In a world where there are new ‘diets’ discussed seemingly every week, it can be confusing to know how they differ, and more importantly, which is best for your own search for better health!   Our focus here is on well-established, ‘lifestyle’ eating choices, rather than on some of the ‘fad diets’ that come and go.

There has long been awareness of health benefits from eliminating meat from our diets.   With the increasing use of livestock antibiotics and instances of feed contamination and poor processing methods, many people have made the switch away from meat in their diets to prevent potential contamination from animal products.   And there are also ethical concerns that drive the decisions for some to switch to a vegetarian approach to nutrition.

Vegetarians eliminate animal products from their diets in varying degrees.   According to a U.S. News study, a vegetarian diet was ranked number 11 on their list of best diets, heart-healthy diets, and diets for diabetes.   In general terms, vegetarians have long been thought to be the healthiest eaters, with a reduced risk of many illnesses.   Vegetarian diets generally include a wide variety of foods that include a broad range of vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fiber.

While the focus of a vegetarian diet is certainly plant-based foods, there are variations within the larger category, to meet personal needs.   Many times, when making the conversion to a vegetarian lifestyle, people begin the conversion on a gradual basis, to acclimate to the new routine.  With several options to choose from, individuals can craft their own plan.

A Variety of Vegetarians

Pollotarian: while based mostly on plant foods, this variation may also include poultry to provide protein.

Pescatarian: still largely based on plant foods, this choice includes fish and seafood, and often, dairy and eggs.  Like the Pollotarian choice, this may be considered a ‘semi-vegetarian’ diet.

Lacto-Vegetarian: while no meat, fish or fowl is included, the diet may include dairy items like cheese, milk, and yogurt.   This can be a good choice to maintain calcium levels.

Ovo-Vegetarian: no meat, fish, poultry or dairy is included, but eggs and egg products are allowed.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: this includes both dairy and eggs to supplement plant-based foods, and provide sources of calcium and protein.

What is a Vegan Diet?

The more ‘committed’ vegetarian may choose to go Vegan. With solely a plant-based diet, vegans do not eat meats, fish, or fowl, and they also eliminate eggs and dairy.   Vegans tend to avoid any animal ingredients like gelatin (which is made from animal bones and hooves), and honey or beeswax as well.  Many strict vegans avoid leather, wool, and even silk since they are animal by-products.   A low carb, whole food vegan diet can be heart-healthy, and reduce cholesterol levels while balancing the need for protein, iron and complete nutrition, through choosing appropriate plant-based foods and including a B-12 supplement.

With the number of health benefits offered by a more vegetarian based diet, there is an increasing interest in learning how a more plant focused eating plan fits into a busy lifestyle, or in a family setting.  For many, using a ‘Flexitarian’ approach can be a good start in making the transition.   It may be easier to start by reducing meat quantities in everyday meals as a first step.   Then, gradually eliminating red meat, then pork, then other items like poultry, fish, eggs, dairy – in varying combinations – can help identify which vegetarian lifestyle works best for you.

In planning your changes, don’t be discouraged, and don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the combinations that work best for you.  Whatever you decide, it’s not about perfection, or 100% purity in your diet choice – it’s more about making a conscious commitment to healthier, happier, high-quality longevity.

Sources:

Types of Vegetarianism. (n.d) retrieved January 29, 2017, from Vegetarian Nation Web Site: http://www.vegetarian-nation.com/resources/common-questions/types-levels-vegetarian/

Castillo, S. (April 15, 2015). Vegan vs. Vegetarian Diets: How Each Will Impact Your Health. retrieved January 29, 2017, from Medical Daily Web Site: http://www.medicaldaily.com/vegan-vs-vegetarian-diets-how-each-will-impact-your-health-329300

Leong, Dr. K. Four Types of Vegetarian Diets Explained. retrieved January 29, 2017, from Aviva Natural Health Solutions Web Site: http://www.avivahealth.com/article.asp?articleid=136