A vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, and foods containing these products. There are many different variations of the vegetarian diet. This article focuses on the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which is based on plant foods, but also includes eggs and dairy.
There are many health benefits associated with following a vegetarian diet. In general, vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and provide higher amounts of many vitamins and minerals than traditional western diets. Moreover, a well-balanced vegetarian diet may help:
People choose to follow a vegetarian diet for many different reasons, including health benefits, concern for the environment, and concern for animal welfare.
A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is based on plant foods such as grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts, in addition to dairy and eggs. To make sure that you meet all your nutrient needs on this diet, be sure to eat a variety of each of these types of foods. Nutrients that deserve extra attention to make sure they are eaten in sufficient amounts include: protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
This guide is based on the United States Department of Agriculture food guide, Choose My Plate.
|Food Category||Key Suggestions||Key Nutrients Provided|
|Protein Rich Foods|
|Fats and Sweets|
Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Vegetarian Resource Group
Dietitians of Canada
Toronto Vegetarian Association
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada. Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: vegetarian diets. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2003;64(2):62-81.
Craig WJ, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am D Assoc. 2009;109(7):1266-1282.
Healthy eating for vegetarians. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-healthy-eating-for-vegetarians. Updated March 8, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Messina V, Melina V, et al. A new food guide for North American vegetarians. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:(6):771-775.
Proteins food gallery. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgallery-protein-foods. Updated January 21, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Tips for vegetarians. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/tips-vegetarians. Updated October 12, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Last reviewed May 2017 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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