Following a vegetarian or vegan diet

Following a vegetarian or vegan diet can be a healthy option, but it is important to ensure it is balanced and varied.

If you are interested in ways to reduce how much meat you eat, this page might be useful.

A healthy balanced diet

Excluding certain foods from your diet can make it more difficult to get the nutrients your body needs. For those who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is important to make sure you get enough of these nutrients:

  • Iron can be found in beans, pulses and dark green vegetables. Some products have iron added, such as some breakfast cereals and bread . The packaging will let you know, so check the label.
  • Getting enough vitamin D from food is tricky, so it is recommended everyone in Scotland takes a 10µg supplement. For more information you can visit our page on vitamin D.
  • Using a vegetable oil spread is one way of helping ensure omega-3 fatty acids are in your diet.
Anyone choosing to follow a vegan diet, or those who consume no animal products may want to take extra care to include these nutrients in their diet:
  • Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products and meat. Those following a vegan diet can take a supplement or eat foods with added B12 like some breakfast cereals or non-dairy alternative drinks.
  • Calcium may be added to some cereals, non-dairy alternative drinks or yoghurt, and products like tofu - just remember to check the label.
  • Sources of iodine include dairy products and eggs. If you prefer not to eat these foods, some non-dairy alternatives have added iodine, or you could consider taking a supplement.
  • For more information on vegetarian or vegan nutrition you can visit NHS Inform.

Alternative products

Just because a product is labelled as vegetarian or vegan doesn’t always mean it is healthier or has the same balance of nutrients. Choosing substitutes for animal products can be confusing, so here are some top tips:Products like vegetarian sausages or meat-style sandwich fillers can be high in saturated fat and salt, so it is important to check the label and choose those with lower amounts where you can.

Try looking for options higher in fibre as this will keep you feeling fuller for longer- this could include alternative meat products made of vegetables or pulses.Our page on dairy and non dairy alternatives has important advice on things to consider when picking dairy replacements, including checking if vitamins and minerals have been added.


Most people in Scotland eat more than enough protein, so this should not be a big concern if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. The following are some good sources of non-animal protein:

  • Beans or pulses like peas, lentils, and chickpeas are a handy low cost option - a portion of these can also count towards your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
  • Plain tofu is a protein source that is low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. Silken tofu is great for making smooth sauces, whilst firmer varieties can be added to baked or stir-fried dishes.
  • Low-fat yogurt, cheese and eggs are all good sources of protein for those who eat animal-products.
  • Although cheese and yogurt can be a good sources of protein and calcium for vegetarians, some types can be high in saturated fat, salt or sugar so it’s good to check the label.
  • For more tips on protein, you can check out this page.

Children following a vegetarian diet

Most people can eat a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet, including children. It is important children eat a wide variety of foods to ensure they get the nutrients and energy they need to grow and develop. The tips from this page can be combined with the ones found here: Eating with children.

Making a change

How to make small, manageable changes to what you eat and drink.

Make a change