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  » Diet Information  »  The vegetarian choice and religious based diet

People are becoming aware of the dangers of too much red meat in their diets. Some people have chosen to be vegetarians (to not eat any type of meat) for religious, ecological, or physical reasons.
Some vegetarian diets are stricter than others. The lacto-ovo diet is the most liberal, whereas the vegan is a strict vegetarian. The range is as follows:

Lactovegetarian. Eats plant foods, plus dairy products (no eggs).

Ovo vegetarian. Eats plant foods, plus eggs (no dairy products).

Lacto-ovo vegetarian. Eats plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.

Fruitarian. Eats fruits, nuts, olive oil, and honey.

Vegan. Eats only plant foods.

Dietary Practices Based on Religious Belief

Hindu Hindus believe that all life forms are sacred because they might be reincarnation of an ancestor. Most are lacto-ovo vegetarians (no meat, fish, poultry) and do not use stimulants such as alcohol or coffee. They do eat eggs.
Moslem (Islam) Islam prohibits the eating of all pork products. Meat and poultry must be slaughtered according to strict rules. No alcoholic beverages are allowed, but tea is permitted. Moslems fast for 1 month each year, avoid food from dawn until after dark.
Jewish (Orthodox) Separate dishes, pans, and silverware must be used to prepare and serve meat and dairy foods. Meat and milk may not be eaten at the same meal. Meats must be slaughtered by a ritual method, and only the front quarter of the animal may be eaten. This is then called Kosher food. (Allowed meats include beef, veal, lamb, mutton, goat, venison, chicken, turkey, goose and peasant). All pork products are prohibited. Shellfish and scavenger fish are not allowed. Food must be prepared ahead of time for the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). Certain days of fasting are observed, but a rabbi may excuse an elderly or ill patient.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Mormons use no stimulants (coffee tea, or caffeine-containing carbonated beverages), and no extremely cold or hot foods (no ice in beverages). No alcoholic beverages or smoking are allowed.
Roman Catholic Dietary and fasting regulations are mostly voluntary. Catholics may abstain from eating meat on Fridays and during Lent. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are observed as days of fasting (a priest may excuse the elderly or ill). Catholics do not eat or drink (except water) before taking Holy Communion.
Seventh Day Adventists Seventh Day Adventists are usually lacto-ovo vegetarians or vegans. They observe the Sabbath on Saturday. They use no stimulants (coffee, tobacco, alcohol).

Balancing the Vegetarian diet

The most important concern in the vegetarian diet is that of attaining an adequate supply of complete protein. This is very easy in the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, but difficult for the vegan. Among the sources of protein that can be used most efficiently by the body, meat actually ranks only third. The most efficient protein available is that found in dairy products, eggs, and fish. (Some vegetarians and health food advocates do not eat red meat, but do eat fish or poultry). The second best supply of efficient protein is legumes, soybeans, nuts, and brown rice.

Combinations of incomplete protein sources can add up to a complete protein. In Chapter 26 we stated that complete proteins are needed to sustain life and to promote growth. Table 27-2 describes some of the combinations that when used together, provide a complete protein source. You will notice that many of these foods or food combinations are eaten regularly by non-vegetarians.

It is also difficult for a strict vegetarian who eats mostly vegetables and fruits to obtain adequate vitamins and minerals. Vegetarian diets are often deficient in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D, iodine, and riboflavin, and vitamin B12is probably entirely absent. Thus, these substances often need to be taken as supplements. It may also be difficult to obtain enough healthful calories for the energy needs of the body. See the accompanying box for suggestions on planning a balanced vegetarian diet.

The Zen macrobiotic diet progresses through 10 steps in which various foods are limited or totally eliminated. The highest level of Zen contains 100% cereals and has been linked to vitamin deficiencies and several deaths.

Vegetarian Combinations That Yield Complete Protein

Grain with brewer's yeast Whole wheat grains and cereals are preferred.
Grain and nuts with milk (or legumes) Peanut butter sandwich and milk (or yogurt or soy milk)
Grain with milk or cheese

Cereal and milk
Cheese sandwich
Rice cooked in milk

Grain with dried beans or wheat germ (and/or nuts) Baked beans with nut bread
Grain with egg Poached egg on toast
Grain with cheese

Macaroni and cheese
Tortilla with cheese

Beans with cheese Meatless chili with beans and cheese
Beans, legumes (peas, lentils), rice or soybeans (tofu) with milk, nuts, or eggs

Various combinations
Rice and bean burrito

Textured protein product (TPP) or meat analog (meat substitutes made from soybeans) Hi Protein Bars, Hi Protein Milk shakes etc.

Note: The lacto-ovo diet replaces meat with legumes, nuts, grains, eggs, and milk. Other vegetarian diets may omit the eggs and/or milk and dairy products.
* The above foods are protein sources only. Other foods must be added to complete the adequate diet.


• Select from a wide variety of plant foods.
• Omit "Empty calories"and alcohol.
• Choose from the four vegetarian food groups daily: Fruits and vegetables (include one citrus fruit and at least one dark green leafy vegetable, four or more servings)
Grains, breads, and cereals (four or more servings)
• Limit eggs to three or four per week.
• Include foods rich in minerals and vitamins that are likely to be missing in a meatless diet (especially calcium, riboflavin, iron, and vitamins A and B12).
• Obtain vitamin D from sunlight or irradiated milk.
• Maintain adequate caloric intake (and oil and nuts).
• Provide a large quantity of food.
Vegans: substitute fortified soybean milk or green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits for milk.
Vegans: eat at least two of the following at the same meal in order to provide all essential amino acids:
Grains or nuts and seeds
Dried beans or soybean curd (tofu)
Wheat germ
Vegans: add brewer's yeast to the diet.
• Plan meals carefully.

Data from Register UD, Sonnenberg LM: The vegetarian diet. J Am Diet Assoc 72:253, 1973; and Register UD, Sonnenberg LM: The vegetarian diet. In Tobias A, Thompson P (eds): Issues in Nutrition for the 1980s: An Ecological Perspective, pp 393-411. Monterey, CA, Wadsworth, 1980