According to The Irish Food Board, some 9% of the population identify as a vegetarian while 3% are vegans.

This is a rise of at least 1% over the past year and illustrates a trend that has risen over the past decade or so. The growing popularity of a plant-based diet coincides with a general movement away from the consumption of meat and dairy products.

The National Dairy Council estimates that 42% of women and 30% of men are avoiding or limiting consumption of dairy products. There is also a steady drift towards ‘flexitarianism’ whereby many consumers, while not moving totally to vegetarian, are reducing consumption of animal products.

Being a vegetarian or vegan has its benefits, such as a lowered risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. However, in some instances, a plant-based diet can be difficult to keep up due to the absence of nutrients often found in animal products.

This week we have some top tips from Beeline Healthcare for a healthy vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diet.

1) Being vegan or vegetarian doesn’t always equal healthy or thin:

  • Chips are vegan. So are certain chocolate bars, peanut butters, biscuits and more. If a majority of your diet is processed food and sugar, you aren’t going to be any healthier or thinner. In fact, you could possibly gain weight. Instead, aim to eat a plant-based diet that’s high in fibre, protein, and a variety of whole foods.

2) Make it colourful:

  • It’s important to make sure that you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, since they all contain different nutrients. A simple way to do this is to make sure that you’re eating fruits and vegetables that are all different colours. Think red tomatoes, green kale, purple aubergine.

3) Drink a lot of water:

  • Because vegans and vegetarians consume more plant-based foods, they have a high fibre intake. It’s even more important that you drink enough water to help promote healthy digestion of that fibre.

4) Get fat:

  • It’s important that you get healthy fat in your diet to maintain a healthy hormonal balance. Try avocados, nuts, and oils from red palm fruit, olive, walnut, avocado, and coconut.

5) Break monotony:

  • Make sure you’re not eating the same foods day after day. Doing this can cause you to develop food sensitivities. Instead, keep lots of options on hand.

6) Supplements are your friend:

  • Vegetarians and vegans always need to supplement vitamin B12 because it’s generally not found in plant foods. Iron deficiency can also be a problem for those on plant-based diets. Iron deficiency can lead to tiredness, fatigue and anaemia.