians eat'.  Bread, pasta and rice, when combined with legumes form complete proteins while providing carbohydrate for fuel.

  • Beans and Legumes - beans, split peas, lentils and peanuts are popular choices within this important category.  Legumes provide protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. Soy bean products, such as tofu, soy milk and soy cheese are especially high in protein and important to the vegetarian diet.

  • Vegetables - peppers, squash, broccoli, spinach and so on add flavor, color, fiber and important nutrients.

  • Fruit - apples, pears, melons, berries and other fruit add sweetness, fiber, color and interest to the vegetarian diet.

  • Nuts and Seeds - almonds, cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and so on provide important fatty acids not found in other foods, as well as fiber and protein.  In addition, they are a handy answer to 'what do vegetarians eat for snacks?'

  • Fermented Soy Products - such as miso, tempeh and soy sauce contribute B12, sodium and flavor.

  • Dairy Products - vegetarians who consume dairy products benefit from the calcium, riboflavin, Vitamin D, B12 and protein these foods provide.  Cheese, yogurt and milk are excellent protein sources.

  • Eggs - vegetarians who consume eggs benefit from their perfect protein (all other protein sources are measured against the amino acid combination found in eggs).  Eggs also supply some B12 and offer great versatility as a cooking ingredient.

What do vegetarians eat?  As you can see, there's a tremendous variety of healthy foods available to the vegetarian.  The vegetarian diet often centers around whatever fresh vegetables are on hand instead of what meat is thawing in the fridge.  Combine those vegetables with beans and grain or grain and dairy and you easily have a balanced meal (order a veggie cheese pizza without meat if you don't want to cook!).

With a little creativity, the question of 'what do vegetarians eat?' can easily be answered by making minor changes to what you're already eating.  For example, omit the meat from your spaghetti sauce and add a crumbled soy burger or garbanzo beans.  Or, leave the meat out of Mexican dishes and get your protein from the tortillas and beans.  Ethnic cuisine often features vegetarian dishes so look to other cultures to help you answer 'what do vegetarians eat?'



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What Do Vegetarians Eat