Not all vegetarians are created equal...I was hanging out with a new friend of mine a couple weeks ago and we started talking food and nutrition, which happens a lot when I am with people. She was explaining how hard it was to cook for her family because of her husbands eating habits - he is a vegetarian. I thought to myself, that's not so bad there are lots of great vegetarian dishes and you can always have a salad right? If she and the kids weren't vegetarians it is pretty easy to add meat on occassion. She went on to tell me all of the other things he wouldn't eat like vegetables!
This got me thinking. Whether someone has cut meat out of their diet for health reasons, to support animal rights or just because they don't like it, they still need to be aware of what they are eating. A person can live their whole life on mac and cheese, potatoe salad and pretzels, but that doesn't mean they are eating a healthy diet like most people assume when they hear vegetarian.
A healthy vegetarian diet is a well rounded diet full of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. And depending on which kind of vegetarian you are, you may or may not consume fish, eggs, cheese and other dairy products. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is the same as those who do eat meat - a good variety of whole foods.
In case you are interested, here are the most popular types of vegetarians:
1. Pescatarian (also spelled pescetarian) The word “pescatarian” is occasionally used to describe those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. Although the word is not commonly used, more and more people are adopting this kind of diet, usually for health reasons or as a stepping stone to a fully vegetarian diet.
2. Flexitarian/Semi-vegetarian You don’t have to be vegetarian to love vegetarian food! “Flexitarian” is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat.
3. Vegetarian (Lacto-ovo- vegetarian) When most people think of vegetarians, they think of lacto-ovo-vegetarians. People who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products are lacto-ovo vegetarians (“lacto” comes from the Latin for milk, and “ovo” for egg).
Lacto-vegetarian is used to describe a vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian refers to people who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs.
4. Vegan Vegans do not eat meat of any kind and also do not eat eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin. Many vegans also refrain from eating foods that are made using animal products that may not contain animal products in the finished process, such as sugar and some wines. There is some debate as to whether certain foods, such as honey, fit into a vegan diet.
5. Raw vegan/Raw food diet A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. “Raw foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body.
6. Macrobiotic The macrobiotic diet, revered by some for its healthy and healing qualities, includes unprocessed vegan foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and allows the occasional consumption of fish. Sugar and refined oils are avoided. Perhaps the most unique qualifier of the macrobiotic diet is its emphasis on the consumption of Asian vegetables, such as daikon, and sea vegetables, such as seaweed.
A note about children and teens:
Many children are not huge meat fans and would choose to sustain themselves on pasta and crackers. If this is the case with your child, I say be persistant. You don't need to force them to eat meat, but it is important to encourage variety. Offer children fruits and vegetables at every meal and limit snack choices. If the choice is sliced apple or carrot sticks don't fold. It is important to be consistent and talk to them about healthy choices.
As far as teenagers go, many decide that meat is not for them as they explore their convictions. Once again, that is great, but the same thing goes. You may need to teach your teen that just dropping the meat doesn't make the meal healthy. Good vegetarians eat their veggies!
Go to KidsHealth.org for more information on kid-friendly vegetarian diets.
Sources: About.com, medfinds.com
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog is intended to replace the advice of a physician. We recommend consulting a physician before embarking on diet changes or a fitness routine. In addition, we recommend that you thoroughly research alternate points of view and make your own decisions as an informed consumer. You are ultimately responsible for your health.