3 Key Nutrients for Vegetarians to Focus On

Our nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ highlights the key nutrients to keep in mind when following a vegetarian lifestyle.

fresh start vegetarian

We are so excited by the launch of Fresh Start Choice, with 12 delicious recipes to choose from every week! But that’s not all…

We’re stoked that 5 of those recipes are vegetarian and plant-based every week! So, whether you’re a full-time vegetarian or looking to be more flexitarian, you can create a Fresh Start menu that works for you.

The down-low on Fresh Start veggie meals

If we’re predominantly vegetarian, we need to be a little more aware of our nutrient intake. This is even more true if we’re looking to lose weight. This is because, as much as we don’t want to focus on just calories, our calorie intake does play an important role in weight loss.

So, we need to be smart with the foods we eat to ensure we’re getting the best nutrient bang for our buck.

Here are 3 nutrients that are particularly important to keep in mind when following a vegetarian lifestyle.

1. Protein

When we’re not eating meat proteins, we need to be more mindful of our protein intake. Luckily there are lots of veggie foods that are top sources of protein!

Eggs, lower fat dairy like feta, yoghurt, halloumi, mozzarella and milk, legumes like chickpeas, lentil and beans, nuts and seeds, tofu, edamame beans and peas, pulse pastas, mushrooms, nut butters and grains like brown rice and quinoa are all great vegetarian sources of protein.

If we’re focusing on plant proteins, it’s important to eat a good variety to ensure we’re getting all the different amino acids. Where animal foods are ‘complete proteins’, meaning they have all the essential amino acids (these are the building blocks of protein), plant foods can be missing one or two of these. Combining plant foods like beans and rice or peanuts and lentils make for a complete protein source.

2. Iron

Although red meat is typically thought of as the source of dietary iron, you can find iron in plant foods, too! Iron from plants is non-haem iron. This form is different to the iron from animal products, which is known as haem iron. Unfortunately, non-haem iron isn’t absorbed quite as readily into our bodies as haem iron. For this reason, it’s important to make sure we’re keeping track of what iron-rich foods we’re eating.

Iron rich veggie foods include dark leafy greens like spinach and silverbeet, legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and red kidney beans and black beans, nuts and seeds including chia, linseeds, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds, tofu, dried fruit like apricots and figs, and quinoa. You’ll see lots of these ingredients in our Fresh Start veggie meals!

It’s important to pair iron-rich foods with foods rich in vitamin C, like capsicum, citrus, cabbage or broccoli, as vitamin C helps us to absorb iron.

3. Omega-3s

Oily fish is one of the best sources for omega-3s, but it’s not the only one! Chia seeds, help seeds, flaxseeds (also known as linseeds) and walnuts and their oils are all great sources of ALA (alpha linoleic acid – the plant-based version of omega-3s).

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and these play a big role in our bodies’ make up and function. These fatty acids have functional roles in our eyes, brain and all our membranes. Omega-3 also has anti-inflammatory action, meaning they help to reduce the constant inflammation in our bodies (from things like stress, pollution, poor diet etc.).

Reducing chronic inflammation in our bodies plays a role in reducing our risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

Meet the Nutritionist

Emma ‘Edamame’

Our in-house nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ was born and bred in mid Canterbury and has the health and wellbeing of Kiwis in mind at all times. As an NZ registered nutritionist (NZ Nutrition Society) with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Auckland, she makes sure we’re all getting our fresh dose of local veggies and our meals are full of nutritious substance – thanks for having our back Em (and our waistlines!). When it comes to New Zealand produce, Emma is a whizz, with fresh berries being her absolute fave. Intrigued to know what food this nutritionist couldn’t live without? Fresh fish and seafood, delivering on both flavour and nourishment. As well as ice cream, especially real fruit ice creams, in the summer time! Life’s all about a tasty balance, right?

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