It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets (see hundreds of mouth-watering vegan diets here)are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A purely vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients. An evidence-based review showed that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy and result in positive maternal and infant health outcomes.

The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians.

Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce risk of chronic disease include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals. The variability of dietary practices among vegetarians makes individual assessment of dietary adequacy essential. In addition to assessing dietary adequacy, food and nutrition professionals can also play key roles in educating vegetarians about sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and dietary modifications to meet their needs.

So are vegetarian diets healthier than those of meat-eaters? Not necessarily. It all depends on what types of foods you consume. Read more.

Also, find out what the New York State Coalition on Healthy School Food is doing regarding introducing healthy plant-based foods and nutrition education in schools to educate the whole school community in “changing how schools feed kids.”

Want to get involved? Read more on how kids and adults can make change in their school food programs. To access links from this article, please see:

Author's Bio: 

Michelle Courtney Berry, Principal and CEO of Courtney Consulting Enterprises, LLC, is an award-winning, strategic brand management/marketing expert and riveting speaker who focuses on work/life balance, wellness and stress management. Since 1992, she’s coached thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs and leaders in the region, nation and world. She holds a Master’s degree in Communication from Cornell University and has appeared on “Good Morning America” and in “O-The Oprah Winfrey Magazine.” She’s honored to have opened for Maya Angelou and The Dalai Lama.