What Is a Vegetarian?

Types of Plant-Based Diets

Even if you don’t know any vegetarians yourself, you’ve certainly heard the term. What exactly does it mean? What foods do they and don’t they eat? The answers are here!

In general, a vegetarian is someone whose diet does not include certain animal products. There are five main types of vegetarians:

1. Semi-Vegetarians aka Flexitarians

Semi-vegetarians or flexitarians limit their intake of either certain types of meat or the amount of meat. For example, they might eat no red or white meat (beef, pork, venison, etc), but eat fowl and fish. Or they might only eat meat once or twice a week. Someone who only eats fish can also be called a pescatarian. (Purists would say that semi-vegetarians are not vegetarians at all, but I have included them in order to show the complete hierarchy.)

2. Ovo-Lacto Vegetarians

The most common type, ovo-lacto vegetarians do not eat any animals, but do eat eggs and dairy products.


  • Ovo vegetarians (eat eggs but not dairy)
  • Lacto vegetarians (eat dairy but not eggs)

3. Vegans

Vegans eat no animal products – no eggs, no dairy, no honey, etc. (They also avoid non-food animal products like leather, wool, and silk.)

4. Raw/Living Foodists

Raw or Living Foodists eat only raw food, because enzymes are destroyed by normal cooking processes. They are usually vegetarian, but some eat raw meat and/or eggs.

5. Fruitarians

Fruitarians eat only fruit, fruit-like vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers), and sometimes seeds and nuts.

For me, one of the most difficult parts of being a vegetarian is trying to make non-vegetarians understand that I cannot/will not eat anything that was cooked with meat, even if the meat is removed or invisible. For example, vegetable soup made with chicken broth, pizza with pepperoni removed, lard-refried beans, and vegetables cooked in the same pan as a turkey are not acceptable to me, and I imagine to most vegetarians.

2 Comments on “What Is a Vegetarian?”

  1. So vegetarian meals (cheese omelet as an example) cannot ever be cooked in a pan that was used for a meat dish. Or is it ok if the pan has been thoroughly washed and rinsed (with vinegar)

    1. I know that is the rule for kosher food – there has to be a separate set of not only cooking utensils but also plates and silverware for “meat” and “milk” dishes, and it’s possible that some vegetarians feel that way, but the majority don’t. As long as the pan or whatever is clean, there’s no problem.

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