What Do Vegetarians Eat?

I'm asked that question a lot. Because vegetarians tend to be defined by what they don't eat rather than by what they do eat.

Vegetarians don't eat meat, poultry or fish. (Take a look at this article on vegan vs vegetarian for more detailed definitions of what each type of vegetarian eats.) I'll talk a little more below about what vegetarians don't eat - because that's important - but first...

So What Do Vegetarians Eat

If it's not meat or fish, we eat it, but some foods have often been specifically associated with a vegetarian diet. Vegetarianism has often been linked with whole foods and healthy eating and while this doesn't have to be the case, some foods are particularly useful in a vegetarian diet.

High Protein Plant-Based Foods

- Tofu and soy products in general are high in protein and are traditionally associated with a vegetarian diet.

- Quinoa is a highly nutritious seed/grain which is also an excellent source of protein. Swap it for rice to add a protein boost to a meal.

- Nuts and seeds, including nut and seed butters. Vegetarians may choose to snack on these and many vegetarians incorporate nuts in their cooking.

- Beans & lentils. Nutritious and versatile, beans are a good source of protein and are good in soups, stews, curries, salads, burgers and loafs.

Other Foods

- Cheese, Other Dairy Products & Eggs. For non-vegans, these are useful sources of protein.

- Leafy greens are a good source of iron for vegetarians.

- Dried fruits are another good source of iron.

- Whole grains, including wheat, spelt, oats, barley, amaranth and millet. These are good sources of protein, iron and fiber and add variety to your diet.

Anything you need to avoid?

Sometimes, animal-derived ingredients pop up where you least expect them. Take a look at this page for a closer look at foods that may not be vegetarian.


For health, if you are going to become vegetarian, it’s important to know what you should eat to ensure that you are achieving a balanced vegetarian diet.  With a little understanding of vegetarian nutrition, you can ensure you are enjoying all the significant health benefits of being a vegetarian.  

Of course, many vegetarians choose not to eat meat for health or ethical reasons, but there is another significant deterrent to eating meat - the environmental cost. Look at growingraw.com if you'd like to read more about the positive environmental impact of vegetarianism.

All About Protein

The good news is that a healthy vegetarian diet is easy to achieve, a lot easier than many people imagine.

I have found that the biggest nutritional concern people have when becoming vegetarian is whether they will get enough protein in a vegetarian diet. In fact there are many excellent sources of protein for vegetarians. These include nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, grains, vegetarian cheese, eggs and soy products like tofu. Don’t worry! I have lots of additional information on protein if this is something you want to know more about.

Sources Of Iron

Something else people tend to wonder about when asking what do vegetarians eat is how to find good vegetarian iron sources.

In fact, it is not difficult to ensure you are getting enough iron. Leafy green vegetables, lentils, pulses, dried fruit, eggs and wholegrain bread are all excellent vegetarian sources of iron.

Just remember, vitamin C really helps the body to absorb iron too so make sure you include plenty in your diet in the form of green vegetables, peppers and fruit like strawberries, kiwis and oranges. If you want to know a little bit more about getting enough iron, take a look at my guide to vegetarian sources of iron.

Vitamin B12

One other area that tends to prompt questions is Vitamin B12. This need not be a problem. It's easy to get! Please read my guide to vitamin b12 for more information.

And if after all that, you are still wondering what do vegetarians eat, check out the recipes or get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

If you are a new vegetarian, it's a good idea to get in touch with a vegetarian society in your area.

The European Vegetarian Union (EVU)
is the umbrella organization for vegetarian organizations in Europe.

> What Do Vegetarian's Eat?


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