Dear Reno: My college-bound daughter has decided to go vegetarian. Will this meet her nutrition needs? Thank you. — R.D.

Most people think of vegetarian diets as no meat, poultry or fish. However, depending what is included or excluded, vegetarian diets are further classified as:

— Lacto-vegetarian diet, which excludes all meat, fish, poultry, eggs as well as foods that contains these in any form. Milk and other dairy products are included.

— Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which excludes all meat, fish, poultry, but includes eggs and dairy products.

— Ovo-vegetarian diet, which excludes meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, but includes eggs.

— Vegan diet, which excludes all meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products and foods that contain any of these products.

A healthy vegetarian diet takes planning and should include a variety of foods.

Pay special attention to the following nutrients:

— Calcium. This helps build strong bones and teeth. Milk and dairy products are highest in calcium. Dark green vegetables are good sources of calcium, also calcium-fortified products such as juices, cereals, soy milk and other nut milks, soy-yogurt and tofu also provide calcium.

— Iron. This is a very important component of blood. Dried beans, lentils, iron-enriched and fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruit are good sources of iron. Also eat foods high in vitamin C to help absorb the iron from plant sources.

— Iodine. This is needed for thyroid functions. Using iodized salt provides this essential mineral.

— Omega-3 fatty acids. These are important for heart health. Walnuts, flax seeds, ground up soy beans and canola oil are good sources.

— Protein. This helps maintain healthy skin, bones and muscles. Eggs and dairy products, soy products, tofu, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are good sources.

— Vitamin B-12. This is found mostly in animal products. Vegetarians should eat fortified cereals and soy products and consider taking this as a vitamin supplement.

— Vitamin D. This is very important for bone health. Make sure you eat fortified foods and get sun exposure. If not, you should consider a vitamin D supplement.

— Zinc. This is important for several body functions and is found in whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds.

Some people follow a semi-vegetarian — also called “flexitarian” diet, where they mostly eat plant-based meals but occasionally will include some meat, fish, poultry, dairy or eggs.

To assure healthy eating and to get the best nutrition, one needs to carefully plan meals based on the type of vegetarian diet they choose to follow.

--- Reno Jain, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., is a registered and licensed dietitian at Labette Health in Parsons. She will answer reader questions on nutrition and wellness. She regrets that she is unable to answer individual questions, but will answer them in her column as possible. Send questions to: askreno@labettehealth.

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