Vegetarian Basics for Boomers

At any age, those who favor a plant-based diet should take special care to get sufficient amounts of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and zinc.

Healthy Food

Personally, nutrition is something I’ve been interested in for decades.  My exploration into the field arose from my first job following college.  It was the 70s, and my employer – a religious organization – was helping low-income seniors whose homes didn’t meet the city code standards.   Part of my job entailed meeting with the seniors and explaining how we could fix up their homes using volunteer laborers in exchange for the seniors repaying the cost of materials only.  Over the next few years, I met with dozens of seniors and began to observe the vast differences in health status among them.  Some were wearing their age well, while others suffered from a plethora of health problems – heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, obesity (the very same conditions that plague the older population still today).  And that got me thinking…..what could I do to age gracefully and healthfully?   Good nutrition and regular exercise were the answers I came up with.  Books and magazines on healthy eating and exercise became my constant companions, and a master’s degree in community health education soon followed.

Many boomers never developed an interest in nutrition.  But today, facing the realities imposed by Father Time, more boomers ARE discovering the benefits of a healthy diet.  Unfortunately, the body’s need for calories drops over the decades.  Consuming the same number of calories that we took in during earlier decades is a prescription for added pounds.  And beyond that, we boomers can benefit from enjoying nutrient-dense foods, like lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, lower fat dairy, whole grains, and small amounts of unsaturated fat. 

A Harris poll conducted this year attests to the increased interest in health, nutrition, and staving off disease among boomers.  This poll showed that 2.5 million baby boomers are now vegetarian, including some famous ones, like Bill Clinton, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Sir Paul McCartney.  At any age, those who favor vegetarian or even “flexatarian” diets (largely vegetarian with small amounts of lean animal protein)– should take special care to get sufficient amounts of the following (vegetarian sources noted):

  • Protein: A key nutrient, vegetarian sources of protein include soy, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), lower fat dairy, and egg whites.
  • Vitamin B12: This vitamin is found “naturally” only in animal foods, but through fortification, vitamin B12 is found in vegetable sources including soymilk, veggie burgers and cereal.
  • Vitamin D: One of the best sources of vitamin D is the sun.  Those living in northern states are often vitamin D deficient, and supplementation is advised. Small amounts of vitamin D can be found in such fortified foods as cereal, some orange juice, soy products, and shiitake mushrooms.  Check the food labels because amounts vary.
  • Calcium: This mineral is found in tofu, broccoli, seeds, nuts, kale, legumes, greens, okra, rutabaga, and calcium-fortified soy products.  Fortified grain products also contain small amounts of calcium.
  • Zinc: The best sources of zinc include wheat germ and bran, whole wheat breads and cereal, legumes, seeds, nuts and tofu.

About the Author:

Erica Bohm, M.S.
VP and Director of Strategic Partnerships

Erica has been passionately introducing consumers, restaurants, health professionals, employers, and others to the benefits of Healthy Dining since 1993. With her leadership and keen ability to forge strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, she is a valuable asset to the company’s continuous growth and mission to create a healthier America. She also regularly contributes as a spokesperson for the company, helping to spread the word about and its unique status as a one-of-its-kind, online nutrition resource.

Prior to joining Healthy Dining, Erica spent several years in nutrition- and health-related positions at the American Red Cross in Greater New York and the American Health Foundation. She earned her master’s degree in community health sciences from New York City’s Hunter College.

Erica was inspired to join Healthy Dining after receiving her first copy of the publication Healthy Dining in San Diego, the forerunner of the award-winning website, She loved the concept and knew immediately she wanted to be a part of the effort.