There's Vegetarian. And there's Vegan. Related, yet different. Both diets eliminate meat, fish, and poultry. Vegans don't eat any dairy, eggs, or other products derived from animals. Sub-types of vegetarianism, however, make exceptions for certain animal products:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs.
Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products.
The reasons for choosing one of these dietary paths vary:
Concerns for the environment
Any combination of the above
Whatever the reason, be aware of common mistakes that can adversely affect health. Understanding the following pitfalls can help maintain a nutritionally sound vegan or vegetarian diet:
Consuming Too Much Fruit Sugar
Fruit is an important part of any healthy diet, but consuming too much fruit sugar on a daily basis can have a detrimental effect on blood sugar. Also, fruits alone fail to provide the diversity of nutrients a body needs to thrive. Balance fruit intake with veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Lacking Dietary Variety
Being a creature of habit, or being afraid to try new foods or recipes, can leave your diet deficient in nutrients, and your taste buds in a sorry state. You'll have food cravings, hunger pains, and might just give up on vegetarianism. Follow those famous Dr. Seuss characters' advice: Try New Things; You Might Like Them!
Tipping the Carb Scale in the Wrong Direction
With so many convenience foods for vegetarians, it's easy to get tricked into thinking you're making a healthy choice by selecting "fortified with (fill in the blank)" products over fresh foods. Many of those products are loaded with hidden sugars and sodium. Get complex carbs and grains from whole, organic food sources such as barley, wheat, rye, millet, flax. Buy dried berries and nuts without added sugar or salt.
Folks new to vegetarianism don't properly combine foods to provide sufficient amounts of complete protein for their age and activity level. Many people wind up relying on protein shakes, which is not the ideal way to obtain protein. Most of your protein should come from whole, real, fresh foods. As a holistic health practitioner, I can help you establish good, flavorful meal planning strategies.
Both vegetarians and vegans need to pay attention to the intake of nutrients lost by omitting meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. As noted above, "fortified with" foods aren't the best because the nutrients aren't in the most bio-available state for the body to utilize.
The nutrients most commonly lacking in vegan/vegetarian diets are:
B vitamins, particularly B12 and B6
Iron, Zinc and Selenium
To track your nutritional intake, try this awesome program: cronometer.com, which has both free and paid account options.
If you have concerns about meeting your dietary needs, feel free to contact me for a free consult, or to set up an appointment.