Image for vegetarian myths article Some people think that being a vegetarian means that you will have to eat strange foods, less foods, or take steps to combine foods. If you are thinking about being a vegetarian, get the facts.

Myth One: I Won't Get Enough Protein

Not true. Most people in the US meet their daily protein needs. Some even get more. Meat has a lot of protein, but almost all foods have some. This means that vegetarians get plenty by eating many types of foods.

Myth Two: It Will Be Hard to Eat Out

Not true. Diners want more meatless meals and restaurants are creating them. Eating out is easier than ever. Choices may be limited but it is not hard to put together a tasty meal. Many places are happy to make items without meat.

Myth Three: It Will Take A Lot of Planning to Get Nutrition

Vegetarians and meat eaters should follow the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Choose My Plate Food guidelines. They should eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It should have smaller amounts of low-fat dairy products and protein foods and limited fats and sweets. The USDA does say that vegetarians may need to keep track of protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B12. Here are some sources:

  • Protein—beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, soy products, milk products, eggs
  • Iron—iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and dried fruits
  • Calcium—fortified breakfast cereals, soy products, calcium-fortified orange juice, dark-green leafy vegetables, dairy products
  • Zinc—beans, zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, milk products
  • B12—milk products, eggs, foods fortified with B12

Myth Four: The Diet Is Dangerous for Children or Pregnant Women

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) states that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be healthy for people of all ages, including pregnant women. Like all pregnant women, vegetarian women should take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy.

Babies born to vegetarians are just as healthy as those born to women who are not. Kids are fine without meat and will grow normally. A dietitian can help spot problems and talk with parents about any concerns they may have.

Myth Five: A Diet Without Meat Is Healthier Than One With It

Skipping meat does not make a person healthy. A vegetarian who eats a diet full of fried and sugary foods is not eating well.

Myth Six: I Will Need to Eat Weird Foods Like Tofu

Not true. Many vegetarians do not eat tofu. In general, they do experiment with more foods to take the place of the meat that they are not eating. This is not needed, though. Vegetable pizza, bean burritos, broccoli stir-fry, pasta with tomato sauce, and other classics are all meatless dishes.

RESOURCES:

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

International Vegetarian Union
https://ivu.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

How much protein do you need every day? Harvard Health Publishing—Harvard Medical School website. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096. Updated June 18, 2015. Accessed February 5, 2020.

Vegetarian diet. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated June 30, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2020.

10 tips: Healthy eating for vegetarians. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-healthy-eating-for-vegetarians. Accessed February 5, 2020.

Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN  Last Updated: 2/2/2021