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Vegetarian - it's more than not eating meat

Vegetarians; vegetarian; food; eating; vegan; lacto-vegetarian; ovo-vegetarian; lacto-ovo-vegetarian; pesco; semi;;


What is vegetarian eating?

There are really 6 forms of vegetarian eating.

  1. Vegans eat fruit, nuts, grains and vegetables and don't eat anything that comes from animals; eg meat, eggs or dairy foods like milk and cheese.
  2. A lacto-vegetarian eats fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and dairy foods (lacto is a Latin word that means milk).
  3. An ovo-vegetarian eats fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and eggs (ovo is a Latin word that means eggs).
  4. A lacto-ovo-vegetarian eats fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, dairy foods and eggs.
  5. Pesco-vegetarians eat fish, fruit, nuts, grains and vegetables (pesco means fish).
  6. Semi-vegetarians eat everything except red meat.

Why people become vegetarian

There are many reasons why people become vegetarian, and here are some of them.

  • They like the taste of vegetables, fruit, nuts and grains.
  • They don't like the taste of meat.
  • They cannot bear the thought of eating animals.
  • They have religious beliefs which prohibit the eating of meat.
  • They've grown up in a vegetarian family.
  • Meat can be too expensive or not available where they live.
  • They believe that they are healthier when not eating meat.
  • They think it is better for the environment not to eat meat.
  • They want to be like their friends.
  • Vegetables are cheaper than meat.

Staying healthy on a vegetarian diet

vitaminsAs well as protein, fat and carbohydrates, your body needs minerals and vitamins for you to grow and stay healthy and strong.

No one type of food has everything you need. That is why it is important to have a variety of foods in your diet.

You can still get all that your body needs if you:

  • eat protein like legumes (eg. lentils and chick peas), nuts, eggs, dairy foods, chicken or fish every day.
  • eat foods rich in iron like dark green vegetables, dried peaches, figs, apricots and wholemeal bread every day. Some breakfast cereals have extra iron too.
  • eat food rich in vitamin C like fruits including citrus fruits and bananas as well as vegetables like capsicum, broccoli and tomatoes. These foods also help you to absorb the iron that is in vegetables and cereals.
  • get calcium, to help you grow strong bones and teeth, from milk and dairy products.

If you don't eat anything at all from animals you may need to take vitamin tablets or capsules, especially B12, and extra calcium so that you stay healthy.

Everyone should exercise at least three times a week and get plenty of sleep, especially kids who are growing.

What your body needs every day, how much and where from.

3 serves 1 cup of milk, yoghurt, vegetarian baked beans, navy beans, ½ cup tinned salmon, tofu, cheese, soy milk and yoghurt if they have calcium added

(each is 1 serve)
 2 serves  Eggs, 1/2 cup of legumes, nuts, seeds, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or grains

(each is 1 serve)
4-6 serves 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables. Try for different coloured vegetables to give you lots of different vitamins 

(each is 1 serve)
2-4 serves 1 medium piece of fruit, ¾ cup fruit juice, ½ cup raw or canned fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit

(each is 1 serve)
Bread, rice, pasta and cereals
5-11 serves 1 slice bread, ½ cup cereal, ½ cup pasta or rice

(each is 1 serve)

Good things about being a vegetarian

  • broccholiEveryone needs the minerals and vitamins in vegetables anyway.
  • Vegetables can fill you up quickly so that you don't over eat.
  • Raw fruit and vegetables need a lot of chewing which is good for your teeth.
  • Vegetables are cheaper than meat and often quicker to prepare.
  • You can eat hot, cold, cooked or raw vegetables.
  • You can have a wide variety of foods to eat.
  • There are lots of vegetarian recipes around for you to try, including exotic dishes from countries where most people are vegetarian.
  • Being vegetarian can be good for your health.

Not so good things about being a vegetarian

  • The stricter the vegetarian diet, the more chance there is of not getting all the protein, minerals and vitamins that a growing kid needs.
  • It can sometimes be a problem finding something to eat when eating out.
  • Some friends' parents or other members of your own family may find it difficult to accept the fact that you are vegetarian and insist that you have a 'proper' meal when you are at their houses.
    eating away from home
  • You have to let people know that you are vegetarian, so that they can prepare something for you to eat, otherwise you end up with a boring salad or plain vegetables.
  • The school canteen may not have any vegetarian food so you don't get to have a canteen treat once a week like other kids. (If this is true about your canteen get the Student Council to ask for vegetarian options in your canteen.)
  • You need to watch your diet carefully to make sure that you get all the minerals and vitamins you need to keep healthy.

If you want to try a vegetarian diet then you can get pretty much all you need from a well-balanced ovo-lacto-vego diet.

For more information on what your body needs look at our other topics in the 'Your Food' category.

Dr Kim says:

If you are thinking about becoming vegetarian if is a good idea to talk to your parents or carers about:

  • Your reasons for making this choice.
  • How will this work for family meals at home?
  • Letting other relatives and friends know so that you can have food at family get-togethers.

Dr Kim"If you are eating a properly thought out and balanced vegetarian diet and exercising sensibly then you can be every bit as healthy as a person who eats a properly thought out and balanced diet which includes meat, dairy and eggs, and is exercising sensibly.

Whether you are vegetarian or not, too much of foods that contain fat are bad for you and can lead to health problems."

If you are looking for some ideas for vegetarian meals then the following site has some great ideas. It also has recipes for all kinds of diet requirements like lactose intolerant or gluten free.

This site has lots of interesting recipes too.

Vegetarians have no place for me!



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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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