Could You Be Vegan?


People who follow vegetarian diets aren't "automatically" healthy.

Today’s Oprah episode is the vegan challenge: “Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan.” No meat, no milk, no animal anything…  It is really a “challenge” to be vegan?

There are many types of vegetarianism, but people don’t always know that. When someone tells me they are vegetarian, I respond, “What kind?” Sometimes I get funny looks, but there are several types and people have their own twist on vegetarianism that doesn’t meet the true definition. Here are the types:

Vegan: eat no animal products; no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. Some do not eat honey either, and technically shouldn’t wear silk, leather or wool. It takes some work initially as well as you being a part-time investigator, but it can be a healthy.

Lacto-vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish or eggs, but will consume dairy products.

Ovo-vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish or dairy, but will eat eggs.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish, but will eat eggs and dairy products.

Pescetarian: no meat or poultry, but will eat fish, eggs, and dairy products. This is not really a form of vegetarianism, but some pescetarians call themselves vegetarians.

Semi-vegetarian: no “red” meat, but will eat poultry (sometimes called a pollotarian). Not really a form of vegetarianism, strictly speaking.

Flexitarians: meat-eating vegetarians. It seems like an oxymoron, but it refers to people who eat mostly a vegetarian diet, but will include meat once in a while. For example, if they are a guest in someone’s home or a special event, they don’t put up a stink about meat in the sauce or the offer of “burger or hot dog’?

People choose vegetarianism for many reasons, from ethics, religious, animal rights, and health. However, if one does not carefully plan their vegetarian ways they could compromise their health with nutrient deficiencies. Becoming vegetarian, in any form, does not ensure a healthy or healthier diet. Even a vegan can have a very unhealthy diet.

Years ago, I did an analysis for a vegan client. He had energy bars three to four times a day, dozens of pieces of hard candy, and 48 ounces of orange juice. Occasionally he would get mashed potatoes or a vegetable from the cafeteria at work. He never had any more fruits or vegetables, no grains, and no protein other than the minimal amount in the energy bars.

Going from being a meat-eater to some form of vegetarianism, whether a semi-vegetarian or a vegan, I have found for many people is best tackled in stages. Start with cutting back on meat and poultry and including more beans, nuts, and meat alternatives such a veggie crumbles and tempeh. Including fish, dairy and eggs helps ensure enough essential nutrients through the transition. After several weeks or several months, cut back or remove fish, and if you choose, cut back on eggs and dairy. Always make sure you include lots of fruits and vegetables.

Going vegan takes some practice if you eat meat regularly. It is a choice. And, as mentioned it takes being a part-time investigator. Not everyone understands or respects the vegan diet choice, so they may tell you something is vegan when it isn’t. Be informed if being 100% vegan is of utmost importance. I broke it to a vegan friend that Guinness is not vegan-friendly. She was immensely disappointed.

Could you be vegan? Would it be a “challenge” for you?


2 thoughts on “Could You Be Vegan?

  1. Julie says:

    Having been a vegetarian (lacto-ovo)for most of my life and vegan for 4 of those (totaling over 20 years), I can easily answer yes but careful planning is just as important with this diet as any other to ensure needs are met. I have seen plenty of fellow vegetarians with diets compared to the one you mentioned but just as many who met their nutrient goals. I wish I hadn’t missed this episode and will have to see if it’s on hulu or a similar site. I’m glad you shared this!

    • Shelley Rael, MS RD LD says:

      Julie – I agree! Careful planning in ANY diet is important to get optimal nutrition. Thank you for making that point.

      It seems with the clients I see, and people I talk to, that being vegetarian is “automatically” healthy, but it isn’t.


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