A Full Information for Vegetarians

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Graphic showing the variation in plant-based diets, placing foods on a scale from low to high.

Types of diets | Advantages | Risks | Coaching tips | What to eat | Diet quiz

Pop Quiz: Which of the Following is a Plant-Based Diet?

  1. The Mediterranean Diet
  2. The vegetarian diet
  3. The vegan diet
  4. The flexible diet

The answer: all of the above.

If you are surprised by this reveal, here's what you know: You are 100% normal.

After all …

When it comes to plant-based diets, there is a lot of confusion.

In this article, we're going to try to clear things up by examining different questions.

There is also a quiz that you can use to test your diet.

What are plant and vegetarian diets?

Let's start with the vegetable diet and meat debate.

Some vegetable eaters contain meat – others do not.

This even includes people who identify as vegetarians.

Imagine a continuum with 100% carnivores on one end and 100% vegans (no animals or animal products) on the other end.

On this continuum, plant-based eaters are closer to vegans than carnivores and eat more plants than meat. As the following graphic shows, “more plants than meat” allows for many variations.

▶ Strict vegans fall into the "plant-based" bucket because the "plantiness" of their diet is 100 percent.

▶ In general, vegetarians do not eat meat or seafood, but they sometimes consume animal products such as eggs and dairy products. Although their food choices are less plant-focused than those of a vegan, they are still plant-based eaters.

▶ Flexitarians, semi-vegetarians, or part-time vegetarians tend to consume meat and seafood – either occasionally or in small amounts. But because they eat more plants than meat, they also fall into the vegetable bucket.

▶ People who follow a Mediterranean or Paleo diet may eat meat as often as every day. But you also eat a lot of plant-based whole foods. As long as plants make up a significant part of their food, we would consider them vegetable too.

This table (shown below) shows which different plant-based eaters are ready to eat and not to eat.

The graph shows the different types of plant-based eaters ready to eat and / or do. 1) Flexitarian: buy red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, plants, leather / furs; 2) Pollo vegetarians: buy poultry, eggs, plants, leather / furs; 3) Pescatarian: buy seafood, plants, leather / furs; 4) Lacto-ovo vegetarians: buy eggs, dairy products, plants, leather / furs; 5) Lacto-vegetarians: buy dairy products, plants, leather / furs; 6) Ovo vegetarians: buy eggs, plants, leather / furs; 7) Fully vegetable: buy plants, leather / furs; 8) Vegan: Plants

The above only draws a partial picture – as many vegetable eaters do not fit into just one box. There are Pescatarians who eat seafood, eggs, and dairy products, and Pescatarians who eat seafood but no other animal products.

Similarly, some vegetarians and plant-based eaters are fine with products made from animals (such as leather or fur), while others don't.

Still other people sometimes let animal products into their lives – but not at other times. For example, one of our customers sees herself as a vegan who never eats animal products in any form – except for cupcakes. If she's at a bakery and no vegan options are available, she'll enjoy anything that looks delicious.

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Benefits of a plant-based and vegetarian diet

Plant-based diets are associated with lower risk:

  • Heart disease
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Gall bladder disease 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

However, plant-based eaters can be healthier, not because they eat less meat, but for the following reasons:

Reason # 1: Plant-based diets attract health-conscious people.

In general, plant-based eaters are the type of people who floss, exercise, climb stairs, sleep 7 to 9 hours, and get regular checkups

In other words, they may be healthier not only because of their activities and what they eat, but also because of their general lifestyle.

Reason # 2: Plant-based eaters tend to eat more plants. (Moron.)

Plant eaters tend to score pretty well on what is known as the healthy eating index, which is a measure of the quality of the diet.

Since plant-based eaters typically only consume minimally processed whole-food plant-based foods with known health benefits, they lower their risk of disease

Reason # 3: Minimally processed plant-based foods tend to be nutritious.

Just one example: a cup of broccoli, berries, or black beans contains more nutrients than a slice of pizza, for far fewer calories. Depending on the plant-based diet, these nutrients can include:

  • Antioxidants that protect our DNA from free radical damage.
  • Phytonutrients, plant chemicals that are said to promote health.
  • Myconutrients, beneficial compounds in mushrooms.
  • Fibrous, indigestible plant material that puffs up stool (reduces constipation), regulates appetite, and controls cholesterol and blood sugar.
  • Healthy fats like the monounsaturated fats in avocados and the polyunsaturated fats in seeds and nuts.

Reason # 4: Minimally processed plant-based foods tend to fill us up and crowd out processed foods.

