Vegetarian living


Choosing to be a vegetarian can be a healthy choice. Well-planned vegetarian meals can provide the right amount of nutrients. A nutrient is something your body needs for growth and development. There are several types of vegetarians, each with different ways of eating.


The different types of vegetarian diets are named for the foods allowed in their diets. Those are:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: eats plants, dairy and eggs. They don’t eat all red meats, fish and poultry (chicken and turkey). 
  • Lacto vegetarian (sometimes referred to as a lactarian): eats plants and dairy, but does not eat eggs, red meat, fish and poultry.
  • Vegan: eats only plant foods. Vegans don’t eat any foods of animal origin, including meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. A vegan eating plan takes more planning to make sure it has all the necessary nutrients.
  • Pescatarian: eats dairy, eggs and fish.
  • Semi-vegetarian: usually means does not eat red meat.

All vegetarians need to make sure they are meeting their nutritional needs and getting certain nutrients, including:

  • Protein: an essential nutrient for building and maintaining body tissues. Sources of plant-based protein foods are beans, nuts, peas, soy products and veggie burgers. Dairy and eggs are good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians. Greek yogurt also has protein.
  • Iron: helps the body use food to create energy. Iron also helps the body with growth and development. Sources of iron-rich foods are: spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, whole wheat breads and some dried fruits.
  • Calcium: used for building strong bones and teeth. Calcium-rich foods include calcium-fortified soy or nut milk, tofu made with calcium sulfate, bok choy as well as collard and mustard greens. Milk products are excellent sources of calcium for lacto vegetarians.
  • Vitamin B12: a vitamin used to make red blood cells and nervous system growth. Plant foods don’t contain vitamin B12, so try a supplement or B12-fortified foods, including dairy and eggs, some cereals or grains, soy and fake meat products. 

Find out more about the possibilities of a vegetarian lifestyle with these tips:

  • Build meals around protein sources that are low in fat, such as beans, lentils and tofu. Don’t add high-fat cheeses to replace meat. Check out our recipe section for some great tofu and bean recipes.
  • Use fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. They are easier to get and usually cost less. Better yet, try growing them on your own. Start a garden for fresh additions to your meals that don’t cost much. 
  • Use the grill to cook vegetables and meat substitutes. Try grilling tofu, mushrooms, peppers and onions on kabob skewers. Pineapple and peaches are also great on the grill.
  • Add fruits like strawberries or orange slices for fun and colorful salads. Add unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds or beans to salads as a healthy protein source.
  • Make “ants on a log.” Use celery, apple or pear sticks as a “log” and add peanut butter. Top with dried raisins or low-sugar dried cranberries as the “ants.”
  • Cut up cucumber, red bell peppers and carrots to dip into hummus, made from chickpeas. Also cut up fresh fruit with Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein. Plain yogurt is best because it doesn’t have added sugar. Make dip by blending beans with spices or herbs.

Make sure to let your medical provider know that you are a vegetarian, so they can watch your nutrient levels.