6 Types of Vegetarian Diets: A Dietitian Explains

By | July 2, 2021

Vegetarian diets have grown in popularity, especially over the last several years.

People often consider this way of eating — emphasizing plant foods over animal products — as part of the plant-based movement.

There are many reasons more people are choosing a vegetarian diet, and several variations of how to approach this way of eating.

This article reviews 6 variations of the vegetarian diet, including which foods to include and avoid in each. It also explores a few common reasons why people choose a vegetarian diet.

Person preparing a vegetarian meal
Photography by Aya Brackett

Why follow a vegetarian diet?

There are three main reasons why someone might choose to follow some variation of a vegetarian or plant-based diet. These are related to personal and public health, the environment, and the animals raised for food.

Studies have found that animal products, especially those produced in large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), are likely to contain unwanted substances, such as antibiotics (1Trusted Source).

Research suggests that antibiotic use in animal feed may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans (1Trusted Source).

Research has also shown individual health benefits of well-planned, nutritionally adequate vegetarian diets.

They can support weight loss and may help lower your risk of obesity and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source4Trusted Source5Trusted Source).

Environmentally speaking, many people choose to not support industrialized animal agriculture due to its negative impacts on soil, water, and air (1Trusted Source6Trusted Source7Trusted Source).

For example, manure and nutrient runoff from CAFOs can contaminate groundwater. This may make its way to the ocean and contribute to the development of dead zones, areas in the ocean where most life has disappeared due to lack of oxygen (8).

Furthermore, CAFOs and the animals kept there generate greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. These contribute to global climate change (9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

Some people choose a vegetarian diet as a way to support animal welfare and align with their personal ethics. CAFOs house large populations of animals, often packed tightly together in unhealthy conditions and slaughtered for food after a short lifespan (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source).

People also have ethical concerns with the dairy industry, including taking milk from cows that have just given birth and separating them from their calves shortly after birth (13Trusted Source).

Some people may find that a vegetarian diet is more cost-effective for their household, or they may simply prefer the taste of plant foods over certain animal-derived products.

The many variations of a vegetarian diet allow you to choose a way to eat that best aligns with your ethics and goals.

1. Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet

Some people think of a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet as the most traditional vegetarian diet. In this variation, you wouldn’t eat meat or fish, but would still include eggs and dairy products in your diet.

The prefix “lacto” refers to cow’s milk or dairy products and comes from the Latin word lac, which means milk. Only mammals, like cows and humans, can produce milk.

The prefix “ovo” refers to eggs and comes from the Latin word ovum, which means egg.

Following a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet means including eggs, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, and other dairy products in your diet, while excluding all animal-derived meats, such as beef, fish, chicken, and pork.

Some people have religious or cultural reasons for choosing this variation. For instance, people who follow Hinduism and Buddhism may follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (14Trusted Source15Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs and dairy products, but typically excludes all meats, including fish, chicken, pork, and beef.

2. Lacto-vegetarian diet

lacto-vegetarian diet is a plant-based diet that includes dairy products, as the “lacto” prefix suggests.

This variation includes dairy products like cow’s milk and foods made with it. These can include cheese, butter, sour cream, yogurt, and ice cream.

It excludes all meats, like beef, pork, chicken, and fish. It also excludes eggs.

As with the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, people may have religious or cultural reasons for following a lacto-vegetarian diet. This variation is common among people who follow Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism (14Trusted Source15Trusted Source).Read More

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