Growing up in the real life farmville where ranches and cattle farms are owned by your next door neighbor, Vegetarian is a swear word. Regardless of the many glares and incredulous looks, I survived. Thankfully, my mother took to self-education and made sure I grew up healthy with a balanced meatless diet. Because its been so popularized by celebrities and a new awareness for our environment and bodies, there are a variety of guiding principles behind the people who choose to cut out meat. Vegetarianism along with being green and organic is so trendy that followers are fogging up the news and internet with so much false information.
So, as a born and raised “big V” eater with ever-changing dietary needs, I’ve learned that many people have no clue what it means to be a vegetarian. To set the record straight, there are innumerable reasons that people choose not to eat meat. If you’re making the transition to a new diet, make sure it is for the right reasons for you and your body.
Animal safety/treatment/equality activism, environmental activism, dietary restrictions, weight loss, religious affiliation, illness, political, aesthetic, trend, and so many others.
The word vegetarian is often used as an umbrella term for anyone who doesn’t eat meat. It does have some more specific categories.
Vegetarianism is defined by the practice of following plant-based diets with or without the inclusion of dairy products and with the exclusion of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood). Some vegetarians also abstain from by-products of animal slaughter including rennet and gelatin.
- Ovo-vegetarian: includes eggs but no dairy products
- Lacto-vegetarian: includes dairy products but no eggs
- Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian: includes both eggs and dairy products
Vegan is also defined by the practice of following a plant-based diet but excludes any and all animal by-products. Yes, that means butter and cheese and even honey.
**Now, if you are a strict vegetarian, processed or packaged foods are a major no-no. They often contain scant (or large) amounts of animal by-products. Some may carefully check ingredient lists prior to consumption. Others are less discerning. It all depends on the reason one chooses to eat that way (If you haven’t noticed yet, “reason” and purpose are key).
**This also includes utensils and dishware currently handled by raw or cooked meat. Asking for a separate fork or spatula to handle your meat-less entrée is not being prissy.
Now these are the only kinds of vegetarianism that are recognized by the Vegetarian Society. There are 2 other diets that through common use are often considered vegetarian, but are not affiliated under the same beliefs of the UK organization. The US also has a group called NAVS that follows a very similar belief system. These are called semi-vegetarian and pescetarian. Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods, but may include fish or poultry, or sometimes other meats on an infrequent basis. I like to refer to these diets as part-time vegetarians. They eat meat, but are also particularly good at eating their vegetables. Those with diets that accept poultry or fish consumption may only consider “meat” to reference mammalian species. In addition, a pescetarian diet will include “fish and no meat.”
With all of that said, if you’re looking to go meatless, its unimportant to fit into any single one of these parameters. With your doctor’s and/or dietician’s assistance, find a balanced diet that works for your body and your values. Food is an emotional experience, don’t choose so brashly or based on trend.
In no way am I a direct proponent nor do I represent the beliefs and ideas supported by the NAVS or Vegetarian Society. Any dietary changes should first be discussed with your doctor or registered dietician.
Taylor Ellen Kearns