College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Build On The Basics
Vegetarian diets are very common
today. This practice has existed
through history and continues
today in many parts of the world.
While being vegetarian means
dierent things to dierent people,
there is a common thread. Vegetarians eat diets based
on plants, and avoid one or more of the following: meat,
poultry, sh, milk, and eggs.
People are vegetarians for dierent reasons. These range
from food availability to cultural practices, religious or
philosophical beliefs, ecological concerns, and economics.
Health concerns also may play a factor in choosing a
vegetarian lifestyle. Studies have shown a positive link
between vegetarian eating and health. In general, the
incidence of some health problems, including heart disease,
high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol
and obesity tend to be lower in vegetarians. However, being
vegetarian doesn’t ensure healthy eating. Poorly planned,
the chance for some nutritional deciencies can go up.
What’s in Vegetarian Diets?
Most vegetarians rely heavily on whole grains, fruits
and vegetables and avoid red meat. Vegetarian diets vary
considerably. Vegetarian diets are oen classied by the
foods they include.
• Vegans or total vegetarians avoid all animal products
and include only plant food.
• Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products and plant
foods, and avoid all animal products including eggs.
• Ovo-Vegetarians include eggs and plant foods.
• Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat dairy products, eggs, and
plant foods, but avoid fowl, sh and red meat.
• Semi-vegetarians avoid red meat, but may include sh
or poultry, dairy, eggs and plant foods.
Variety for Taste and Nutrition
Whether you follow a semi-vegetarian eating plan, a
vegan regime, or something in between, it’s never been
easier to enjoy a vegetarian diet than it is today. Interest in
this eating style has led many companies to develop many
products geared to American tastes and lifestyles. You don’t
have to give up your burgers, but rather consume soy, bean
or grain based paies. If you can’t imagine life without hot
dogs or sausage, tofu now has versions of these favorites.
Supermarkets and specialty health food stores carry a
wide range of products that can make a vegetarian lifestyle
both easy and delicious. Stay exible and creative. As with
any eating plan, the key is to eat a variety of foods every day
and to choose the recommended number of servings from
the groups listed in the Daily Food Guide for Vegetarians,
adapted from the Food Guide Pyramid.
Teens oen experiment with vegetarian diets, which may
lead to unhealthy eating behaviors. Parents need to watch
and make sure their child is geing proper nutrition, rather
than overly restrictive diets and those that cause unhealthy
How many servings?
The number of food group servings that are right for
you depends on your calorie needs. These are based on
your age, activity level, health status and body size. Aim
for a calorie intake that will help you maintain or achieve
a healthy body weight. It is important to stay hydrated, so
make sure to drink plenty of uids. Also, consume alcohol
Note: Teens and pregnant or lactating women may need
the higher number of servings from each food group to be
sure they get enough nutrients.
If you’re not sure about your calorie needs or a healthy
body weight, a registered dietitian can help you develop a
Nutrients that require special aention in vegetarian diets
are protein, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and vitamin
You may not get enough protein if you don’t eat meat,
dairy foods, or eggs. You will, however, if you eat a variety
of grains, beans and vegetables each day.
Vegetarians who eat no dairy products must get calcium
from other foods. Try green, leafy vegetables, like spinach or
collard greens, broccoli, gs, fortied soy, tofu (made from
calcium sulfate), and calcium-fortied orange juice.
Many vegetarians don’t get enough iron. Fortied cereals,
beans, spinach, chard, blackstrap molasses, bulgar and