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Bright Papers: Going Veg

March 08, 2010

Are you thinking about "going veg" or already trying to eat that way?

People become vegetarians for lots of reasons. Some do it because they love animals or are worried about the environment. Some people think it's a healthier way to eat. Some just don't like the taste of meat, chicken or fish.

There are different types of vegetarians. Many vegetarians still eat foods that come from animals like milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs. It's easier to get all the vitamins and minerals you need when you eat these foods.

Some vegetarians, called vegans (VEE-GANS), don't eat any foods from animals. That makes it a little trickier to get certain vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, but with smart planning, it can be done!

But being a vegetarian means a lot more than skipping out on meat and filling up on just fruits and veggies. You still need to follow MyPyramid to have a balanced diet. This framework for healthy eating gives you lots of vegetarian choices in each food group.

For instance, the foods in MyPyramid's Meat & Beans Group give you protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins. You can get these nutrients from beef, pork, chicken, turkey and fish. But you also can get them from eggs, dry beans, peas and lentils, nuts, sunflower seeds, tofu, soy milk and peanut butter.

The foods in the Milk Group, like milk, cheese and yogurt, give you calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. If you don't eat these foods, you need to substitute other foods like cereal and soymilk that are "fortified" with these nutrients.

Then, there's the  Vegetables Group, Fruits Group and Grains Group (the one that has stuff like bread, cereal, rice and pasta). Whatever kind of vegetarian you are, you need lots of foods from these groups—and you'll find lots to choose from.

Before you go veg, it's a good idea for you and your parents to see a registered dietitian (RD) for a "nutrition check-up," especially if you want to be a vegan. The RD is a healthy-eating expert who will help you and your parents make sure you get all the good nutrition you need to grow right, feel good and look good. To find an RD, click the link below.

Locate a registered dietitian (RD) in your area by going to Kidnetic.com partner, the American Dietetic Association at http://www.eatright.org.

Check out all the food choices without meat: MyPyramid for Kids! The Food Group Grand Tour

Skim our Super Snack Finder: Are You Snack Smart?

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