As climate change and animal welfare are increasingly becoming hot topics, many people choose to eat less meat or to eat it less frequently. They often choose more sustainable food options instead to minimise their impact on the environment.
Following a ‘Meatless Monday’ diet once a week can have positive impacts on your health and wellness, while helping you maintain a healthy weight and decreasing your risk of obesity and various lifestyle diseases, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
These days there are also many plant-based meat alternatives, as well as plant-based milk and dairy products that make a vegetarian diet easier to follow, while still prioritising nutritional quality.
While some people choose to follow a predominantly plant-based diet for religious reasons or as part of their cultural beliefs, a diet that is realistic and in line with your lifestyle will be easier to maintain. In some cases, a predominantly plant-based diet is also more affordable.
And while there are no set rules when it comes to which diet best suits you and your lifestyle, here are seven variations of the vegetarian diet for you to consider.
The key to a flexitarian diet is in the name – flexibility. This kind of vegetarian diet is not as strict as others. While it may largely focus on plant-based foods, it also allows for as many animal products, such as meat, fish, milk and eggs, as often as you choose. Nothing in the flexitarian diet is set in stone, even though most proteins in this kind of diet may be derived from plants, rather than animals. A flexitarian diet
is also a good option if you are trying to be more Earth-conscious in your eating behaviours.
This is the most traditional kind of vegetarian diet and is also less strict than some other plant-based diets. While it does not include the eating of any kinds of meat or fish, it does include other animal products, such as dairy products and eggs.
An easy way to remember it, is that the prefix “lacto” refers to dairy products, while the prefix “ovo” refers to eggs.
A lacto-vegetarian diet is very similar to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet in that it does not include the eating of meat. However, those who follow a lacto-vegetarian do
eat milk and dairy products – such as cheese, sour cream, butter, yoghurt and ice-cream – but do not eat eggs or any products that derive from eggs.
Many Hindus, Buddhists and Jainists follow lacto-vegetarian diets for religious and spiritual reasons.
Similar to the above, an ovo-vegetarian diet incorporates eggs and eggs products into a diet, but excludes any milk, dairy or meat products. Someone following an ovo-vegetarian diet may eat baked goods, such as breads, rolls, wraps and rotis, as well as certain cakes, muffins and scones that are milk-free.
Those who follow a pescatarian diet usually love sushi, a scrumptious trout salad bowl and other fish and seafood products, but do not to eat other meats, such as beef, chicken, lamb, pork or game meat. They may or may not eat milk, dairy products or eggs based on their personal preference.
A pescatarian diet is usually high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help with the optimal functioning of the body and mind. It can also help in the fight against anxiety and depression. An omega-3-rich diet can also decrease the risk of heart attacks, strokes and certain kinds of cancer, while fighting inflammation.
Ethics are often one of the main reasons why someone chooses to follow a vegan diet that does not include any animal products. In some cases, vegans may also choose not to eat honey, as it is produced by bees, or buy animal-derived products, such as leather goods and clothes, or products that have been tested on animals, such as cosmetics.
This is the most restrictive of all vegetarian diets and the hardest to maintain – it includes the eating of raw or dried fruits, as well as nuts and seeds. In some cases, vegetables, grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and peanuts) may also be eaten. However, fruits and vegetables that are cooked or prepared in other ways are often avoided. This is also the case with raw foodist diets.
Then there are those really strict fruitarians who only eat ripe food that has fallen to the ground, and has not been picked or harvested. And others still don’t eat any plant seeds, as these have the potential to grow into plants.
The final say
Some vegetarian diets may require you to take health supplements – such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc and others – to ensure your body gets all the minerals and nutrients it needs to remain healthy and function at its best. No matter which diet you choose to follow, it’s always important to keep your health in mind and to seek the advice of a healthcare professional, if needed.