Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who eat milk and eggs in addition to plant foods, have an easier time achieving a well-balanced, complete diet than do vegans, who eat no foods of animal origin. Vegans must rely onmeals that supply precise amounts of grains such as wheat, rice, corn, or oats with legumes such as peanuts, chick-peas, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, or soybeans. Meals of this type are popular in many cultures throughout the world. Pasta and beans are eaten in Italy, rice and beans in Latin America, and rice and soybean curd in the Orient – as well as many other healthful combinations.
These meals have provided the necessary protein for millions of people for generations – without the high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, and the expense, of some of the protein foods favored in the United States. Some nutritionists recommend that we incorporate occasional meatless main meals into our diet – but that we do not make them the sole components of our diets without knowing the drawbacks of vegetarian eating.
For children, the amount of plant food necessary to fulfill the protein requirements of growth may be almost impossible to consume. Some adults may have the same problem, but most likely involving proportions. Since the average person is unlikely to know the amino acid content of many grains or legumes, incorrectly matching up low-quality protein foods may create an amino acid imbalance or deficiency. It is also important to understand that these foods must be eaten at the same meal to be of maximum benefit.