Dietitian Fast Facts: Vegetarian

A dietary pattern in the U.S. that has recently gained popularity is vegetarianism. A vegetarian diet is also commonly referred to as “lacto-ovo vegetarian” (“lacto” refers to the allowance of dairy and “ovo” refers to the allowance of eggs). Check out some important facts about vegetarianism:

  • Vegetarians don’t consume meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Who chooses to adopt this diet? Anyone! Males and females at any point in their life, from childhood, to pregnancy and lactation, and even older adults.
  • There are many reasons why people express interest in the vegetarian lifestyle, including health, ethics, financial reasons, the environment or religion.
  • Increasing evidence in nutrition research supports that a properly planned vegetarian diet can help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.
  • As with any diet, eating a variety of foods from all food groups is important to get all nutrients. The elimination of meat, poultry and fish should be replaced with foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, soy foods and whole grains to support protein needs.
  • The food manufacturing industry has made large strides over the last decade to expand meat “analog” offerings (i.e. foods that can be directly substituted for meat or poultry and may look, smell and taste like animals foods). This has made it easier for many people to slowly adopt a more plant-based eating pattern.
  • Finally, it’s a good idea to speak with a registered dietitian when making big alterations to your diet - to ensure that you’re meeting nutritional needs.

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