According to various surveys and polls, the percentage of vegetarians in the population varies by country, with India leading with a whopping 31%, followed by Brazil, Switzerland, Taiwan, Israel, and Australia. (1) But more and more people are switching to vegetarianism, and in places like Great Britain, the number has skyrocketed in the last decade or two. (2) This isn’t surprising, in part at least due to the positive health benefits, which include a reduced risk of heart disease. (3)
What vegetarians eat is essentially plant-based food, but there are a few different subtypes that can cause confusion, some of which may also help you ease into this lifestyle change. If you’re interested in becoming a vegetarian, or just want to know more, read on.
What do Vegetarians Eat?
In general, vegetarians will eat vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, while avoiding products of animal slaughter such as poultry, meat, and fish. However, vegetarians differ based on which animal products they consider ok to eat. Knowing a little bit more about each type of vegetarian diet will help you better understand the differences and perhaps help you begin changing your eating habits.
The 7 Different Types of Vegetarian Diets
1. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian
People who are lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat any kind of animal flesh like red and white meat and fish, but they still consume eggs and dairy. “Lacto” in Latin means milk and “ovo” means egg which explains the name.
2. Lacto Vegetarian
Lacto vegetarians go a step further. Besides abstaining from any type of fish and meat, they also avoid eggs, but they will eat cheeses, yogurts, and milk, among other dairy products.
3. Ovo Vegetarian
An ovo-vegetarian does not eat any meat or fish, along with dairy, but has no problem eating eggs, even if they tend to buy them from free-range farms.
Flexible vegetarians, or flexitarians and semi-vegetarians, tend to mostly eat a plant-based diet and occasionally add meat to their meals. This is a diet ideal for people in search of a flexible introduction to vegetarianism and was created by dietitian Dawn Blatner. (4)
A vegetarian that restricts meat consumption to fish is called a pescatarian. This type of diet can also fall into the flexitarian or semi-vegetarian system. Pescatarians will only eat shellfish or fish and no other meat.
Another form of semi-vegetarian, a pollotarian, limits the eating meat to various poultry – mostly chicken – while skipping red meats, fish, shellfish, and so on.
Being a vegan can carry with it various cultural, personal, or ethical motives. But while vegetarians – especially some of the subtypes – might eat some animal flesh, dairy, or eggs, vegans are much more strict about not just what they eat, but use in everyday life. For instance, they will not consume honey, wear wool or leather, or other ingredients and materials from animals.
How Do I Become a Vegetarian?
Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t include only one approach, but the tips below will help you begin and continue your journey.
1. Think about why you want to be a vegetarian
For some, being a vegetarian is a part of their culture, but you may want to help the environment or just shed a few pounds. In any case, knowing what drives you can help you choose the best plant-diet for you.
2. Do some research
Before you transition in vegetarianism, do some research to find out what nutrients and vitamins you might need to supplement due to the lack of animal products. Usually, vegetarians have to supplement B12, Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and iodine, among other things. You might best be assisted by a qualified and experienced dietician.
3. Start off slow
Instead of making a drastic and sudden change, we recommend that you ease slowly into your new diet, especially if you’re used to eating a lot of meat. You do not have to get rid of all meat right from the start. A good trick is to have meatless Mondays, where you try out various substitutes and new ingredients.
4. Remember to enjoy yourself and have fun
Becoming a vegetarian should not be too difficult or daunting. You can enjoy yourself along the way, too, by starting to cook more and experiment with different recipes. Also, don’t hesitate to eat out and ask servers for their vegetarian options. Likewise, satisfying an occasional meat craving is nothing to be ashamed of, because this lifestyle is not a life sentence!