Overview of the vegetarian diet    

A vegetarian diet encompasses a plant-based diet(fruits, vegetables, etc.), with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs. Meat (red meat, poultry, and seafood) is excluded. Abstention from by products of animal slaughter, such as rennet and gelatin, may also be practiced is vegetarianism is strictly adhered to.

Reasons are various for adopting a vegetarian diet including for ethical reasons, for health, religious, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic or economic reasons.

There are varieties of the vegetarian diet: an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes eggs and dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy and honey.

Be aware that various foods, such as cake, chocolate and marshmallows often contain animal ingredients. Rennet for example is used in the production of cheese. Gelatin is often used in jellies and gelatin type products such as marshmallows and gums. Depending on how strict an interpretation of vegetarianism you take some vegetarians may consume more animal products than others.

Semi-vegetarian diets consist mainly of vegetarian foods but include fish, poultry or meat occassionally. Those with diets that include fish or poultry may define “meat” as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism.  A pescetarian diet includes fish but no meat and is usually confused for a full vegetarian diet. Such confusion has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to define such diets containing poultry and fish as not vegetarian due to fish and birds being animals.

To summarise the types of vegetarianism:

  • Ovo vegetarianism: includes eggs; no dairy.
  • Lacto vegetarianism: includes dairy; no eggs.
  • Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism): includes animal/dairy such as eggs, milk and honey.
  • Vegan: excludes all animal flesh and animal products including milk, honey and eggs. May also exclude products tested on animals or any clothing from animals.
  • Raw veganism: includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Vegetables can be cooked up to a certain temperature though.
  • Fruitarianism: permits only fruit, nuts, seeds and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
  • Buddhist vegetarianism (also known as su vegetarianism): excludes all animal products and vegetables in the allium family which include onion, garlic, scallions, leeks or shallots.
  • Jain vegetarianism: includes dairy; excludes eggs, honey and root vegetables.
  • Macrobiotic diet: mostly whole grains and beans.

Some vegetarians avoid foods that may use animal ingredients which are not actually listed in their food labels or which use animal products in manufacturing. For example, some sugars are whitened with bone char, some cheeses use animal rennet (enzymes from animal stomach lining), gelatin (derived from the collagen inside animals’ skin, bones and connective tissue) and apple juice/alcohol clarified with gelatin or crushed shellfish and sturgeon. Many vegetarians are unaware of such ingredients.

Individuals may describe themselves as “vegetarian” but actually only practice a semi-vegetarian diet. Some people may call themselves “flexitarian” when they consume a mainly vegetarian diet and only minimal animal products. Semi-vegetarian diets include:

  • pescetarianism which includes fish and seafood
  • pollotarianism which includes poultry
  • “pollo-pescetarian”, which includes poultry and fish or white meat only
  • macrobiotic diets consisting mostly of whole grains and beans and some fish

Semi-vegetarianism is however contested by vegetarian groups on the basis that vegetarianism excludes all animal flesh and you are either vegetarian or not.

Foods on the vegetarian diet

Vegetarian foods are classified into several different types:

  • Traditional foods: cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds
  • Soy products including tofu and tempeh
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) made from defatted soy flour often included in burger recipes
  • Meat analogues which mimic meat and are often used in recipes that traditionally contained meat
  • Vegans may use analogues for eggs and dairy products

Food regarded as suitable for vegetarians include:

  • Cereals/grains: maize, hempseed, corn, wheat, rice, barley, sorghum, millet, oats, rye, triticale, buckwheat, fonio, quinoa; derived products such as flour (dough, bread, pasta, baked goods)
  • Vegetables (fresh or pickled) and mushrooms; derived products such as vegetable fats and oils
  • Fruit (fresh or dried)
  • Legumes: beans (including soybeans and soy products such as tempeh, tofu, soy milk, and TVP), chickpeas, peas, lentils, peanuts
  • Tree nuts and seeds
  • Spices and herbs
  • Other foods such as seaweed

Food suitable for several types of the vegetarian cuisine:

  • Dairy products (milk, butter, cheese (except for cheese containing rennet), yogurt (excluding yogurt made with gelatin)
  • Eggs – not eaten by vegans and lacto-vegetarians
  • Honey – not eaten by vegans

How much can I lose on the vegetarian diet

This diet is not so much for weight loss but it taken up for health or ethical reasons usually. Nevertheless due to it’s health benefits a vegetarian diet can result in weight loss and can be used to maintain any weight loss thereafter.

How does the vegetarian diet work

As indicated above a vegetarian diet is not primarily used for weight iss though weight lss can be a pleasant side effect. Due to the abundance of natural foods eaten on this diet this result in a healthier overall effect to the body

Our review of the vegetarian diet

We think this diet is fantastic and can be used as an overall diet plan. If you want to lose some weight quickly though try another diet plan such as ours which you can check out here. This incorporates a vegetarian diet with other guidance for weight loss

Good points

  • vegetables are good for you and full of fibre which keeps you from filling up on foods full of fat calories
  • eating vegetarian may increase your life span
  • vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure than those who eat meat
  • vegetarians are at less risk of being obese
  • eating “green” can be ethically rewarding as animals are not being killed or tortured for their meat
  • a diet rich in plant foods helps fight disease and lowers the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
  • if you want to maintain weight a vegetarian diet may be for you
  • unlimited food to eat with good and healthy food choices


  • a pure vegetarian diet may lack some nutrients and vitamins such as iron, zinc and B12
  • unless vegetarian diets are well planned there can  be a lack of protein

Further details

Books on a vegetarian diet

Useful links

Visit our Vegetarian Corner
Vegetarian Foods
Vegetarian Recipes
How to be a vegetarian
What is a vegetarian
Why be vegetarian
Hug a vegetarian day

Vegetarian Society

Go to Diets
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