• Haley Dixon, Dietetic Assistant

All About Plants: Vegetarianism and Veganism

What is a vegetarian?

A vegetarian is someone who chooses to abstain from meat for a variety of reasons, including health benefits, ethical and religious beliefs, and environmental concerns. There are many different types of vegetarians, such as lacto-ovo vegetarians, pescatarians, and vegans.

Different types of vegetarians and their Diets:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian:

  • ​Consumes both eggs and milk products.

  • Ovo-vegetarian:

  • Eats eggs, no dairy

  • Strict vegetarian

  • Does not consume any physical part of animal in addition to meat. For example, they do not consume cheese or gelatin as they are food products are produced with animal parts.

  • Pescatarian:

  • ​Eats fish and seafood. In addition, they may choose to consume eggs and milk products.

  • Semi-vegetarians (Flexitarian):

  • ​Eats a mostly vegetarian/vegan diet with some individual wiggle room. For example, a semi-vegetarian may choose to eat a vegetarian diet during the week while allowing meat and animal products on the weekends.

  • Vegans

  • Eats a completely plant-based diet and eliminates meat and animal products, such as milk products, eggs, and honey.

  • Raw vegans

  • Eats a diet consisting of only raw and uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Impact on health

Nutrients to watch out for:

When switching to a plant-based diet, there are specific nutrients to monitor. Here is a comprehensive list along with examples of foods to consume and strategies to avoid deficiency.


When eliminating meat and/or reducing animal products, an individual's calcium status may be affected. However, there are plant sources of calcium. To ensure adequate calcium status, make sure to eat dark, green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, turnips, and broccoli. These types of vegetables need to be eaten in sufficient amounts every day to prevent deficiency. Calcium can also be found in tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified soymilk and orange juice.


Vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk for iron deficiency due to the decreased bio-availability of iron in plants. Good sources of iron in plants include dark leafy greens, beans, peas, enriched cereals, whole grain products, and dried fruits. To increase the absorption of iron in plants, make sure to pair these foods with foods high in vitamin C. Pairing foods, like strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and citrus fruits, will help to maintain healthy iron levels.

Vitamin D

For those who consume diary, vitamin D is added to cow's milk. If dairy is not consumed, some brands of soy and rice milk, and some cereals and margarine's are fortified with vitamin D. Make sure to check food labels. If fortified foods are not consumed adequately a vitamin D supplement should be considered (one derived from plants). Vitamin D can be made by exposing oneself to sunlight at least 10-15 minutes two to three times daily.


Like iron, zinc is not as easily absorbed from plant sources as it's main source is animal products. If dairy is consumed, cheese is a great source. If dairy is not eaten, plant sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and wheat germ.


For plant-based eaters, this vitamin is unable to be met with diet alone due to its exclusivity to animal products. Vegans are at a higher risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency than other vegetarians. In addition, Vitamin B-12 deficiency may go undetected in vegans due to the high consumption of folate, which may mask vitamin B-12 deficiency until adverse problems arise. Non-animal sources include cereals, nutritional yeast, soymilk, rice milk and meat analogs. Vegans may need to consider including vitamin/mineral supplements in their diet.

Omega 3's

Diets that do not include fish and eggs are typically low in active forms of omega-3 fatty acids. Canola oil, soy oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed, and soybeans are great sources of these essential fatty acids. However, because conversion of plant-based omega-3 to the types used by humans is inefficient, you may want to consider fortified products or supplements.

If someone doesn't eat meat, where do they get their protein?

If someone says no to meat, this doesn't mean a sentence for protein deficiency. There are a variety of plant protein sources out there! Here is a list of some great examples:

  • Milk and Dairy Product

  • Skim milk and cheese are great sources of protein for those who wish to eat it. Make protein rich smooches with skim milk or even snacks with string cheese and fruit!

  • Siggi's protein yogurt

  • ​Packed with GRAMS of protein, this option is the perfect snack on the go. If you want to take it up a notch and have a few extra minutes, chop up some fruit, like bananas or berries, and top with mixed nuts to balance out your meal/snack.

  • Have it for breakfast or as a light night snack

  • Use it as a healthy alternative for dips!

  • Beans, Beans, Beans!

  • ​They are a classic staple for a reason. Beans are filled with wonderful nutrition, like b vitamins! They also contain a wallop of fiber and protein to help keep you full and satisfied to conquer the day.

  • Tofu and other Soy Products

  • Tofu is like a sponge and will soak up marinades and sauces as a tasty and inexpensive alternative to meat. Tempeh is also a great option. There are also wonderful meat substitutes, but be careful with the added sodium and sugar.

  • Grains

  • ​In addition to providing b vitamins and loads of fiber, whole grains also provide protein. Make sure to add grains to every meal and receive an extra punch of protein. When paired with beans, they make a complete protein!

  • Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters

  • Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that also give us lots of protein. Sprinkle on top of salads and parfaits for added crunch. Nut and seed butters can be used in smoothies, sauces, sandwiches, and even as dips for fruits and veggies. Seed butters make wonderful alternatives to those with nut allergies.

  • Dark leafy greens and vegetables

  • ​IS there anything dark leafy greens and vegetables CAN'T do? Like nuts and seeds, these plants are pack both a nutritional wallop and protein dose. Add them to stir fry, smoothies, sandwiches, or steam them!

  • Protein powder

  • No matter what the dietary preference, there is a protein powder out there for everyone. Some of the most popular include whey, soy, pea, brown rice, and hemp, just to name a few!

Want some ideas to get started with your vegetarian meals?

Head over to our recipe page on the blog!

Spots on campus to get a vegan/vegetarian meal (Click on picture to enhance)

1. The Osprey Cafe

2. Chop'd & Wrap'd

3. Chick-N-Grill

4. Outtakes

5. Jamba Juice

6. Pita Pit

7. Einstein's Bagel

8. Starbucks

9. The Boathouse

For more information visit UNF Dining Services site or follow them on Facebook!

DYK? We received an A+ on our Vegan Report Card!

Until next time, Ospreys!

-Haley Dixon & Yemila Lowry, RDN

#vegan #vegetarian #plantbased #vegetablediet #nutrition

UNF Dining Services' Dietitian

Email Yemila: y.lowry@unf.edu

Bldg 8/1210-J

1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224