You’re probably familiar with veganism, the strictest form of vegetarianism. However, there are other, lesser-known, types of vegetarianism as well — including pescetarianism, lacto-ovo vegetarianism, flexitarianism, and others.

The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet allows for the consumption of milk and eggs. In this overview guide, we explain what that diet includes, how you can get started today with sample meal plans, and more.

What is a lacto-ovo vegetarian?

The term lacto-ovo vegetarians stems from two Latin words; lact + ovum, meaning milk and eggs, followed by the English word: vegetarian. Thus signifying that its followers — lacto-ovo vegetarians — enjoy dairy products and eggs, along with their derivatives, and plant-based foods such as grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils).

Moreover, as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can not eat poultry, meat, fish, and foods containing these ingredients.

Although the term lacto-ovo vegetarianism is relatively new, the concept has been around for a long time, especially in the east. Most Indians follow Hinduism or Buddhism. Thus, they are either raised as lacto-ovo vegetarians or simply lacto vegetarians.

What is the difference between a vegetarian and a lacto-ovo vegetarian?

A vegetarian could be anyone who prefers eating nuts, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. While abstaining from eating poultry, meat, and fish. lacto-ovo vegetarianism is a subclass of vegetarianism along with other types such as veganism, lacto vegetarianism, ovo vegetarianism, pescetarianism, flexitarianism, and pollotarianism.

So, where a lacto-ovo vegetarian does not eat meat or animal-based products apart from milk and eggs, simple vegetarians can be anyone from a strict vegan or a fluid flexitarian.

What is the difference between a lacto-ovo vegetarian and a vegan?

Unlike lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat eggs and milk, but not meat and fish, vegans refuse to indulge in any food that includes animal products. Vegans are staunch supporters and advocates of animal rights. Unsurprisingly, their dietary habits reflect this belief.

What do lacto-ovo vegetarians eat?

Ovo-lacto vegetarian diet concept. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, seeds, healthy fats and grains

Lacto-ovo vegetarians can eat all plant-based foods. However, you have restricted access to animal products. Thus, such vegetarians only consume eggs, milk, and their by-products when it comes to animal-based foods.

As they do with other vegetarian diets, people assume that this too would be devoid of delicious foods. However, this is simply not the truth. Quite the contrary, you can create many super delicious dishes with the limited options available. My favorite lacto-ovo recipes are fettuccine pumpkin cauli-fredo, asparagus quiche, and stuffed sweet potatoes.

Since the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet includes dairy and eggs, the requirements of nutrients like calcium, vitamins B12, and vitamin D are easily met.

However, most lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t give enough attention to proper diet planning despite endless eating options. But, don’t worry; at the end of this article, we’ll provide you with a delicious sample one-day meal plan to help you get started.

Keep in mind that most lacto-ovo vegetarians who don’t plan their diet appropriately find themselves in a fix later, i.e., they suffer from the deficiency of zinc, protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.

So what can you do to ensure proper intake of all nutrients? Well, firstly you must know what foods provide which nutrients.

Here’re a few food sources to fill up on to ensure you're getting all the nutrients mentioned above:

Zinc

Your body needs zinc for a variety of purposes. For starters, you need zinc for growth and healing physical wounds. In addition, zinc also plays a role in fighting various diseases and infections.


lacto-ovo vegetarian sources of zinc are:

  • Dried beans, lentils, and peas.
  • Nuts and seeds and their respective kinds of butter. Like peanuts and peanut butter, sesame seeds and tahini butter, pecans, cashews, flaxseed, et cetera.
  • Whole grain or fortified cereals.
  • Soy, soy products such as tofu, fortified soy drinks like soy milk.

Protein

There's no denying that protein is one of the most essential requirements of our body. We need it on a cellular level to maintain cell and tissue structure. Moreover, it is also responsible for proper cell regulation. This way, it is directly responsible for supporting growth throughout our life cycle. Not only this, but protein also keeps our muscles and red blood cells healthy and functional.

Meat is the biggest protein source for our body. However, since lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat, it is quite common to face a protein deficiency. This is why you must add good plant-based protein sources to your diet.

Some lacto-ovo vegetarian sources of protein are:

  • Dried beans like kidney beans or black and white beans.
  • Peas chickpeas and black-eyed peas.
  • Lentils like red, green, and brown lentils.
  • Soy and its by-products like tofu or fortified soy drinks.
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
  • Grains, nuts and their butters, and seeds.
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) and veggie burgers as alternatives to meat protein.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Also known as linoleic acid, omega-3 fats are incredibly important for heart healtheye, nerve, and brain development.