Plants contain a lot of water, which adds weight and volume to food without adding calories. They also contain fiber to help slow digestion.

Bottom line: they're pretty damn filling.

As people consume more plants, they tend to eat less ultra-processed refined foods like french fries, cookies, and macs and cheeses. 8, 9

(If you've ever had a "lettuce baby" you know how difficult it is to have a milkshake or a bag of fries.)

The cost of restricting food groups

Whenever you make a diet change, you face some tradeoffs.

See table below: As dietary restrictions increase, so do the time required and the risk of nutrient deficiency.

On the other hand, when the consumption of highly processed foods increases, the time required decreases – while the risk of deficiency increases.

This table is entitled “The Continuum of Nutrition”. At the top of the diagram there is a horizontal green bar: At the left end is “Greatest Nutrient Variety”; At the right end it says “greatest risk of deficiency”. There is a vertical orange bar on the left side of the graph. At the bottom it says:

Reason # 5: Strict food rules can work.

It takes work – reading labels, preparing food, checking menus – to follow a balanced plant-based diet that results in healthier choices. If someone is strictly vegan or vegetarian, the "don't eat" list may eliminate less nutritious, high-calorie foods like wings and rinds.

(Learn more: The Modern Diet's Dilemma: Is It Better To Eat Meat? Go Vegan? Something In Between? The Truth About What's Right For You.)

Is It Possible To Eat Enough Plant-Based Protein?

Despite popular belief, many plant-based foods contain decent amounts of protein.

Hence, protein deficiencies are not as common in plant-based eaters as you might think.

Check out how plant proteins stack up.

FOOD PROTEIN (in grams)
Animal-based protein sources Per palm-sized portion *
Skinless chicken breast, grilled 31
cottage cheese 25th
Greek yogurt, plain 22nd
Prawns, cooked 21st
Eggs 12
Vegetable sources of protein
Seitan, cooked 22nd
Tempeh, cooked 18th
Tofu, drained and cooked 16
Vegetable sources of fat Per thumb-sized portion *
pumpkin seed 2
peanut butter 3.5
Vegetable sources of carbohydrates Per cupped hand *
Cooked lentils 8th
Bread, multigrain 5
pasta 4th
Non-starchy vegetables Per fist *
broccoli 3
spinach 1
Carrots 1

* Palm size = 3-4 ounces cooked meat / tofu, 1 cup of cottage cheese / Greek yogurt, 2 whole eggs; Hollow handful = 1 / 2-2 / 3 cup cooked grains / legumes, medium-sized fruits / tubers;
Thumb = 1 tbsp; Fist = 1 cup

A couple of caveats:

▶ Whole foods are important. Customers who regularly consume tempeh, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds will have little trouble meeting their protein needs.

On the flip side, customers who eat mostly refined pasta, refined bread, vegan cupcakes, and toaster cookies may struggle.

▶ Plant-based proteins are generally not as rich in essential amino acids and are not as well absorbed as animal-based proteins.

For people who rely solely on plants, protein needs must be increased slightly compared to omnivores to explain this discrepancy in protein quality. For more information, see our article on vegetable proteins.

The cons of a plant-based diet

Here's the bad news …

Every time you ditch whole food groups you have to work harder to get all of the nutrients your body needs. This is especially true if someone:

  • Is fully plant-based or vegan.
  • Tends to eat a diet high in highly processed foods.

To reduce the risk of deficiencies, aim for a diet that is 80 to 90 percent whole, minimally processed foods.

Also note the following nutrient-specific advice.


Calcium not only keeps bones and teeth strong, but also helps muscles – including your heart muscle – work properly.

Dairy products are a particularly abundant source, with each serving providing nearly a third of the 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams the typical person needs on a daily basis.

Use this advice to get enough calcium from dairy-free foods:

▶ Consume several servings of calcium-rich plant foods every day. Plant-based foods rich in calcium include leafy greens (cabbage, beets, kale), calcium tofu, sesame butter, black ribbon molasses, okra, broccoli, figs, beans, almonds, edamame, soybeans, and fortified vegetable milk. To increase absorption, cook calcium-rich greens instead of eating them raw.

▶ Reduce salt, alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks. When people consume a lot of alcohol, salt, and soft drinks, they tend to ingest less nutritious, minimally processed whole foods. For example, if someone chooses a soft drink, it is him Not Choosing a plant-based milk fortified with calcium. If they sit down with a bowl of salty fries they are by default Not with broccoli or figs.

▶ Exercise. Weight training stimulates the bones, helping them increase their density and reducing the risk of fractures.

