A balanced vegetarian diet is similar to any other diet in that it should contain a balance of foods from all food groups. That is the only way the body can get the nutrition it needs. A vegetarian diet can be very healthy and balanced, but it requires more planning and careful eating than a diet in which one eats all different kinds of foods.
There are a number of different types of vegetarians, and therefore different types of diets. A vegan, for example, abstains from all animal products and processed foods made with animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and gelatin, whereas a vegetarian may only abstain from meat, but still consume dairy and eggs. A vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs is also known as a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
A pescetarian is a vegetarian, as mentioned above, who also eats fish. Finally, someone who refers to themselves as a flexitarian might try to eat a predominantly balanced vegetarian diet, but may eat meat on occasion as well. Any one of these types of vegetarians can eat a balanced vegetarian diet. One issue that vegetarians may have is finding enough sources of protein.
Protein may be found in nuts, beans, eggs, dairy, and fish for those who consume these items. Leafy greens, tofu, and quinoa are other great sources of protein for a balanced vegetarian diet. Leafy greens contain calcium for those who do not eat dairy products, and iron is found in many vegetables as well. It is important to eat an extremely varied diet as a vegetarian, and not simply rely on starchy foods, which will quickly lead to a nutritional deficiency.
Nutrients are frequently absorbed better when consumed together with other nutrients. For this reason, it is a good idea to eat foods from a number of different food groups at each meal; for example, fruit, vegetables, protein, and grains at each meal will help to ensure that one is eating a balanced vegetarian diet. It is also a good idea for vegetarians to take a multivitamin every day to make up for any nutritional deficiencies, as well as a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
Vegans are often deficient in B12, because this nutrient is only found in animal products. It is a good idea for vegans to take a daily B12 supplement. A balanced vegetarian diet can help one to maintain a healthier weight, and also lead to better cardiovascular health, but it is important to eat a wide variety of foods, and constantly try new recipes to find new sources of nutrients. Sugars and fats should be eaten sparingly, but also have their place in moderation.