“I’m a level 5 vegan—I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.” –Character on The Simpsons
People often point to some food item and ask me, “Can you eat this?” My answer is always “Sure, I can eat whatever I want.” I choose not to eat certain things. When deciding what type of vegetarian you want to be, think about what you want to include or avoid. You don’t need to fit into one of these categories, but understanding them will help you think about your short-term and long-term goals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). “Raw foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body.
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.
If you're interested in exploring a healthy vegetarian diet, but haven't yet made the leap, check out my tips for how to become vegetarian
. Or, if you're already vegetarian, take a minute to share how you went vegetarian
, so that others can learn from your experience!