Vitamin B12

Our bodies need B12 to make DNA, strengthen blood vessels, and keep nerves running. Since B12 is involved in the formation of red blood cells, a deficiency can lead to anemia.

Although some plants contain substances that the body can convert into B12, we do not absorb or use these substances as easily as the B12.10 Plus found in animal products, Many people over 50 are already deficientwhether they eat meat or not.

This is because as we age, our stomach produces less acid (which breaks down B12) and an intrinsic factor (which helps the body absorb B12). And some drugs – like acid blockers – reduce absorption even more.

For these reasons a daily B12 supplementation is a good idea for::

  • People over 50.
  • People who take drugs that affect the absorption of vitamin B12, such as: B. to treat reflux, ulcers and diabetes.
  • People who are partially or completely herbal.

Even with supplements, some people can show signs of deficiency: tiredness, dizziness or loss of balance and decreased mental function.

In these cases, the doctor may check B12 levels with a blood test and may prescribe intramuscular (injected) B12, which is better absorbed than oral (including sublingual) supplements.

Omega-3 fats

These fats are helpful in preventing heart disease and are important for the development of eye, nerve, and brain tissues (especially in fetuses and babies).

Omega-3 fats come in different forms:

▶ Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA):
The richest sources of EPA and / or DHA are sea vegetables (like seaweed) and seafood, especially fatty varieties like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and oysters.

▶ Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA):
Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, soy, dark leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables are high in ALA.

Our body needs to convert ALA to EPA or DHA before using it. About 90% of the ALA fat is lost in the conversion. In other words, if you consume 2.5 grams of ALA from plants, your body will only convert and use about 10 percent, or 0.25 grams

Bottom Line: Customers who don't eat seafood may want to include legumes, nuts, flaxseed oil, hemp, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, and other foods rich in ALA on a daily basis


Because iron carries oxygen around the body, low levels can lead to fatigue.

Animal products are a particularly rich source of a type of iron called heme, which our bodies absorb more easily than the non-heme iron found in beans, peas, lentils and other plants. (Your body takes in about 15 to 35 percent of the heme iron you eat, but only about 2 to 20 percent of the non-heme iron.)

Use this advice to increase iron intake and absorption:

▶ Increase absorption by eating iron-rich plant foods with foods high in vitamin C. Use the table below for ideas. Maybe make a stir-fry tofu with broccoli or a bean salad with tomatoes, bell peppers and a pinch of lime.

Rich in iron Rich in vitamin C.
pumpkin seed Citrus fruits and juices (e.g. oranges)
tofu Cantaloup melon
Tempeh Strawberries
Edamame broccoli
lenses tomatoes
Beans pepper
Peas Winter pumpkin
Sunflower seeds Watermelon
nuts Guava
Hummus Kale
almond butter kiwi
Leafy vegetables Potatoes
Fortified foods
White and oyster mushrooms
Andean millet
Dark chocolate

▶ Cook with cast iron cookware. Research shows that it can increase the iron content of the foods you eat. 13

▶ Do not drink coffee or black tea with meals. These drinks contain tannins, which inhibit the absorption of iron.

People who live on a plant-based diet

Some people enthusiastically start right out with plant-based foods and stay in depth for a lifetime. They look great and feel so good that they can't understand why everyone else isn't eating this way.

Other people? They fight. They don't feel good and / or they just can't understand.

What makes the difference

People who eat plant-based foods best:

✓ Be open about the topic "I will try everything once". Sea vegetables? Slimy fermented soy? Bring it

✓ Include minimally processed whole foods like vegetables, beans, and lentils.

✓ Have the time and inclination to research vegetarian recipes, restaurants, and meal delivery options.

✓ Get support from family / friends who may also follow their lifestyle.

✓ Do you have a deep “why” for the vegetable base, e.g. B. "I just can't stand harming animals" or "I want to do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint."

✓ You are flexible about your herbal identity. You will eat eggs, dairy, seafood, or meat from time to time when no other options are available.

People struggling with plant-based diets:

✓ Cook for picky eaters who either love meat or hate plant-based foods – or both.

✓ Prefer highly processed refined foods over minimally processed plant foods.

✓ There is no strong “why” to work plant-based.

✓ You lack the time and energy to research new recipes or restaurants.

How to coach clients on plant-based diets

Keep this advice in mind to help customers succeed.

Strategy 1: Don't assume you know what customers mean when they say "I'm a vegetarian" or "I'm plant-based".

As mentioned earlier, there are many types of plant-based and vegetarian eaters. So ask questions like:

  • What does “vegetarian” or “vegetable” mean for you?
  • Can you tell me a little more about what foods you like to eat and what foods you want to eliminate?
  • What do you eat and how often?

