Oils, especially canola and extra-virgin olive oil, offer heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some, such as canola oil and flaxseed oil, provide omega-3 fats.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide protein and healthy unsaturated fats; walnuts and flaxseed provide omega-3 fats. Nuts and seeds also offer fiber and important nutrients, such as vitamin E, iron and zinc.
3. Eggs and Dairy
Eggs and dairy are good sources of high-quality protein for lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, provide calcium and vitamin D.
Legumes—beans (including soybeans/edamame), lentils and dried peas—are the best sources of plant-based protein. Foods made from them (tofu, tempeh, falafel, hummus) are good sources too. Legumes also provide fiber, vitamins and minerals, including iron and zinc (nutrients abundant in meat).
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains should have a starring role in any vegetarian diet, as they are excellent sources of carbohydrates (the "good" kind) and other essential nutrients: B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper, magnesium and iron, just to name a few. To try: oats, whole-wheat pastas and breads, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur.
6. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables, with their abundance of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals (e.g., lycopene in red foods, beta carotene in orange foods, anthocyanins in blue/purple ones), should form the base of any vegetarian diet.
Now take those six staples and incorporate them into a number of different delicious meals!
Colorful Vegetable Tian
Squash, zucchini, potatoes, peppers and more create this dish, which is just as pretty as it is delicious.
The nutty goodness of slowly browned onions, spices and sweet potato are offset by a burst of fresh cilantro. Serve with whole-wheat pita and a salad of sliced cucumbers tossed with yogurt and a pinch of salt.
In this version of the classic salad, miso serves as a marinade and a rich, savory layer in the dressing. There are several varieties of miso, but the mellow, subtle sweetness of brown rice miso is just rich enough.
Mixed Lettuce Salad With Cucumber Herb Vinaigrette
Oak leaf and baby romaine lettuces are so tender they’re best eaten straight from the garden or within a day or two of picking. They pair wonderfully with peppery radishes and chopped hard-boiled eggs in this salad.
This vegetarian version of the classic Chinese stir-fry, Moo Shu, uses already-shredded vegetables to cut down on the prep time. Serve with warm whole-wheat tortillas, Asian hot sauce and extra hoisin if desired.
Potato soups can sometimes be a bit bland, but not this one. This soup flavors the potatoes with blue cheese and balsamic vinegar, and a dollop of olive tapenade. Plus, it's ready to serve in just an hour.
The building blocks of a meatless diet are wholesome, nourishing foods that should form the backbone of any diet—meatless or not. With these items in your pantry, a healthy, meatless meal is easy to pull together. Find out what these meatless staples are and why you should embrace them.
Check out the slideshow above for the staples of a vegetarian diet and additional recipes for you to try!