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Becoming Vegetarian: Just The Facts

A vegetarian diet can be full of variety and provide enough nutrition to keep you healthy

However, there are certain minerals and vitamins that you could easily become low in if you don’t take steps to include them regularly in your diet. These include iron and vitamin B12, which most often come from a meat source.

It is important to eat a balanced diet, whether you are vegetarian or not, and also to recognise that being vegetarian means different things to different people

There are many variations to the vegetarian diet, which you can find out more about here.

Getting protein, iron and B12

Protein, iron and vitamins sources

Protein

Protein is needed for growth and development, to help your body repair itself, and to keep you healthy. Good sources of protein for vegetarians are eggs, milk, cheese and Quorn, as well as pulses and beans, such as lentils, kidney, soya products, peas and chickpeas, nuts and seeds. It’s important to try and have these foods twice a day

Iron

Iron is needed by the body to carry oxygen around the blood. Without it you can quickly feel tired and run down. Try to regularly include things like beans (including baked beans), peas, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds, dried fruits like apricots and raisins, eggs and leafy greens in your diet.

Remember, there are also lots of cereals which have added iron like Weetabix, Special K, or Fruit and Fibre – check the label to make sure.

Vitamin C helps to increase the amount of iron absorbed into your body, so having a glass of fruit juice with your breakfast cereal or meal once a day is another good way to help your body get the iron it needs.

Vitamins

Vitamins help in the production of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in foods from animal sources, but some foods are fortified with B12, such as milk and milk products, eggs, fortified soy milks and products, yeast extract and fortified cordial.

Foods that may not be suitable for a vegetarian

There are obvious foods to avoid if you’re vegetarian, but there are other foods that you might not realise contain animal products. Check the labels and remember that these foods may not be suitable for a vegetarian:

  • Jelly sweets
  • Marshmallows
  • Red food colouring (cochineal)
  • Jelly
  • Rennet (a milk protein)
  • Worcester sauce
  • Chewing gum

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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