What is the vegetarian diet?

Dominique Adair
Vegetarianism includes a variety of plant dominant diets, from those that include only plant derived foods (vegan); those that include eggs and/or dairy (lacto and/or ovo); to those that include fish (sometimes referred to as "pescatarian"); and those diets which are primarily plants but do include a variety of animal products (sometimes referred to as "flexitarian").

Many people (as well as a significant agreement in the research) champion plant-based diets and their ability to reduce the risks of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Some of my patients concerned with the commitment of becoming strictly vegan, have found a comfortable middle ground by eating less animal foods and more plants ("Meatless Mondays" for example). Whether for health, humanity, or even environmental reasons, eating more plants foods is certainly a positive gesture.
A vegetarian diet is one that's filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, dairy, eggs, and soy products. You do not eat meat, poultry, or fish. You get your protein from beans, legumes, seeds, soy, eggs, and dairy products. There are many benefits to eating a vegetarian diet such as weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and a lower body mass index (BMI). People with diabetes may benefit from a vegetarian diet by the improvement in the insulin response. Also, with a vegetarian diet, there is an improvement in blood glucose control for many with diabetes.
Vegetarian diet is one where you do not eat fish, poulty, or meat but you do eat dairy such as milk, cheese and eggs.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
A vegetarian diet is based on plant foods such as: grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits. There are different types of vegetarian diets, the three most common types are: vegan which restrict all animal products; lacto-vegetarian which includes milk in the diet; and the lacto-ovo-vegetarian includes milk and eggs. Another variation of the vegetarian diet is the pesco-vegetarian which includes fish.

The vegetarian diet has been shown to help decrease the risk of obesity, heart disease, hypertension and certain types of cancer. 
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
A vegetarian diet is one that typically is plant-based. Vegetarian diets vary in terms of foods allowed and restricted. 
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian is one that allows dairy and eggs.
  • Lacto vegetarian is one that allows dairy (no eggs).
  • Vegan is a strictly plant-based diet (excludes all animal products including dairy and eggs).
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

The vegetarian diet is one that avoids all animal flesh, including fish and poultry. Vegetarians who avoid flesh but do eat animal products, such as cheese, milk, and eggs, are ovo-lacto vegetarians (ovo = egg; lacto = milk and cheese). Those who eschew all animal products are referred to as pure vegetarians or vegans.

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Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
A vegetarian diet can mean lots of different things. There are vegan diets which contain no animal products what so ever or lacto ovo which contain dairy products and eggs but no other animal protein. Generally though a vegetarian diet means you are not eating beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, lamb or pork. A vegetarian diet is full of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, vegetable protein like soy and other legumes, and whole grains.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.