Some lacto-ovo vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats are:

  • Ground flax seeds.
  • Oils from foods like canola, flaxseed, soybeans, and walnuts.
  • Soybeans and tofu.
  • Walnuts

Iron

Your body needs iron to grow and develop. More importantly, our red blood cells use it to make hemoglobin; a protein responsible for carrying oxygen to different parts of the body, and myoglobin; a protein that delivers oxygen to muscles.

Since vegetarians limit their meat consumption — the largest source of iron — they need twice the amount of iron as omnivores. And that's why, you should aim for at least two iron-rich foods every day. Also, load up on vitamin C rich foods, such as citrus fruits and their juices, kiwi, melon, sweet peppers, potato, mango, broccoli, and some green veggies with meals. This boosts iron absorption and may help your body replenish its depleted iron reserves.

Some lacto-ovo vegetarian sources of iron are:

  • Soy, soy products such as extra firm tofu, fortified soy drinks like soy milk.
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) and veggie burgers as alternatives to meat.
  • Dried beans like kidney beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, or black and white beans.
  • Peas chickpeas and black-eyed peas.
  • Fruits such as prunes, raisins, and apricots.
  • Dark green vegetables such as okra, collards, and bok choy.
  • Lentils like red, green, and brown lentils.
  • Blackstrap Molasses.

Is it healthy to be a lacto-ovo vegetarian? Science-backed evidence

Over the years, we have learned about the numerous benefits of a vegetarian diet on our bodies and planet. But, how healthy is a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet?

Research after research, study after study; researchers and scientists with joint effort discovered various health benefits of the lacto-ovo diet. Some of them are:

Weight Loss

For starters, a lacto-vegetarian lifestyle can lead to weight loss  A study comparing the effect of lacto-ovo vegetarianism on weight loss with a standard weight loss in obese people was conducted in 2020. It showed that adhering to a diet devoid of meat, poultry, and fish for three months had better effects than a weight loss diet.

Moreover, the same study also detailed the benefits of lacto-ovo vegetarianism on reducing levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), waist circumference, BMI, insulin, fasting blood sugar, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), and systolic blood pressure (SBP).

Diabetes

Vegetarian diets have a positive effect on diabetes. But to what end? A study compared the effect of different vegetarian diets on the incidence of diabetes type-2. Several factors, such as ethnicity, lifestyle, income, etc., were also considered. According to it, vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians had the least risk of developing type-2 diabetes. On the other hand, a pescetarian diet did not affect diabetes, and a non-vegetarian diet increased its risk.

Metabolic Health

By now, you must know about the effect of lacto-ovo vegetarianism on body weight, BMI, and waist circumference. However, this diet also improves the body’s metabolic health. According to a study of Buddhist monks, their lacto-ovo vegetarian lifestyle — despite not being adopted for health reasons — no doubt does a great deal for their body. Followers of such a dietary lifestyle are associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and insulin resistance (IR).

Cardiovascular Diseases

The number of vegetarians is rising in the west with every passing day. People are quitting meat, poultry, and fish for a number of reasons — health concerns being the primary ones.

People are becoming increasingly aware of such a diet’s benefits. Moreover, this change is also followed by other health habits such as abstinence from smoking and alcohol. Thus, the fact that a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is good for heart health has become a big factor driving people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle.

A cohort study of previously existing research papers on ischemic heart disease mortality showed that vegetarians were 29% less at risk of ischemic heart disease than non-vegetarians. Moreover, the study concluded that the ‘All-Cause’ mortality rate was 9% lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians.

Vascular Dilatory Functioning

Studies have hypothesized and proved the benefit of a vegetarian diet on cardiovascular health and improvement. However, since there wasn’t enough evidence on the effect of the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet on heart functioning, researchers conducted a study.

This study showed that healthy lacto-ovo vegetarians had better vasodilation responses than their similarly healthy non-vegetarian counterparts. In simpler terms, this translates to better heart function as optimal vasodilation is important for maintaining blood pressure

Bone Health in Women

A study involving women of ages fifty and onward showed that the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, rich in calcium, is a great way to combat bone mass and mineral loss in later years. lacto-ovo vegetarian women only lost 18% of their bone mass, while non-vegetarians lost up to 35%. And this proves that this diet provides extended support and protection to our bones.

What are the pros and cons of lacto-ovo vegetarianism?

