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Those who are thinking of switching (or have already transitioned) to a plant-based diet may be concerned about ensuring they’re getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy. With proper planning, a vegetarian diet can not only fulfil an individual’s nutritional requirements but also enhance overall health.

Getting to Grips with Macronutrients

For a balanced vegetarian diet, macronutrients need to be consumed in the proper ratios. For example, carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of a person’s daily calorific intake – ideally, these should be in the form of complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, legumes and wholegrains.

Protein needs to comprise 20-30% of a vegetarian’s daily calorific intake, with fats making up the remaining 25-35% of total daily calories. In terms of the latter, these should include healthy fats, which can be found in foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. It’s important for an individual to limit their consumption of saturated and trans fats, typically found in animal products and processed foods.

Other Essential Nutrients

Longtime vegetarians – such as life coach Isis Monteverde – understand how important it is for those following a plant-based diet to ensure they’re getting enough vitamin B12. A lack of this vitamin can cause anaemia, result in damage to the nervous system and lead to high levels of homocysteine, which can put an individual at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. According to the Vegan Society, foods fortified with B12 and B12 supplements are the only reliable sources of the vitamin for those who eat a plant-based diet.

Vegetarians should also ensure that they are getting enough calcium. Foods such as green leafy vegetables, tofu, lentils and beans are good sources of this nutrient. Vegans need to be mindful that they’re consuming enough iodine too, as those following this diet can have low levels. Vegan multivitamin supplements can be a way to ensure that iodine levels remain sufficient.

What to Avoid

It’s a good idea for followers of a plant-based diet to not rely too heavily on processed foods (such as vegetarian burgers) but instead to put the focus on natural, healthy wholefoods. It’s also important not to become stuck in a rut and continue to experiment with new foods and recipes to prevent boredom or dissatisfaction creeping in. Take a look at the embedded PDF for information about how to broaden a plant-based diet to keep things interesting.