"An ovo-pollo-lacto-flexitarian what?" you wonder after reading the latest on vegetarian diets. While a vegetarian diet is essentially a plant-based diet, there can actually be more to it than eating more whole grains, beans, and fresh produce.
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
Broadly speaking, a vegetarian diet is an eating pattern that includes plant-based foods, including grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds, but omits meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of animal slaughter.
However, there are certain levels of vegetarianism, as some followers pick and choose allowable animal products in their diet. This tends to spark prospective followers and outlookers to wonder, "What do you call a vegetarian that eats fish?” or “Do vegetarians eat eggs?" Recognizing the various types of vegetarian diets helps enlighten such questions.
The 7 Types of Vegetarian Diets
1. Lacto-ovo Vegetarian
Used interchangeably with ovo-lacto vegetarian, a lacto-ovo vegetarian eating pattern is the most common vegetarian diet in the U.S. Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat red or white meat, fish and shellfish, or insects or animal flesh of any kind, but do consume dairy and egg products ("lacto" comes from the Latin for milk, and "ovo" for egg).
Lacto-ovo vegetarians tend to only eat free-range eggs, which are eggs produced from birds that have access to the outdoors.
2. Lacto Vegetarian
Lacto-vegetarians do not eat red or white meat, fish, or eggs, but do consume dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
3. Ovo Vegetarian
Ovo-vegetarians do not eat red or white meat, fish, or dairy products, but do consume egg products.
Flexitarian is the combination of two words: Flexible and vegetarian. Flexitarians, also known as semi-vegetarians, focus primarily consume a plant-based diet though enjoys meat on occasion.
The diet was built by Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner to grant consumers flexibility, options, and an introduction to the benefits of vegetarianism.
Pollotarian is a semi-vegetarian diet in which someone chooses to eat chicken and other poultry but does not consume red meat, fish, and other animal meats.
So if a pollotarian restricts meat consumption to poultry, what do you call a vegetarian that eats fish?
A pescatarian, which is also considered a flexitarian and semi-vegetarian diet. Pescatarians eat fish and shellfish but do not consume red or white meats.
A vegan is an individual who decides to follow a vegan lifestyle, whether it be for personal, cultural, or ethical motives or concerns.
But unlike vegetarians that may enjoy a more liberal diet, going vegan is going without all animal products, even in the forms of honey, gelatin, wool, leather, and other animal by-product ingredients or products. Vegans typically do not use animal products such as silk, leather and wool, as well.
How to Eat Vegetarian:
First off, there really is no universal approach to following a vegetarian lifestyle, the advice below can help you eliminate chosen animal products with ease.
1. Begin by reflecting on what drew you to a vegetarian diet.
Some follow a vegetarian diet for cultural reasons, while others hope to lose weight or positively impact the environment. Knowing this can inspire you to eat a sustainable plant-based diet and decide which type of vegetarian may want to try.
What's more, recognizing the change as a personal aspiration, and not conforming to others opinions, ensures sustainability of the plant-based diet.
2. Do some research on the type of diet.
Research and learn more about the prospective vegetarian diet to learn tips and recipes to implement it successfully.
It is also important to research what nutrients you may be lacking in the diet if cutting out animal products. For instance, there are nutrients vegetarians should consider taking to lower the risk of deficiencies when cutting out some food groups, including iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids.
A Registered Dietitian can further help devise a plan that best suits your personal needs and preferences, along with protecting from nutritional deficiencies.
3. Implement small changes slowly.
Especially if an avid omnivore, giving up meat and animal products cold turkey may be quite the feat.
However, starting small and slow is just fine! Making slight modifications can ease the transition and lessen the overwhelming task of eliminating common food groups.
Simple tricks to maneuver into a vegetarian diet include practicing meatless Mondays and incorporating more plant-based proteins into your daily lunches, and swapping dairy milk with soy, almond, or another plant-based milk. With time, these tricks will start to become habits and a natural part of your daily life.
4. Enjoy the plant-based journey and have fun!
Going vegetarian does not have to be – or should be – intimidating. Enjoy this newfound journey and have fun throughout the process! Experiment with different recipes and utilizing various plant-based sources, including in this chickpea burger recipe.
Also ask restaurant servers about vegetarian entrees offered and explore the grocer aisles for new vegetarian-friendly foods.
It is important, though, to note vegetarian is not always synonymous to healthy. For instance, although a bag of chips may be vegetarian and vegan-friendly, continuously indulging on such products may cause weight gain and other health conditions.
And if you get a craving for meat… Relax! Choosing to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is not a life sentence and considering this is your choice, you are the one in control. So if (un)intentionally order and enjoy a beef burger, that is completely okay.
Truly, whatever your reason for eliminating meat and other animal products, remember it was a good idea for you!