Customers have given us a wide range of answers to these questions.

Some say they are vegetarian before dinner. They don't eat meat before dinner. However, during dinner they have everything that everyone else has.

Others eat vegetarian at home, but anything is possible in social settings.

Strategy 2: understand the why.

Different people have different reasons for a plant-based diet – and some of those reasons are stronger motivators than others.

It's probably easy to see how someone who is allergic to eggs can easily stop eating them for the rest of their life.

Let's say someone has a vague idea that "meat is bad" based on documentary they've seen. And they love bacon. And burgers.

Sure, her vague perception of "meat is bad" might motivate her … for a while. But when memories of the documentary fade, you will likely find bacon and other popular foods creeping back in.

(By the way, if you are frustrated with diet fashions, check out How To Talk To Customers (And Your Mom) About The Latest Netflix Documentation)

In these cases we like to use an exercise called “The 5 Reasons”.

Originally used by Toyota Motor Corporation and adapted for nutritional coaching by Precision Nutrition, it gets to the heart of why we want something.

Ask your customer: Why do you want to work with plants?

Then, based on the customer's offers, ask again why.

And so on, up to five times.

Here is an example from one of our vegetarian customers. It took 4 reasons to get to its real reason:

Trainer: Tell me a little more about your reasons for being a vegetarian. Why do you want to do this
Client: Well, I grew up vegetarian. In my religion we don't eat meat.
Trainer: That's very interesting. Tell me a little more about it. Why do you think you shouldn't eat meat?
Client: {Laughs} Personally, I don't think so. My religion says that.
Trainer: All right, I understand. But why are you doing this if you don't really think it's bad?
Client: See, it's my family. My siblings and parents are more pious than me. Do not get me wrong. I am still religious. I'm just not as religious as they are. And I don't want them to think badly of me.
Trainer: I can understand why you want to be close to your family. I'm curious: if you're just a vegetarian because you don't want your family to think badly of you, then why stay a vegetarian when they're not around?
Client: Truthfully? Not me. I mean, I don't eat a lot of meat, mostly because of guilt. But when my family isn't around, I like to go to the Rib Festival, you know?

This conversation helped this client understand that he would likely eat meat from time to time. His "why" just wasn't strong enough to help him abstain completely.

He also agreed to eat meat as long as his family didn't see him.

Strategy 3: Talk about likely obstacles.

Work together to brainstorm situations that are likely to arise – and how customers would like to deal with them.

  • What will you do when you are out with friends who encourage you, "Oh come on, only have one wing"?
  • How will they react when Grandma says, “I know you love meatloaf. That's why I did this – just for you, honey. "
  • How will they deal with restaurants with little to no plant-based or vegetarian options?

After discussing some of these likely situations, ask customers: How satisfied are you with flexibility?

In other words, do they want to choose plant-based foods no matter what? Or are some animal products okay in certain situations?

Remind customers that:

An imperfect plan that is carried out consistently beats a perfect plan that is seldom done.

Some of our customers have said that an imperfect plan means they eat okay:

  • Commercially prepared soups made from chicken broth, but not when they contain cuts of meat.
  • Meat when a friend is serving it to them but not when they are at home preparing their own meals.
  • Salads, even if they are sprinkled with small pieces of bacon.
  • Wings when it's a special occasion.
  • Turkey, filling and / or sauce at a feast with an extended family.

Flexible customers can think of health habits like a volume control.

If you're new to plant-based foods, you may want to start with a fairly low dial. Maybe it's a 1 where they have a plant-based meal once a week or even once a month.

Over time, you may want to turn the knob up to 3 with all breakfasts being 100 percent plant-based.

They could decide that a 5 is as far as they want. Or they want to increase the volume further and eventually reach a 10, with every single meal coming from plants.

Just because they get a 10 doesn't mean they have to stay there.

Some days it's easy to eat at 10. On other days, many people have to lower the “volume” to allow a little meat or animal products.

By decreasing and increasing the volume as needed, people can continue to consistently rely on plant-based foods.

(For more information, see this infographic: How To Use The Dialing Method To Improve Your Diet, Fitness, And Health.)

Strategy 4: Brainstorming Methods for Designing Your Environment.

Plant eaters live in the same environment as everyone else – that is, the chances are good that they:

  1. Surrounded by highly processed foods.
  2. Often choose foods at will.

This environment will influence your nutritional decisions.

You are more likely to eat foods that are close and easy to grasp than foods that are further away or out of sight.

