What is a Vegetarian? (All You Need to Know!)

Vegetables

Many unique diets have gained incredible popularity over the years. But, of course, one of the most popular is vegetarianism. Less restrictive than veganism, vegetarians often choose to eat this way because of health, ethical, environmental, or religious motivations.

As with any diet or habitual changes, there are often many questions about what foods are off-limits. While how you eat is a choice that is your own, it helps to understand the restrictions of certain diets.

Some people consider the “rules” of a diet to be necessary to follow, while others see them as more of a guide. The great news is that vegetarianism isn’t as restrictive as most people think.

What Does Vegetarian Mean?

Believe it or not, vegetarians are expected to have practiced their dietary choices since 700 B.C. Like any diet, there are many different ways to practice vegetarianism.

Some follow a more restrictive routine than others, but a few commonly held principles of vegetarianism are imperative to this specific way of eating.

There are four primary “types” of vegetarians. Of course, how one person eats is a personal choice and does not mean they will fit into just one category of vegetarianism.

However, it is most common for those eliminating or restricting animal products and by-products to observe and implement these practices.

The 4 Types of Vegetarianism Include:

  1. Lacto Vegetarian: These vegetarians do not consume any animal flesh or eggs but will eat dairy products.
  2. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: These vegetarians avoid animal flesh but consume both eggs and dairy products.
  3. Ovo Vegetarians: Vegetarians who will eat eggs but avoid all other animal products, including dairy.
  4. Vegans: Some consider veganism to be entirely separate from vegetarianism. Vegans also do not eat animal flesh or any other animal-derived product, including dairy and eggs.

Two Variations of Vegetarianism

1. Pescatarian

Follow a vegetarian diet but choose to include fish and seafood in their meals.

It is not uncommon to hear a pescatarian referred to as a vegetarian who just eats fish. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s true. The flexibility allowed within the confines of using the word “vegetarian” ends when any sort of animal flesh, including fish, is consumed.

A pescatarian typically follows a diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, possibly dairy, and anything that comes from the sea! Basically, they choose vegetarianism with the inclusion of fish. For some, it is the best of both worlds.

2. Flexitarian

Does not strictly follow a vegetarian diet and will therefore occasionally incorporate meat, fish, and poultry.

Because diets are so personal, it almost seems silly to give them names and labels. After all, just because you focus on eating one way doesn’t mean that you can’t opt for something new or different every once in a while. This school of thought is perfectly in line with flexitarians. Now, what is that?

A flexitarian is someone who consumes a plant-based or vegetarian diet with one obvious difference – they occasionally eat meat and fish.

It is important to keep in mind that Flexitarians can spend anywhere from three to four days each week going meatless while using the remaining days enjoying whatever foods they like. And yes, they can keep meat on the menu on those days.

Some vegetarians or pescatarians will not acknowledge flexitarians as following the same type of diet they themselves follow. This is because the flexitarian diet doesn’t have any real rules, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable diet choice.

What Foods Can Vegetarians Eat?

  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots
  • Fruits: Bananas, apples, oranges, berries, melons, peaches, pears
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils
  • Grains: Rice, oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat
  • Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, cashews
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocados
  • Proteins: Dairy, tofu, eggs, tempeh, seitan, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina.

What Foods Can’t Vegetarians Eat?

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Game
  • Shellfish
  • Sometimes other animal-derived products

The Benefits of Vegetarianism

There are many unique reasons for choosing vegetarianism or veganism as a lifestyle. Not everyone “goes” vegan or vegetarian for the same reason.

Ultimately, how you eat is a personal decision to make, and it’s crucial to ensure you choose the diet that is best for you, your goals, and your lifestyle.

Health Benefits

Along with those focused on eating a primarily plant-based diet, pescatarians enjoy more health benefits than those who consume a great deal of meat and animal products. For example, plant-based diets are shown to lower the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease while maintaining a healthy weight.

Additionally, pescatarians incorporate more essential vitamins, proteins, and fats into their diet by consuming modest amounts of fish and seafood.

Environmental Impact

Not every vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan choose their lifestyle because of health concerns. Instead, many choose it to decrease their carbon footprint.

Raising and maintaining livestock takes an incredible toll on the environment.

Harvesting and distributing fish and seafood is less environmentally taxing and allows vegetarians to enjoy meat-like products without consuming livestock and land animals.

Ethical Practices

Some people become vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians because it better aligns with their ethics and their morals. For example, some are opposed to the killing of animals or how they are treated in factories and in lots.

Others are against supporting an industry that offers poor work conditions for its workers. And for some, it comes down to the fact that meat consumption is unsustainable and wastes plenty of resources.

Final Thoughs on What is a Vegetarian

It has never been easier to incorporate vegetables and plants into your diet without feeling deprived or fighting off cravings.

With many plant-based substitutes like Beyond Meat and Impossible, finding a realistic meat substitute that tastes good is a much more successful process.

Say goodbye to soggy, sad veggie burgers from the freezer.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the foods you eat are satisfying, make you feel good, and are aligned with your beliefs.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to food. A little creativity and inventiveness can go a long way! If you’re considering becoming a vegetarian, just remember that you don’t have to forgo all the things you once knew.

Related Content: Do Vegetarians Eat Fish?

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