FSA in Northern Ireland
Vegetarian and vegan diets
It’s a fact that more women are likely to be vegetarian or vegan than men. Vegetarianism is becoming more common among teenagers, especially among girls.
The National Diet and Nutrition Survey of 4-18 year olds found that 1 in 10 girls aged 15-18 years reported that they were vegan or vegetarian.
The Vegetarian Society define a vegetarian as 'someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs (preferably free-range).'
A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products such as gelatine or animal fats.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Just under a quarter of the world's population has a mainly vegetarian diet
- Vegetarians from the animal kingdom include the elephant, rhinoceros and gorilla
Provided a vegetarian diet is well balanced, it should provide all the nutrients needed. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is understanding which foods provide which nutrients, and forward planning of meals. Most vitamins can be provided by foods of plant origin, with the exception of vitamin B12.
Getting enough Protein
If you don’t eat meat and/or dairy products, it's important to make sure you're getting enough protein.
These foods are all good sources, so try to include a mixture of these in your diet each day, and vary the types you choose:
- pulses (such as lentils and chickpeas)
- baked beans
- peanuts and seeds
- boiled eggs
- soya and soya products such as tofu
- mycoprotein, sold as Quorn™
- wheat proteins, such as cereals, bread, rice and maize
- milk and dairy products
Protein is made of amino acids, some of which are known as 'essential amino acids' because the body can't make them itself. It's actually easy to get all the essential amino acids you need by eating different types of protein foods at the same time. In fact you will often being doing this already, for example by having:
- beans on your toast
- milk with your breakfast cereal
- rice with lentil dhal
- a rice and bean salad
- vegetable chilli (with kidney beans) served with rice or tortillas
- bread and cheese
- soup made with lentils, beans or split peas with a chunk of bread
- houmous and pitta bread
It's not a good idea to rely on one type of protein because you might be missing out on nutrients. Also, if for example you rely on cheese as your source of protein, you might end up having too much saturated fat.
Although meat is the best source of iron, it can also be found in:
- green vegetables such as broccoli
- fortified breakfast cereals
You see a variety of vegetarian labels on food labels. Products carrying the 'Vegetarian Society Approved' logo must fulfill certain requirements laid down by the Vegetarian Society.
But at present, there is no single legal definition of the terms 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' either at European or UK level.
The Vegetarian Society's food labelling scheme, known as the Seedling Symbol, was established in 1969. Since then it has become the most widely recognised and trusted stamp of vegetarian approval anywhere in the world. You will find the symbol on some 2000 products including retail food and drinks, catering supplies and household goods.
Check out their website for more information – see link below.
The Vegan Society define a vegan as, 'someone seeking a lifestyle free from animal products for the benefit of people, animals and the environment.'
A vegan therefore eats a plant-based diet free from all animal products, including milk, eggs and honey. Most vegans do not wear leather, wool or silk.
If you are a vegan, you need to make sure you're getting enough protein and iron (see above), but it can also be difficult to get enough vitamin B12.
These are good vegan sources of vitamin B12:
- yeast extract
- fortified bread
- fortified breakfast cereals
- some soy products
For more information see the Vegan Website via the link below.