Can vegetarians eats eggs? How about cheese? These questions make me want to pull my hair out, and I’ve heard them too many times.
I hate labels. In my mind, if someone wants to live a mostly vegetarian lifestyle but bite into a juicy burger every now and then, they should be able to without being shamed. If someone who doesn’t eat meat sprinkles a little parmesan onto their pasta, they shouldn’t be scolded. But enough people ask the questions, so I figured I’d supply a breakdown of the varying types of vegetarians that exist by label.
The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as someone who eats grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods. This can be with or without dairy products, honey, and/or eggs. Any foods that have been produced from any part of a living or dead animal are not considered vegetarian. This doesn’t just include meats, but also shellfish, insects, and by-products of slaughter (such as gelatine, isinglass, and animal rennet.)
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians consume both dairy products and eggs. This is the most popular of the vegetarian diets.
Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products, but they avoid eggs.
Ovo-vegetarians consume eggs, but they avoid dairy products.
And of course it’s worth mentioning vegans, who do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
I’ve never heard anyone refer to themselves as lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, or ovo-vegetarian. People simply refer to themselves as vegetarians. But the Internet is a breeding ground for judgement, and people who feel entitled like to go out of their way to tell certain types of vegetarians they aren’t “real” vegetarians if they consume certain things.
I say, eat in a way that best fits your lifestyle, beliefs, and makes you feel good. Most importantly, don’t let anyone shame you into thinking you’re doing it wrong. Every little effort plays part in making a difference and you have to start somewhere.
Interested in vegetarian meat replacements? Find some good ones here!