What is a vegetarian?
In a very general sense, a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat. But that definition is too simple. There are several kinds of vegetarian diets:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat milk products – such as milk, cheese, and yogurt – and eggs, but no meat, poultry, seafood, or fish. “Lacto” means “milk.” “Ovo” means eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat milk products, but not eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or fish.
- Vegans (say “VEE-guns” or “VAY-guns”) are total vegetarians. They eat only plant foods. They don’t eat food that comes from animals in any way, including milk products, eggs, honey, and gelatin (which comes from bones and other animal tissue).
Many people are semi-vegetarian – most of the diet is vegetarian, but sometimes they may eat meat, poultry, seafood, fish, and/or eggs.
There are many reasons why some people choose vegetarian diets:
- A vegetarian diet can be healthier than other diets.
- Some people think it’s wrong to use animals for food.
- Some religions forbid eating meat.
- A vegetarian diet can cost less than a diet that includes meat.
- Eating less meat can be better for the environment, because most meat is commercially farmed.
- Some people don’t like the taste of meat.
Current as of: March 10, 2015
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine & Rhonda O’Brien, MS, RD, CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator
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