Vegetarianism 101

A vegetarian dinner.I have been a vegetarian since the age of 11.  The question I get asked most is “how do you get enough protein?” In many cases people have a lot misconceptions about what a vegetarian diet entails, how much it costs, and what there is to eat. Hopefully by the time you’re done reading this you’ll have a better understanding of vegetarian diets.

Types of Vegetarianism

Vegetarian is a broad term that encompasses several different plant based diets. So if someone tells you they’re a vegetarian, do they eat eggs? What about cheese? Fish? Honey? Here is how it breaks down:

  • Vegan – This is the strictest version of the vegetarian diet and often extends to other lifestyle choices. It cuts out all animal products. They don’t eat any eggs, dairy, or honey. They will typically avoid leather and other animal based products.
  • Vegetarian – This is when people cut out all animal protein. Much like veganism there are no eggs, no milk. It varies from veganism in that it will often include honey.
  • Lacto-ovo Vegetarian – Just like the standard vegetarian diet the big difference here is what it includes. As you may have discerned from the name, this diet includes eggs and dairy. It still excludes things like chicken broth and fish.
  • Pescatarian – This is when people avoid all meat with the exception of fish.
  • Carbivore – This is not a technical term but is often apt. This is when people decide to cut meat out of their diet but instead of increasing fruits, vegetables, nuts, or beans, they just eat a lot of carbs. This isn’t very healthy.

What’s Left to Eat

A veggie platter.Eating a plant-based diet can be filled with a wide variety of really wonderful foods. It is far more then just a lot of salads. As far as fruit and vegetables go, the sky is the limit. Kale, spinach, green beans, broccoli, carrots, onion, and garlic – just to name a few – are wonderful additions.

You can get enough protein by eating beans, nuts, brown rice, quinoa, lentils, and seeds. Whole grain pastas and breads can be a healthy part of a vegetarian diet but moderation is important.

There are a lot of meat substitutes out there.  Veggie burgers, fake chicken and bacon are very easy to find and can be a way for people to ease themselves away from meat. While they may not be the best for you to eat all the time, it can make a big difference when you’re heading to a cookout.

Cutting meat out of your diet is not for everyone. For those looking to try it, it can be a rewarding and healthy way to eat when done right.