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Special Diets

Dairy-free and Vegan Diets

A dairy-free and vegan diets contain absolutely no dairy products: no milk, butter, cheese, cream or yogurt. Those following a dairy-free or vegan diet are advised to make sure they get enough calcium, protein and vitamins from other food sources.

Dairy substitutes may include: almond milk, apple, pear or prune puree, cheese alternatives (soy, rice), multi-grain milk, nondairy frozen desserts, oat milk, rice milk or soy milk. When baking, milk may be substituted, in equal amounts, with water or fruit juice.

In planning meals, make sure that each day's diet includes enough calcium. Many nondairy foods are high in calcium, such as green vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and kale) and fish, such as salmon and sardines. Incorporating tofu into meals also helps to ensure that you are getting calcium.

If you're unsure whether you are getting enough nutrients in your dairy-free or vegan diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Vegetarian Diets

Some people choose vegetarian diets for environmental, cultural, religious and ethical factors, while some choose not to eat meat because they believe it's a healthier choice. If you are a vegetarian or are thinking about embracing a vegetarian diet, you will need to take extra steps to ensure that you're meeting your daily nutritional needs.

A healthy vegetarian diet consists primarily of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. A vegetarian diet generally contains less fat and cholesterol and typically includes more fiber. You will want to make sure that you are eating foods to give you and adequate amounts of protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, iron and zinc.

The key to a healthy vegetarian diet - or any diet for that matter - is to enjoy a wide variety of foods. Since no single food provides all the nutrients your body needs, eating a wide variety helps to ensure that you'll be getting the necessary nutrients that promote good health.

If you're unsure whether a vegetarian diet is right for you, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

For more information on vegetarian diets, visit or

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called adult-onset diabetes. Typically, the overweight body's poor insulin utilization is the main reason for the high blood-sugar levels in this type of diabetes. Being overweight is one of the key risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. Before Type 2 diabetes develops, a person usually has pre-diabetes. Taking care of yourself by walking regularly and watching your weight may help prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes. However, family history and genetics are important indicators as well; even the most diet-conscious marathon runner may develop Type 2 diabetes.

For people who are diabetic, pre-diabetic or overweight, appropriate nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight are not options, but necessities.

Consider changes in your daily routine to reduce Type 2 diabetes risk, including:

  • lose weight if overweight;
  • cut back on sugary foods;
  • cut back on the amount of fat you eat;
  • cut back on the amount of saturated fat you eat;
  • increase fiber;
  • exercise (make sure to check in with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level); and
  • review the contribution to your risk of your antipsychotic medications as some may reduce the feeling of fullness and promote weight gain and diabetes.

Get started by planning to make one small diet change a week. Do this by reviewing your daily food intake. Is there any food you can eliminate or reduce the size of the portion? Perhaps, one teaspoon of sugar is enough in your coffee instead of two, and low-fat milk instead of cream is acceptable to you. Small changes like these cut back on fat and calories. Switching to 100 percent, whole-grain bread is also an easy change. Eating only part of a dessert is a difficult habit to develop, but it is an achievable step for everyone. Each person has food habits that can be changed. They will be different for everyone. Little changes that become part of your lifestyle will improve your health.

The complications of diabetes are serious. They include: loss of vision, kidney failure, foot ulcers, amputation, stroke and heart disease. Taking steps to prevent diabetes is an important health decision.

What you eat makes a significant difference in your diabetes risk. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Drink water instead of sweetened drinks. Avoid drinks and foods sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Limit the amount of juice consumed each day to four oz. Limit high-sugar and high-fat foods such as cakes, cookies and doughnuts. These are all foods that have refined sugars and starches in them, as well as trans and saturated fat.

Preventing Type 2 diabetes is a worthwhile goal and hopefully will help motivate you to making lifestyle changes.

Visit the American Diabetes Association Web site for more information on healthy eating and diabetes. Visit the National Diabetes Education Program for additional information.