What is a vegetarian?
In a very general sense, a vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat. But that definition is too simple. There are several kinds of vegetarian diets:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat milk products—such as milk, cheese, and yogurt—and eggs, but no meat, poultry, seafood, or fish. "Lacto" means "milk." "Ovo" means eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat milk products, but not eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or fish.
- Vegans (say "VEE-guns" or "VAY-guns") are total vegetarians. They eat only plant foods. They don't eat food that comes from animals in any way, including milk products, eggs, honey, and gelatin (which comes from bones and other animal tissue).
Many people are semi-vegetarian—most of the diet is vegetarian, but sometimes they may eat meat, poultry, seafood, fish, and/or eggs.
There are many reasons why some people choose vegetarian diets:
- A vegetarian diet can be healthier than other diets.
- Some people think it's wrong to use animals for food.
- Some religions forbid eating meat.
- A vegetarian diet can cost less than a diet that includes meat.
- Eating less meat can be better for the environment, because most meat is commercially farmed.
- Some people don't like the taste of meat.
Are vegetarian diets healthy?
If properly planned, vegetarian diets can provide all the nutrients you need. In addition to that, being a vegetarian can actually be better for you. In general, vegetarians:1
- Weigh less than people who eat meat.
- Are less likely to die of heart disease.
- Have lower cholesterol levels.
- Are less likely to get:
Good health could be related to a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Keep a balance
As a vegetarian, you can still eat a balanced diet.
- Substitutes for 1 oz (28 g) of meat:
- ¼ cup cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils
- 1 egg or 2 egg whites, or ¼ cup egg substitute
- ½ oz (1 Tbsp) nuts or seeds
- ¼ cup tofu or tempeh
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- If you do not use milk, use soy milk fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Count 1 cup (8 fl oz) as one serving. You can also use fortified soy cheese or soy yogurt.