Vegetarian Meal Planning

Are you planning your vegetarian meals?

Some people feel that meatless meals are healthier. Other people feel that instead of growing feed for animals, we should be growing grain, vegetables, and fruits for humans. Others respect all life so highly that they do not believe in killing animals for foods. Others are on very limited incomes and choose to eat other foods. And still others just do not like meat.

Did you know that all vegetarians are not all alike? There are three groups of vegetarians and the strictest vegetarians eat only grains, fruits, and vegetables. The second group includes milk, milk products, peanut butter, nuts, dried peas, and beans in their diet. A third group eats eggs in addition to the foods mentioned above. Unless strict vegetarians are very knowledgeable about nutrition, and extremely careful in matching their foods with their nutrient needs, their diets will be too low in protein, iron, calcium, riboflavin, and other B vitamins.

People who are on regular diets get most of their protein from animal sources of food. Vegetarians, however, rely mainly on plant sources to supply their protein needs. Nuts and dried beans and peas do provide protein, especially compared to grains, cereals, and vegetables. However, none of these foods has all eight essential amino acids, therefore, plant sources of protein must be carefully selected when planning the vegetarian meals. Strict vegetarians must make up for the amino acids that are missing in one food by combining the food with another.

The Basic Four food groups can be used as a guideline for planning vegetarian meals. If milk products and eggs are included in adequate amounts, it is very easy to put together a nutritious diet. These foods I have listed below are some of the best sources of protein. Milk and eggs also supply calcium, iron, riboflavin, and other important B vitamins.

These are main-dish ideas with complete protein.

Yogurt and wheat germ with rice and beans. Toasted cheese sandwich with tacos with beans.

Cereal with milk and peanut-butter sandwiches.

Cheese and crackers with lentil soup with rice.

Egg-salad sandwich with minestrone soup and beans.

Egg foo young with rice.

When milk and eggs are not eaten, it is important for vegetarians to plan carefully in order to eat meals containing complete proteins. Main-dish vegetarian meals can usually provide complete protein if they follow either of two formulas:

milk products or egg plus grain products, grain products plus dried peas, dried beans, or nuts. When planning vegetarian meals, include foods that will provide enough protein such as enriched egg noodles and cheese as these will add up to good nutrition.

I would suggest just as with regular meal planning that you make a list of the foods that will be served for each meal. Next you should check to see what food items you might need to buy for the week after looking at the items you have on hand. Then I would say to check out the grocery sales in your area and then budget your food allowance along with your meal planning.

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