When you’re planning a healthy vegetarian diet, you’re only limited by your imagination. It’s important to incorporate a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits in different meals, including seeds and nuts. Variety is the spice of life, and it will help ensure your vegetarian diet is nutrient-dense, interesting, and fun! Aim for variety, even when you serve favorite entrees over and over again, by serving different side dishes, snacks, and desserts.

Be creative in planning meals. Boost your consumption of beans and vegetables by eating these foods at lunchtime rather than just for dinner. Make it a goal to serve a vegetable every day for lunch and two for dinner. Plan a meal around a vegetable. A baked potato can be a hearty entree; serve it with baked beans, a sauce of stewed tomatoes, or a few tablespoons of salsa. Or make a simple meal of sauteed vegetables and pasta.

Try new foods often. Experiment with a variety of grains such as quinoa, couscous, bulgur, barley, and wheat berries. Try fruits and vegetables that are popular in different international cuisines, such as bok choy. Accentuate the positive. Focus more on healthy foods that fit into a vegetarian plan instead of foods to avoid.

If you’re unsure how to include a new food into your vegetarian diet, ask the produce manager at your local grocer or health food store for ideas on how to prepare it. The internet can be a great resource for new recipes and preparation ideas. But be sure that you’re building your menu on a strong plant food base. Make them the core of your diet.

Don’t stress about getting enough protein. As long as calories are sufficient and the diet is varied, vegetarians easily meet protein needs. Grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts all provide protein. Vegetarians do not need to eat special combinations of foods to meet protein needs. However, it is important to be aware of fat. Even vegetarians can get too much fat if the diet contains large amounts of nuts, oils, processed foods, or sweets.

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