Vegetarian & Flexitarian Diets

Well-planned vegetarian diets offer significant health benefits for you and the planet.

Vegetarian diets are classified as:

  • Vegan: No meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or milk products
  • Lacto-vegetarian: No meat, poultry, fish, or eggs; includes milk products
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: No meat, poultry, or fish; includes milk products and eggs
  • Semi-vegetarian: Some animal foods excluded, usually red meats; may include fish, poultry, eggs, or milk products

A vegetarian diet can be nutritionally sound and well-balanced, but careful planning is essential for ensuring adequate daily nutrient intakes. Vegans in particular need to ensure that calorie intakes are sufficient to maintain desirable body weight, and that adequate intakes of protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamins B-12 and D are obtained. The most common type of vegetarians in the U.S. — that is lacto-, lacto-ovo-, and semi-vegetarians — follow less restricted diets and so tend to have fewer nutritional problems.

Food Combinations that Provide Complete Protein


Legumes + Grains

Legumes + Seeds or Nuts

Grains + Dairy Products

Vegetarian protein foods + small amounts of complete animal protein

Examples of Vegetarian Dishes with Complete Protein:

lentils & rice

bean taco

peanut butter sandwich

tofu and brown rice

hummus w/whole grain pita

cheese & rice casserole

cereal with milk

pasta with cheese

hemp hearts and fruit smoothie

Soy products provide complete protein by themselves

Flexitarian diet is defined as:

A diet that’s mostly plant food with some animal products – usually from sustainable sources. This diet allows for flexibility without the strictness of a vegetarian or vegan diet. For example, you may eat vegetarian 90-100% of the time, and then you visit a friend’s parents house and they serve meat,  a flexitarian can eat the meat without mention of their regular diet; while a vegetarian or vegan may not be able to eat the meal at all.