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12 Mistakes to Avoid on a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

A balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can provide many health benefits.

These diets have been associated with weight loss, better blood sugar control, a decreased risk of heart disease and a lower risk of certain types of cancer (1, 2, 3, 4).


However, it can be challenging to maintain a well-rounded vegetarian diet that provides all the nutrients you need.

This article uncovers some of the most common mistakes people make on a vegan or vegetarian diet, and how to avoid them.

1. Assuming That Vegan or Vegetarian Products Are Automatically Healthier

Unfortunately, just because a food product is labeled "vegetarian" or "vegan" doesn't necessarily mean it's healthier than the regular alternative.

For example, almond milk is a popular, plant-based milk that's often a staple in vegan diets.

However, while almond milk is low in calories and enriched with several important vitamins and minerals, it is not necessarily healthier than cow's milk.

For example, 1 cup (240 ml) of low-fat cow's milk contains 8 grams of protein, while the same amount of unsweetened almond milk contains only 1 gram (5, 6).

Sweetened almond milk can also be high in added sugar, with 16 grams of sugar in just 1 cup (7).

Other vegetarian products, such as soy-based veggie burgers, nuggets and meat alternatives, are often highly processed, with a long list of artificial ingredients. So they're often no healthier than other non-vegetarian processed foods.

Despite being vegetarian, these products are also often high in calories, yet lacking the protein, fiber and nutrients necessary for a balanced meal.

While these products may ease your transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet, it's best to consume them in moderation with a diet rich in nutritious, whole foods.

Summary: Many foods marketed as vegetarian or vegan are often highly processed, high in added sugar or lacking in nutrients. If you include these products in your diet, eat them only in moderation.

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