An Overview of the Vegetarian Diet

Are you contemplating a vegetarian weight-reduction plan for weight reduction or wellness? Many wholesome eaters select to surrender meat for moral causes, as a result of of environmental issues, or to enhance their well being. But a vegetarian weight-reduction plan is not the best option for completely everybody.

A plant-based consuming type can present substantial well being advantages, however like all weight-reduction plan, it is very important select nutrient-rich meals and eat sparsely to get the advantages you are on the lookout for.

What Experts Say

The vegetarian weight-reduction plan limits animal merchandise to various levels. Experts agree this may be an earth-friendly and healthful method of consuming, however care needs to be taken to make sure that meals selection offers vitamin and satisfaction and isn’t a restrictive weight reduction weight-reduction plan in disguise.

Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH


Vegetarian diets have been round for 1000’s of years. According to some sources, Pythagoras, a Greek thinker and mathematician, based the first vegetarian society to advertise non-violence amongst all species. He prevented meat for non secular causes, reasonably than well being causes. Ancient Buddhists and Hindus additionally practiced vegetarianism. Until the mid-twentieth century, a weight-reduction plan that excluded meat was usually known as a Pythagorean weight-reduction plan.

The trendy vegetarian motion started in the mid-1800s with the formation of the Vegetarian Society in England. The weight-reduction plan was related to virtuous residing and promoted temperance, abstinence, and self-control. Meat-eaters had been depicted by the group as out-of-control, lustful, hooligans.

Vegetarian diets turned well-liked in the United States in the early Nineteen Seventies when Diet for a Small Planet was revealed by Francis Moore Lappe and have become a best-seller. In the guide, Lappe discusses the damaging influence of meat manufacturing on the atmosphere and cites meat-based diets as a contributor to world meals shortage.

She suggests a vegetarian life-style as a extra humanitarian method and introduces the idea of food-combining to deal with issues about insufficient protein consumption.

In newer occasions, each environmentalists and well being consultants proceed to advertise plant-based diets, similar to the vegetarian weight-reduction plan, as more healthy for our our bodies and more healthy for the planet. But as these diets have change into commonplace, processed vegetarian meals have change into extra well-liked, making it simpler to comply with an unhealthy plant-based weight-reduction plan.

Currently, there are various totally different variations of the vegetarian weight-reduction plan. The commonest sort is the lacto-ovo vegetarian—somebody who avoids animal merchandise and seafood however consumes dairy and eggs. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs however keep away from dairy, meat, and seafood. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy however keep away from eggs, meat, and seafood.

Some folks take into account the pescetarian weight-reduction plan to be a variation of a vegetarian weight-reduction plan. Pescetarians eat plant-based meals and seafood. The flexitarian weight-reduction plan is primarily a vegetarian weight-reduction plan however contains occasional meat or seafood-based meals. The vegan weight-reduction plan is the most restrictive vegetarian weight-reduction plan as a result of it contains no meat, dairy, eggs, or animal by-products together with honey.

How It Works

On the lacto-ovo vegetarian and lacto-vegetarian weight-reduction plan, you eat meals in all meals teams together with greens, fruit, grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, protein meals, and oils. Those who adhere to a ovo-vegetarian weight-reduction plan wouldn’t eat meals from the dairy group. But milk options (similar to nut-based “milk” merchandise) are extensively obtainable.

Instead of meat and seafood, vegetarians eat protein-rich grains, soy merchandise like tofu and greens with protein. It is pretty straightforward to eat a balanced weight-reduction plan on a vegetarian plan and to get your really helpful consumption of vitamins.

The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included a Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern as half of their 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The information offers suggestions for the consumption of varied meals teams based mostly on consumption objectives starting from 1000 to three,200 energy per day.

On a wholesome vegetarian weight-reduction plan, you might be additionally more likely to naturally restrict meals in accordance with USDA pointers. For instance, most of the saturated fats consumed in an ordinary American weight-reduction plan comes from meat and dairy merchandise. Most of these meals are eradicated or decreased on a vegetarian weight-reduction plan.

You need not comply with any particular meal timing observe whenever you start a vegetarian weight-reduction plan. However, if you happen to presently eat a standard American weight-reduction plan, consultants usually suggest a gradual method to make the transition simpler.

Some folks strive going meatless someday every week earlier than totally adopting the vegetarian weight-reduction plan. Others use the flexitarian weight-reduction plan and slowly eradicate meat from their diets.

Pros and Cons

You have the alternative to achieve substantial well being advantages if you happen to shift to a vegetarian weight-reduction plan. Several research have proven that those that eat plant-based diets expertise a decreased threat of cardiovascular illnesses, cardiometabolic threat components, and a few cancers. There can also be evidence that it might have preventative results towards hypertension, diverticular illness, eye cataracts, kidney stones, and gallstones.

A vegetarian weight-reduction plan could enable you to attain and preserve a wholesome weight and a few researchers even imagine {that a} vegetarian weight-reduction plan can assist you reside longer.

There are additionally many individuals who comply with a vegetarian weight-reduction plan to advertise the moral therapy of animals. While some animal merchandise are consumed (if you happen to eat eggs and dairy), this weight-reduction plan doesn’t promote the farming of animals for slaughter. There can also be proof {that a} vegetarian weight-reduction plan is best for the atmosphere.

