The most important thing is to make sure you get all the nutrients you need. As long as the vegetarian diet is well planned and varied, it can meet nutritional needs as well as provide the benefit of reducing the risk of many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. (1) However, to achieve a balanced diet there are a few things to consider, such as nutrients of concern with both vegetarian and gluten-free (GF) diets.
The main nutrients of concern with vegetarian diets:
- vitamin B12
- vitamin D
- omega-3 fatty acids
- zinc (2)
Main nutrients of concern with GF diets:
- low fiber
- high fat
- more sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- low in certain vitamins and minerals:
- B vitamins
- In addition, there is malabsorption of nutrients associated with celiac disease such as B6, B12, folate, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
- Many GF foods are not fortified or enriched with iron, folate, or other vitamins like their gluten-containing counterparts. (3)
General recommendations for a vegetarian and GF diet:
- A varied diet that focuses on whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, dairy or dairy alternatives (depending on the type of vegetarian diet), GF whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds and healthy oils such as avocado and olive oil.
- Make sure to include a variety of protein sources (especially if vegan) such as legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas), GF soybean products, nuts and seeds.
- Include nutritious GF whole grains in the diet such as, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, and teff.
- For times that you choose processed foods such as baked gluten-free goods and pasta, select those that are fortified to boost nutrient intake.
- See a dietitian that can help you plan out GF and vegetarian diet tailored to your specific needs. Check out how to find a dietitian here.
- Ask your doctor or dietitian about the use of a GF and age-specific multivitamin supplement or other vitamin or mineral supplement you may need based on your labs.
- See your doctor regularly for follow-up (usually yearly) to monitor your celiac disease and test for nutrient deficiencies and celiac related antibodies. Check out how to find a doctor here.
These GF whole grains and seeds will boost nutrition:
- Amaranth: High protein, fiber, calcium and iron
- Buckwheat: High quality protein, B6, fiber, iron, niacin, thiamin, zinc
- Chia Seed: High in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and fiber
- Flax Seed: (ground): High in mega-3 essential fatty acids and fiber
- Quinoa: High quality protein, fiber, iron, calcium, B vitamins
- Sorghum: High fiber, B vitamins, iron and protein
- Teff: High protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins (3)
Note: Choose grains that are labeled GF. In addition, beans/legumes and nuts/seeds should be picked through and rinsed, regardless of GF statement.
- Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec;116(12):1970-1980. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025. PMID: 27886704. https://www.jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(16)31192-3/fulltext
- Craig WJ. Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):613-20. doi: 10.1177/0884533610385707. PMID: 21139125. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21139125/
- National Celiac Association. Going GF Off to A Fresh Start. Presentation. Published November 2021. https://nationalceliac.org/going-gluten-free-off-to-a-fresh-start/
Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.