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21-Day Vegetarian Diet

By Lau Hanly

A 21-day vegetarian meal plan can be simple to prepare, and the food can be satisfying to eat. To keep your menus varied and interesting, create a handful of recipes you rotate through, selecting options that allow you to use some of the same ingredients across multiple recipes.

Don't Become Deficient

Certain nutritional deficiencies are common among vegetarians. According to Colorado State University Extension, these include protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin B-12, iron, iodine and zinc. Nonvegetarians usually get these elements from animal products, but you can reduce the risk of deficiency by including particular foods in your diet. Use legumes and soy products for protein and zinc. If you eat them, choose eggs and dairy for extra protein, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, calcium and zinc. Leafy green vegetables will increase your calcium and iron while walnuts, flaxseeds and omega-3-enriched eggs will bump up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of iodine include iodized salt, soybeans, seaweed and cruciferous veggies such as cabbage and broccoli. If you are a vegan, check with your doctor or dietitian to see if any supplements are recommended for you.

Breakfast

The breakfast choices in your 21-day meal plan can be simple meals that are quick to put together before work each day. Oats are high in protein and fiber, and you can boil them in soy or nut milk, then top them with fruit, honey and ricotta cheese. You can make muesli from raw oats with added nuts and dried fruit. Ricotta can be a meal on its own -- top a cup with berries, cinnamon and nuts for a filling breakfast. If you prefer a savory breakfast, try egg-based dishes for a hit of protein and healthy fats: a cheesy omelet or poached eggs with sauteed spinach and mushrooms, or hard-boiled eggs with some whole-grain toast.

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Lunch

When it comes to lunch, select a handful of recipes that you can create quickly or in bulk ahead of time, so they are simple to take with you as you leave for the day. Stir-fry some tofu or tempeh with your favorite vegetables. Include leafy greens like bok choy or collard greens, along with quinoa or brown rice, as recommended by the ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Avocado salad with low-fat feta, sun-dried tomatoes and a handful of almonds is another healthy and filling lunch option, as are sandwiches or wraps filled with fresh vegetables, beans, cheese and spices. Add a piece of fruit for a easy snack, whether you're at home or on-the-go.

Dinner

The dinner options you include on your 21-day meal plan can be filling and tasty due to high-fiber vegetable ingredients. Daal, an Indian stew made from lentils and spices and eaten with rice or flatbread, will give you a large serving of protein, fiber and micronutrients. Alternatively, skewer and grill tempeh, tofu or seitan with your favorite vegetables. Serve with sauteed greens and mashed sweet potato and cauliflower, or over brown rice or quinoa. Egg and roast vegetable frittata is another dish you can easily make in bulk, as are soups made with legumes or beans. To top off your meal, add fresh fruit for dessert.

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