How to Be a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian

by Dawn Walls-Thumma, Demand Media
    Checking food labels for additives becomes part of a lacto-ovo vegetarian's shopping habits.

    Checking food labels for additives becomes part of a lacto-ovo vegetarian's shopping habits.

    Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid most animal products but continue consuming eggs and dairy. For some lacto-ovo vegetarians, unwillingness to support industrial food production practices compels them toward the decision to incorporate this form of vegetarianism into their lifestyle. For others, health decisions or other matters come into play. Among the considerations lacto-ovo vegetarians must take into account is making sure their food choices result in a nutritionally complete diet (see References 5).

    Step 1

    Decide what, if any, animal-based ingredients you're willing to accept and learn to identify those you wish to avoid on food labels. Many common ingredients in processed foods come from animal sources some or all of the time. For example, carmine, tallow, lard, gelatin and keratin all come from animal sources. Other ingredients, such as folic acid and anticaking agents, may contain animal products unacceptable to lacto-ovo vegetarians. (See References 3)

    Step 2

    Plan a week of ordinary menus, including dishes with meat. Identify those dishes where you can swap a vegetarian main course for a meat; for example, you might substitute marinated grilled mushrooms for a beef entrée. Identify dishes that utilize meat or meat-based stocks as ingredients. You can often substitute vegetarian ingredients and never know the difference. For instance, try spaghetti bolognese made with textured vegetable protein instead of ground beef or French onion soup made with mushroom stock.

    Step 3

    Explore cookbooks for vegetarian recipes that extend beyond your normal menu, focusing on maintaining a varied and well-balanced diet. The American Dietetic Association recommends that vegetarians consume beans, legumes, nuts and whole grains in order to obtain essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. As a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can also partake in eggs and dairy to meet your needs (see References 4). When looking for new recipes, investigate ethnic cookbooks --- Mexican, Thai, Indian and Italian, for example --- which often contain more vegetarian options than traditional meat-centric American cookbooks.

    Step 4

    Patronize sources of local fruits, veggies, eggs and dairy. If social consciousness is one of the reasons you're a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you aren't necessarily living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle if all of your fruits and vegetables were hothouse-grown and transported thousands of miles to your table. Likewise, animals closely confined on egg and dairy farms exert the same negative impact on the environment as animals raised for meat under such conditions. Find out what you can about conditions on the farms your food came from, a task made easier when you're buying your goods from local farmers.

    Tip

    • Don't view vegetarianism as a dietary restriction; instead, look at it as the chance to try new foods. Pledge to try one new recipe each week; within a few months, you'll have a formidable repertoire to draw from when planning menus.

    About the Author

    First published in 2000, Dawn Walls-Thumma has served as an editor for "Bartleby" and "Antithesis Common" literary magazines. Walls-Thumma writes about education, gardening and sustainable living. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and writing from University of Maryland and is a graduate student in humanities at American Public University.

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