Pros of lacto-ovo vegetarian diet
  • The lacto-ovo diet has a boatload of health benefits. A regular lacto-ovo vegetarian can prevent numerous diseases and illnesses like diabetes type-2cardiovascular issuesmetabolic syndrome, and certain cancers by regularly following this diet.
  • Moreover, the lacto-ovo diet is as beneficial for our climate as the vegan diet. I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but yes, both vegan and lacto-ovo vegetarian diets have the same carbon footprint despite their different menus.
  • This may be because, like veganism, the lacto-ovo diet also calls for a complete end to the consumption of meat, poultry, and fish. And livestock farming is one of the major anthropogenic causes of global warming.
  • In addition, since climate change is being recognized as a human rights crisis, it is important, now more than ever, that we take immediate steps at a global and personal level to reverse this effect.
Cons of lacto-ovo vegetarian diet

Despite its popularity and well-accepted advantages, the lacto-ovo diet has some cons. They are as follows:

  • Unfit for lactose-intolerant people

    lacto-ovo vegetarianism strictly limits your dietary options to eggs and milk. However, the options are minimal for people with lactose intolerance as they can’t drink milk or enjoy any of its by-products.
  • May aggravate pre-existing conditions

    Both milk and eggs are high in cholesterol. And since lacto-ovo vegetarians have limited options when it comes to eggs and dairy, there is always a risk of upsetting your cardiovascular health. Thus, you must always plan your diet with great care, particularly if you have a pre-existing heart condition.
  • May lead to a nutrient deficiency

    We have already discussed possible nutrient deficiency in lacto-ovo vegetarians in great detail. However, I'll say again that this diet needs some extra planning. So, as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you must ensure that all your meals are well-balanced. As long-term deficiency of any essential nutrients can do a great deal of harm to the body.

    Since you're stopping meat consumption altogether, lacto-ovo vegetarianism can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency. This can be particularly detrimental for pregnant and lactating women. Which is why they are advised to follow an approved food guide.

    So, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to take enough vitamin B12. Not only this, please discuss the option of prenatal supplements with your doctor, as they along with an appropriate amount of folic acid multivitamins can remove the risk of birth disabilities.

    Keep in mind that people over the age of fifty naturally need more calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 to support their health. Thus, senior lacto ovo vegetarians should include at least three servings of milk or its alternatives to meet their daily calcium requirements. Moreover, like pregnancy, old age also makes one extra vulnerable. Therefore, it is best to include nutrient supplements or multivitamins in your diet.

    Still, an appropriately planned lacto-ovo vegetarian diet alongside supplements can meet all of your body’s needs. You just need to be smart about meal planning and look out for any signs of nutrient deficiencies.

What is a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal plan?

Are you struggling to make a well-balanced lacto-ovo meal plan? Try the following simple one-day lacto-ovo vegetarian meal plan. Or you can take a look at this 5-day lacto-ovo vegetarian meal plan.

Breakfast

As the popular lyric goes: ‘makeup to wake up and dress up to mask on,’ many of us don’t have the time to begin our day with a proper meal. However, since vegetarianism is all about making healthy choices, begin your day with a nutrient-dense meal of omelet with spinach and chopped tomatoes.

Lunch

By lunch, we are tired but still, have a few too many hours before we can finally leave for home. Therefore, something refreshing sounds about right. Put together a serving of feta cheese salad with red pepper, walnuts, greens, and tomatoes.

Dinner

Now, you’re back at home, sitting in front of the tv, relaxing, or on your laptop putting final touches on a project due soon. So, dinner has to be something gratifying and satisfactory. Think; of tofu, stir fry with cabbage, broccoli, and carrots on buckwheat (soba) noodles sprinkled with sesame oil.

Wrapping Up

It's true that vegetarian diets started as a trend, but they are being adopted on an enormous scale. People are quitting meat and fish for more than just a convincing magazine article. Now, it's not about waist size, but about health, environment, and conscience.


A lacto-ovo diet may appear restrictive on a cursory level. But it opens doors to numerous health benefits. From lowering rates of obesitycardiovascular disorders, to maintaining high blood pressure, to preventing diabetes type-2, and certain kinds of cancer, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet has a variety of potential benefits

Besides, its other health advantages include lower blood cholesterol levels and a substantially lower risk for gallstones and intestinal problems.


Best of all, sticking to a sustainable lacto-ovo vegetarian lifestyle isn't as hard as you might think. The internet is filled with hundreds of appetizing vegetarian dishes that you can enjoy. A quick search online will turn up hundreds of easy-to-make lacto-ovo vegetarian-friendly meals you can try at home and start your health journey today.

About the Author Lillian

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