Eating vegetarian is a great way to improve your health, slash your budget and help the planet. But it's important to shop for food carefully since a meat-free diet may lack certain key nutrients such as Vitamin B12, iron and protein. Want to get the most out of your meals? The Vegetarian Resource Group has the scoop on what you need to look for when cruising the supermarket aisles or your local farm stand:

B12. You don't need much B12, but it's very important to get at least a little. B12 plays a role in blood formation and cell division, and a deficiency can lead to anemia and irreversible nerve damage. Since plants don't make B12, your best bet for covering this base is to take a supplement or eat fortified foods. Look for breakfast cereals or milks with added B12. Another option is to buy a nutritional yeast and add it to your food.

Iron. Adequate iron intake keeps red blood cells functioning properly and able to deliver oxygen to all parts of the body. Without enough iron, you can become easily fatigued and eventually anemic. It's especially important to get enough iron if you're pregnant. Your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement, but you can make the effort to eat more foods containing iron as well. Try to eat iron-rich foods at the same time as Vitamin-C foods; your body will absorb the most iron this way. Your best bets? Dark leafy green vegetables are loaded with iron. Beans also are an excellent source of iron, as is blackstrap molasses. Also try dried fruits, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and iron-enriched foods such as breads and breakfast cereals.

Protein. While non-vegetarians often turn to poultry, fish and beef for their protein, vegetarians have to be more creative, especially when eating in restaurants. But there are plenty of ways to get protein, which is essential for proper muscle function as well as overall health. Beans are a top source of protein, as are tofu (often found in Asian restaurants), eggs and cheese. Nuts and nut butters provide a hefty dose of protein along with heart-healthy fats. And the grocery shelves have exploded in recent years with all kinds of vegetarian patties and other meat substitutes that can be used in sandwiches, entrees and salads. Many of them can even be grilled on the barbecue, so you can enjoy your burger along with everyone else!