And you are less likely to eat foods that require labor to prepare – washing, peeling, cutting – than foods that can get straight from the refrigerator or cupboard into your mouth.

In order to eat enough minimally processed whole foods, customers want to make these foods easy to eat. At the same time, they want to make highly processed refined foods harder to eat. To do this, they could:

  • Always put cut vegetables in the refrigerator.
  • Soak beans and / or lentils every Sunday.
  • Buy prepackaged, pre-washed salad mixes.
  • Store highly processed snacks on a tall shelf, out of sight.

With these tweaks, they are much more likely to grab and eat the foods that help them meet their nutritional needs.

The Plant Diet: What To Eat

Traditionally, a vegetarian plate is filled with many plants: vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds as well as oils. Depending on the person, there may also be dairy products, fish or eggs.

Using the grocery lists shown in this infographic – a visual guide to plant-based eating – think about how you can move along a spectrum from your current eating habits to choices that are more whole foods, plant-based, and less processed.

For a complete guide on how much protein, carbohydrates, and fat to eat, put your details in our macro calculator. (It's FREE and offers you a custom plan based on your dietary preferences and goals.)

Plant-Based Diets: Do They Work – For You?

There really is only one proven way to tell if a plant-based diet is working for you:

Try it.

Treat it like an experiment. Define what herbal means to you. Then dive in – for at least two weeks.

After at least 2 weeks, take this short quiz. It will help you assess whether your eating strategy is working. You can always come back to the quiz – and any diet approach – so you may want to bookmark it.

Regardless of your results, remember: everything is fine.

As mentioned earlier, you can turn down the volume at any time. Instead of eating plants for most meals, you could try half of them. Or just for breakfast. Or one dinner a week.

Or what other option feels feasible for you.

This is not about receiving awards for herbal perfection. It's about being consistent with all the incrementally better habits you can manage.

What if you decide that plant-based foods are not for you? No problem!

There are many other ways to eat well. (You can consider Mediterranean, Keto, Paleo, Reverse Diet, or Intermittent Fasting as other options).

Or try the “everything” diet described in our precision nutrition calculator. Keep experimenting and trying new things. After all, you end up on the best diet – for you.


Click here to view the sources of information referenced in this article.

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2. Melina V., Craig W., Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diet. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec; 116 (12): 1970-80

3. Huang R-Y, Huang C-C, Hu FB, Chavarro JE. Vegetarian Diet and Weight Loss: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Jan; 31 (1): 109-16

4. Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, Miyamoto Y. 22- Blood pressure and vegetarian diet. In: Mariotti F, editor. Vegetarian and plant-based nutrition in health and disease prevention. Academic press; 2017. p. 395-413

5. Oussalah A, Levy J, Berthezène C, Alpers DH, Guéant J-L. Vegetarian Diet-Related Health Outcomes: A Comprehensive Review of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyzes. Clin Nutr (Internet). 2020 March 11; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.02.037

6. Espinosa A, Kadić-Maglajlić S. The mediating role of health awareness in the relationship between emotional intelligence and health behavior. Front Psychol. 2018, November 8; 9: 2161

7. Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, Deriemaeker P, Vanaelst B, De Keyzer W et al. Comparison of the nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrient. 2014 Mar 24; 6 (3): 1318-32

8. Lee-Kwan SH, Moore LV, Blanck HM, Harris DM, Galuska D. Differences in Country-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption – United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017, November 17; 66 (45): 1241-7.

9. Martínez Steele E., Baraldi LG, Louzada ML da C., Moubarac J.C., Mozaffarian D., Monteiro CA. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2016, March 9; 6 (3): e009892

10. Watanabe F., Yabuta Y., Bito T., Teng F. Plant-based food sources containing vitamin B12 for vegetarians. nutrient. 2014, May; 6 (5): 1861.

11. Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3-Fettsäuren EPA und DHA: gesundheitliche Vorteile während des gesamten Lebens. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan; 3 (1): 1–7

12. Gebauer SK, Psota TL, Harris WS, Kris-Etherton PM. Ernährungsempfehlungen und Nahrungsquellen für n-3-Fettsäuren, um wesentliche und kardiovaskuläre Vorteile zu erzielen. At J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun; 83 (6 Suppl): 1526S – 1535S.

13. Geerligs PDP, Brabin BJ, Omari AAA. Lebensmittel, die in Eisenkochtöpfen zubereitet werden, um die Eisenmangelanämie in Entwicklungsländern zu verringern: ein systematische Überprüfung. J Hum Nutr Diät. 2003 Aug; 16 (4): 275–81.

If you are or want to be a trainer …

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