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Are you thinking of making some changes to your diet? Do you want to learn more about vegetarian eating? Over the past several years, vegetarian diets have become more mainstream, with many grocery stores and restaurants offering a large variety of meatless and vegetarian options.

While vegetarian can mean a lot of different things, generally there are five different types of vegetarians.

  • Strict Vegan: A vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products such as honey, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products. Vegans also avoid any processed foods that may have required animal products in their manufacture, such as refined sugar.
  • Lacto-Vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish and eggs but includes dairy products.
  • Lacto-Ovo vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry and fish but includes eggs and dairy products. This is a common type of vegetarian in the United States.
  • Pesco-vegetarian (aka Pescetarian): A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry, eggs and dairy but includes fish.
  • Flexitarian: A semi-vegetarian diet with a focus on vegetarian food with occasional meat consumption.

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), approximately 2.5% of the U.S. adult population eats a diet free of meat, poultry, and fish, and this number is growing. The ADA’s position states that an appropriately planned vegetarian diet, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and for athletes. Vegetarian diets are also associated with many health advantages including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels and lower risk of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes as well as aiding in weight loss.

If you are considering becoming a vegetarian or just interested in a diet rich in plant-based foods, use the tips below and download the Meatless Meals Challenge to get started.

  • Add fruit to your cereal, oatmeal or morning meal
  • Add vegetables to your omelet
  • Start the day with a mixed fruit smoothie
  • Choose vegetarian sandwiches, soups and salads
  • Try using hummus or peanut butter instead of other spreads
  • Substitute beans or tofu for meat or poultry in your favorite dishes
  • Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens, which are rich in iron and provide calcium
  • Add nuts or seeds to salads, rice, soups or stews to add protein
  • Choose low and nonfat dairy products
  • Boost the healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating fish (if you include fish in your diet), enriched eggs, walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil