• Section 2. Types of Vegetarians

    Video Lecture #2 - Types of Vegetarians and Demographics

    Types of Vegetarians

    Eating a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet can be a healthy, exciting alternative to traditional meat-based meal planning. There are many types of vegetarians. Some eat fish and some eat dairy foods, such as cheese and/or eggs while others abstain entirely from any food product that comes from an animal.

    The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics identifies four different types of vegetarians:1

    1. Strict vegetarian or vegan: A vegetarian diet that rejects all animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products.

    2. Lacto-vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish and eggs but includes dairy products.

    3. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry and fish but includes eggs and dairy products. Most vegetarians in the United States fall into this category.

    4. Flexitarian: A semi-vegetarian diet with a focus on vegetarian food with occasional meat, poultry, or fish consumption.

    These are people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but they occasionally eat meat,” says Jody Engel, a nutritionist and registered dietitian at National Institutes of Health. “They might say ‘I’m a vegetarian, but I need to eat my burgers every Sunday.’  People tend to follow their own rules, which is one reason why it’s hard for researchers to study vegetarians. There’s so much variance.”2

    Another definition of flexitarian is a person who usually eats meat, chicken or fish, but chooses one or more days a week to eat only plant based foods. 

    A fifth type of diet is the Pesce-vegetarian: A vegetarian diet that allows fish. This type of vegetarian is usually found in combination with other types such as lacto or lacto-ovo and is not always listed under the major types of vegetarianism.

    Reasons for Choosing a Vegetarian Diet

    According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics people have many reasons for becoming vegetarians many of which include personal preference, health concerns, dislike for meat or other food from animals, or they believe a plant-based diet is healthier. Some adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons. Many vegetarians, for example, avoid meat because they do not want animals killed or harmed. These individuals may object to the treatment of animals raised on industrial farms.3

    The environment is another concern for some vegetarians. Issues have been cited concerning all aspects of the environment, like animal waste from factory farms polluting the land and water or forests that are cut down to make room for grazing cattle. “Vegetarian diets are also more sustainable and environmentally sound than diets that rely heavily on meat, poultry and fish,” says NIH nutritionist Dr. Susan Krebs-Smith, who monitors trends in cancer risk factors.4

    Another reason some may choose a vegetarian diet is to lose weight.  However, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. writing for the Mayo Clinic says that a vegetarian diet is not inherently a weight-loss diet, but rather a “lifestyle choice”. A vegetarian diet isn't automatically low calorie. Although a vegetarian diet is generally leaner than those who follow a non vegetarian diet a person can gain weight on a vegetarian diet if their portion sizes are too big or if you eat too many high-calorie foods, such as sweetened beverages and desserts.5

    Some people follow a vegetarian diet for religious reasons. Hinduism and Buddhism teachings hold vegetarianism as an ideal way to promote compassion and non-injury to living creatures.  The Jains believe it is wrong to kill any living being, especially for food. Seventh-Day Adventists follow a vegetarian diet that does allow milk and eggs, but not meat.  This is due to the belief that whatever they eat should preserve the health of the body, mind and spirit.

    Vegetarian Demographics

    Vegetarian meals focus on fruits and vegetables, dried beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts. According to the NIH, vegetarian diets are growing more and more common and by some estimates, about 2% of the U.S. adult population follows this type of diet.6

    In its most recent survey, the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) found that men and women were nearly equally likely to be vegetarians, although Vegetarian Times saw a roughly 60/40 split women to men. Women ages 18-34 were more likely to be vegetarian than any other gender-age group, according to VRG and another study by Cultivate Research. Three percent of youth ages 8-18, or an estimated 1.4 million young people, are vegetarian, according to a 2010 VRG poll.7

    Section 1. Course IntroductionSection 3. Health Benefits and Dietary Recommendations