Most of these tips really apply to everyone, not just vegetarians. They may seem trite, but they are tried and true and you may notice the difference in your health and energy levels.
Eat a Dark Green Vegetable at Least Three Times a Week
These nutritional powerhouses are packed full of vitamins such as calcium and iron. On the run or hate spinach? Try drinking your greens. Green smoothies are great for a morning boost, or afternoon pick me up, and can give you a head start on your nutrients for the day. Another thing you can do to get your greens is to add a handful of spinach leaves to your regular salad. A full spinach salad might not be very enticing, but a handful or so mixed in with your favorite red leaf lettuce goes down just fine. Or try out a combination of kale and collard greens for a flavorful and healthy side.
Take a Vitamin Supplement That Contains B12
Or include fortified nutritional yeast in your diet regularly, especially if you're vegan or mostly vegan. Vegetarians may not need to worry as much about vitamin B12, as it is found in dairy and eggs, but vegans should err on the side of caution and make sure they're getting a consistent source of B12. Many products, such as soy milk and veggie burgers are fortified with B12, so read the label.
It's been said over and over again for a reason—because it's true! Most people don't drink enough water (and even if you think you're drinking enough, you probably aren't, especially if you're trying to shed unhealthy habits). Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go and invest in a simple filter for your home. Water is especially important when adjusting to a new way of eating, as it will help curb any cravings you may experience.
Specifically, drinking plenty of water helps to prevent cravings before they even arise. Drink more water than you think you need and get in the routine of drinking a glass first thing in the morning. If you're used to sipping on a diet cola while you're working, transition to sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice and see if that is enough to satisfy your habit.
Eat at Least One Raw Fruit or Veggie a Day
This may seem like a no-brainer, but even if we're eating plenty of vegetables, many times we don't always get fresh raw produce in our diets, which means we might be missing out. Vitamin and mineral content is affected by heat after all, for better or for worse depending on the food and cooking method, so it is important to find a balance. Raw fruits and veggies may even help improve your mood. Some days, you probably get plenty of fresh raw fruits and vegetables, but there are probably days when you have none at all.
Try to eat an apple first thing in the morning to get it out of the way. Or keep baby carrots on hand for snacking, and include a raw green salad with your lunch every day.
Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake
If you are hoping to find ways to control your sweet tooth, try using sugar replacements such as brown rice syrup, stevia, and agave nectar whenever possible (like in everyday coffee and tea). Consume the refined stuff only occasionally.
Similarly, try to avoid processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup. If you start reading labels, you might be shocked to find out that this highly processed sugar gets slipped into nearly anything, from things that your might expect to be more straight-forward — like whole-grain bread and even hummus — to nearly everything that comes in a bottle, including barbecue sauce and salad dressings.
Keep Your Favorite Salad Dressings on Hand
You might find that you're much more likely to eat your greens or some raw veggies when your favorite salad dressings are in the fridge. A little variety is great too — try to keep at least two kinds, either store-bought or homemade, on hand at all times. Some favorites are homemade goddess dressing, Thai peanut sauce from your local grocer, and raspberry vinaigrette. A vegan ranch dressing is helpful as well when trying to wean yourself off dairy.
Eat the Rainbow!
Fruits and vegetables all contain different nutrients. A simple way to incorporate a range of vitamins and minerals is to vary the colors of the fruits and vegetables you eat. Of course, greens are always good, but try eating an array of vibrant tomatoes, yellow squash, and purple cabbage.
This is an important detail vegetarians often have to remember, as it's easy to get into food ruts or habits. If you end up making green salads nearly the same way all the time, try mixing it up with a rainbow in mind. Thinly sliced leeks, diced beets, bell peppers of all colors, and shredded carrots are great to toss in and bring the color.
National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B12: Fact sheet for health professionals. Updated March 9, 2022.
Harvard Health. How much water should you drink? Published March 25, 2020.
Brookie KL, Best GI, Conner TS. Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Front Psychol. 2018;9:487. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487