So many people these days turn to vegetarian and vegan diets. The reasons to start these vegan / vegetarian journeys range from ethical to health related beliefs. Whether you are adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet or you are just trying to go meatless on Mondays, one cannot forget to replace the nutrients one is giving up from not consuming meat. This is in no way to discourage you from becoming a vegan or vegetarian, but more so to educate you on the nutrients found in meat products that can be easily replaced in a vegan or vegetarian diet. In addition to several grocery stores and supermarkets with vegan and vegetarian items, Chicago has many vegan and vegetarian restaurants with very expansive menus.
Vegans and vegetarians should be very careful about getting enough of the following key nutrients*:
- Protein: Vegans and vegetarians can find protein in tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, beans, nuts and nut butters.
- Iron: Good sources of iron are eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, nuts beans, legumes, whole-wheat bread, and baked potatoes.
- Calcium: Vegetarians can find it in cheese, yogurt and milk. Ovo-vegetarians and vegans can get it in soy products, legumes, almonds, sesame tahini, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark, leafy vegetables like collard greens and bok choy.
- Zinc: It can be found in soybeans and soymilk, veggie “meats,” eggs, cheese and yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, breads, mushrooms, peas, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin B12: Vegans and vegetarians can find it in soy-based beverages, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified veggie “meats”.
- Riboflavin: Great sources are foods such as almonds, fortified cereals, cow’s milk, yogurt, mushrooms and soy milks.
- Linolenic acid: Vegans and vegetarians can find it in canola oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans, tofu, walnuts and walnut oil.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Good sources of omega-3s are flaxseed, walnut, soy and canola oils.
Feel free to try a vegan or vegetarian restaurant in Chicago or in your town. You should always consult your doctor when you make any change to your diet.
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