Flexibility of Food Patterns for Varied Food Preferences

The USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are flexible to permit food choices based on individual and cultural food preferences, cost, and availability. Both can also accommodate varied types of cuisines and special needs due to common food allergies.  Two adaptations of the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are:

Vegetarian Choices

Vegetarians of all types can achieve recommended nutrient intakes through careful selection of foods.

These individuals should give special attention to their intakes of protein, iron, and vitamin B12, as well as calcium and vitamin D if avoiding milk products.

In addition, vegetarians could select only nuts, seeds, and legumes from the meat and beans group, or they could include eggs if so desired.

At the 2,000-calorie level, they could choose about 1.5 ounces of nuts and 2/3 cup legumes instead of 5.5 ounces of meat, poultry, and/or fish. One egg, ½ ounce of nuts, or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish in the USDA Food Guide.

Substitutions for Milk and Milk Products

Since milk and milk products provide more than 70 percent of the calcium consumed by Americans, guidance on other choices of dietary calcium is needed for those who do not consume the recommended amount of milk products.

Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin D.

People may avoid milk products because of allergies, cultural practices, taste, or other reasons. Those who avoid all milk products need to choose rich sources of the nutrients provided by milk, including potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium in addition to calcium and vitamin D.


Those who avoid milk because of its lactose content may obtain all the nutrients provided by the milk group by using lactose-reduced or low-lactose milk products, taking small servings of milk several times a day, taking the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products, or eating other calcium-rich foods.

Some vegetarian calcium enriched foods include, soya products  like tofu, & soya milk. Vegetables, like spinach, kale,  several kinds of nuts, artichokes,oats, bulgur and some cereals also contain calcium.


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