For Vegetarians: What Products Can Be Alternative for Animal-Based Food


gott_cDr. Peter H. Gott: meat isn't necessary to healthy diet.

According to the Mayo Clinic (, there are four major groups of vegetarians. The most strict is the vegan diet, which does not contain any animal-based food, preferring plant-based foods only.

The next group is made up of lacto-vegetarians, who consume milk and dairy products with their plant-based foods.

Then there are the lacto-ovo vegetarians (the most common version of vegetarianism), who consume foods that are plant-based as well as those that come from living animals (eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.).

The final group is made up of flexitarians, or semi-vegetarians, who consume primarily lacto-ovo vegetarian diets but occasionally eat small amounts of meat, poultry or fish. I am not sure I would consider this part of the vegetarian group, however.

There are several meat alternatives available to vegetarians that simulate the taste and texture of meat, such as soy burgers, texturized vegetable protein, tofu hot dogs and more.

Soy milk, rice milk and almond milk are available as cow-milk replacements. It is important to get the vitamin/calcium-fortified versions to ensure adequate nutrition.

Soy cheese is a nondairy alternative for cow- or goat-milk cheeses.

Vegetarians should take vitamin and mineral supplements or increase their intake of foods high in calcium, B-12, iron and zinc. It is also vital to have an adequate intake of protein, be it from eggs, dairy, soy, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds or whole grains.

I also recommend anyone interested in a vegetarian diet speak with his or her physician or request a referral to a nutritionist, who can provide information about essential nutrients and what foods are highest in them.

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