The draw back to this weight-reduction plan is that it’s doable to have dietary deficiencies if you happen to do not comply with a well-balanced consuming plan. Nutrients which may be missing in a vegetarian weight-reduction plan embrace vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc. In addition, with out meat and seafood in the weight-reduction plan, it’s doable (however unlikely) that your protein consumption could also be decrease than really helpful.

Common Myths and Questions

Myth: A vegetarian weight-reduction plan at all times results in weight reduction

If you go vegetarian, it’s possible you’ll reduce weight. But weight reduction is not a slam dunk merely since you hand over meat. Whether or not you slim down is dependent upon what number of energy you eat, not essentially on the supply of the energy.

However, if you happen to shift to a vegetarian weight-reduction plan it’s possible you’ll naturally eat fewer energy. Meat and dairy merchandise are sometimes excessive in fats and energy. Research has proven folks following a typical vegetarian weight-reduction plan eat fewer energy every day than their meat-eating counterparts.

If you do need to reduce weight on a vegetarian weight-reduction plan, deal with consuming nutrient-rich complicated carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are starchy, fiber-rich meals which can be naturally low in fats and energy. Examples of complicated carbs are legumes and different greens and whole grains.

Controlling portions sizes, choosing low-fat dairy, and cutting back on sugary sweets will help as well. Try to avoid foods that are heavily processed as these junk foods often provide too many empty calories and don’t boost weight loss results.

Myth: A vegetarian diet is always healthier than other diets

A vegetarian diet can be healthier than an omnivore (unrestricted) diet. But it depends on the foods you choose to include in your eating plan.

Processed vegetarian foods, such as meat alternatives, cheese-like products, microwavable meals, and other convenience foods can be high in calories, high in fat, added sugar, and excess sodium. If your meal plan includes more of these foods, you are less likely to gain health benefits while on a vegetarian diet.

In fact, researchers have found that an unhealthy plant-based diet (including sweetened juices, refined grain products, potatoes/fries, sweets) is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Researchers also have compared the vegetarian diet to other diets, including the vegan diet, pescatarian diet, and flexitarian diet using the Healthy Eating Index and other nutrient intake comparisons. They concluded that even though a balanced vegetarian diet fares well, the restrictive vegan diet is the most healthy.

How It Compares

Before you decide if a traditional vegetarian diet is right for you, see how it compares to similar eating plans to make sure you make the best choice for you


A vegan diet is similar to a vegetarian diet in that meat and seafood are not consumed. But vegans also do not eat eggs, dairy, or any food that contains any animal by-product including honey.

You are more likely to have nutritional deficiencies on a vegan diet, particularly a deficiency in vitamin B12. Vegans often take a supplement.

But if you are looking to gain health benefits or lose weight this diet might be most effective. Researchers have found that even those who follow unhealthy vegan diets are likely to lose weight. And if you can stick to the plan, it is the healthiest plant-based eating plan. However, this diet is the most restrictive and can be hard to maintain for the long-term.


On a flexitarian diet, you eat primarily according to vegetarian guidelines. However, people who identify as flexitarian occasionally eat meat and seafood. On a flexitarian diet, you can easily meet the recommended nutritional guidelines provided by the USDA.

Because this diet is more flexible, it is the easiest plant-based program to maintain. And some health experts say that it is healthier because the occasional meat or seafood meal helps to boost protein intake and vitamin B12.


If you follow a pescetarian diet, you eat primarily plant-based foods but include fish and seafood in your diet as well.

Using the Healthy Eating Index, researchers scored the pescetarian diet about the same as the vegetarian and flexitarian diet. However, when using a different healthy eating scale based on the Mediterranean diet, this eating style scored higher than both the vegetarian diet and flexitarian diet.

While this plan is relatively flexible, because fresh seafood and shellfish can be costly it may be the most expensive.


A Mediterranean diet includes all food groups recommended by the USDA. Animal products are consumed, but minimally. The focus is on vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and plant-based healthy oils. The diet aligns with nutritional guidelines provided by the USDA and is associated with a wide range of health benefits.

The Mediterranean diet is also relatively sustainable. No foods are off-limits, but healthier choices are encouraged. The USDA also provides specific recommendations for these following a Mediterranean weight-reduction plan.

Getting Started

Starting a vegetarian weight-reduction plan will be difficult if you happen to usually eat meals with meat and dairy. Most consultants recommend that you simply begin going meatless someday every week. Try new recipes, experiment with soy-based meals like tofu, complete grains, and new varieties of produce. Once you get snug with one meatless day, begin to take away meat on different days till your weight-reduction plan is totally vegetarian.

You may also discover it useful to re-organize your kitchen and take away all meals that aren’t compliant in your new consuming plan. For instance, if you happen to select the ovo-vegetarian weight-reduction plan, you will need to take away butter, milk, cream, yogurt, and meals that include these substances. Try avocado or peanut butter as an alternative of butter or cheese on toast and in sandwiches. Try totally different varieties of nut milk in cereal or espresso, and stock up on complete grains like oats, quinoa, or brown rice.

A Word From Verywell

If you are used to consuming meat, shifting to a vegetarian life-style could take some effort and time. It may be straightforward to depend on meat options and different meals that present the identical taste and mouthfeel as meat. But if you happen to department out and be taught to cook dinner with complete, nutritious plant-based meals, you will get pleasure from satisfying filling meals in the short-term and acquire the long-term well being advantages that this weight-reduction plan can present.

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