The popularity of vegetarianism has risen in recent years. As more and more people move towards making the shift, and an increasing number of celebrities speak out about their own choices, the movement has grown, spread and evolved. Vegetarian restaurants, podcasts, blogs and books have come out of the woodwork making it easier than ever to get your hands on recipes, suggestions and information.
Each of us makes the decision for our own reasons, however some are more commonly heard. Some of the more widely accepted reasons include:
- Health Benefits
- Environmental and Ethical Concerns
- Compassion for Animals
- Non-Violent Beliefs
- Overall Dislike of Meat
Regardless of the reason why, the decision comes with a fundamental shift in the way you shop, eat and manage your nutritional choices. How you make the change, and how quickly it is implemented in your life, is 100% up to you… While some prefer to set a hard line and make an instant change overnight, for others a gradual shift slowly cutting back on the meat sources in their diet is a more practical approach. The most important thing is to figure out what is going to work for you and your personal lifestyle!
As you assess your current eating habits, and consider the changes you are planning on making, there is one important part of Vegetarianism 101 that many forget to share – Did you know there are different kinds of vegetarians? Sure, most of us have heard of the term Vegan and have a brief understanding of what that entails, but it is not the only type of Vegetarianism that exists. Deciding on what will work best for you and your family starts with knowing the various options out there….
Don’t feel like any of these specifically are best? Don’t feel confined to a box or a label. This is just a guide to what is out there. As long as you are ensuring that your nutritional needs are met, any of these, or any combination of these, can work for you!
- Raw Food Vegan
The most restrictive of the types of vegetarianism – Raw Food Vegans exclude not only all foods and products of animal origin, but also all foods that are cooked above the temperature of 105 F. This is more than just a nutritional choice, but a lifestyle choice, eliminating other items in their lives that are of an animal origin, like leather.
The basic diet for most Raw Food Vegans includes items such as raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and nut butters, grains and legumes, seeds, plant oils, herbs, mushrooms and fresh juices.
Vegan is very similar, only slightly less restrictive. They still exclude all foods and products of animal origin, including non food items like leather, however do not have the restriction in regards to foods cooked above 105 F. Just like I mentioned with the Raw Food Vegan, this is more of a lifestyle shift then just a nutritional choice, as it does impact more than just the foods that you consume!
- Lacto Vegetarian
Lacto Vegetarians do not eat meat or eggs, however still continue to include dairy products in their meal plans. Some vegetarians prefer this option as they find it is easier to ensure that they are getting the calcium intake they require, while others may simply not care to give up items they enjoy like cheese!
- Ovo Vegetarian
Ovo Vegetarians do not eat meat or dairy products, however continue to consume eggs. If you don’t want to give up your morning eggs but still are interested in a vegetarian lifestyle – here’s a great option for you. As mentioned before, there really is a fit, either in one of these categories, or in blending them, for everyone.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian
On the topic of the option of blending categories – the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian does not eat meat, however has chosen to continue to include both eggs and dairy products in their regular diet.
Pescatarians exclude meat products from their diets such as beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and more, however have chosen to continue to consume fish and/or shellfish. This is the category I would say that I fit in. I LOVE my seafood, so this lets me to continue to enjoy it while still make a shift for the health benefits!
Finally, for those that aren’t sure that a complete change is the best move for their lifestyle. Flexitarians consume a plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat, eggs or dairy products. This is a great decision for those that would like to work towards the health benefits of a plant-based diet but are worried about that monthly dinner date with your buddies at your favourite restaurant.
This isn’t about following some strict set of rules – it is about finding the best balance for you and your lifestyle. Whatever you decide, you can always change your mind, tweak your plans and evolve as you go. That’s the beauty of this! It’s about you, just you, and what you believe will work best in your life. Enjoy the journey!