Been there, done that! Over the last ten years, I have been a pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, and raw foodist. It all started when someone sent me video footage of behind the scenes animal farms, a movie similar to this is Earthlings. I was stunned (still am) to learn how animals are treated just for us to eat.
Over the course of time I developed Anemia and continuously fought with the doc about eating meat, insisting that we did not need it. I took multiple nutrition courses and learned everything I could about plant based diets and creating a complete protein, however, I could not shake the anemic state. Reluctantly, I agreed to add meat for a “trial” basis of three months and when I received my lab results, I have to admit I was surprised. For the first time in years, all my numbers were within normal range. It was a bittersweet moment.
Although I now eat meat, I use it as a condiment and not a meal and my sources are always local, free range, organic and good quality. When you eat meat as a condiment or a compliment to a dish, the higher sticker price is not as much of a issue. We also raise our own chickens for their eggs so I am confident those come from a good source.
So what do all the titles mean? What are the differences in Vegetarians, Vegans, Ovo, Lacto, Pescetarian? My simple definition and experience with each.
Vegetarians – At one point in history, this word would have represented what a Vegan is today. Typically, this person would not consume “anything with a mother” or I have also heard people say “anything with eyes”. Currently, this term encompasses a multitude of meat eating definitions. Even though there are several different versions of vegetarians, many will just call themselves this to let others know, they do not eat meat (by their definition). However, they may eat eggs, dairy, fish, or consume a soup with a chicken/beef base. Some people call themselves vegetarians if they cut out red meat, yet still eat chicken, turkey, fish, etc. I have also known people to call themselves vegetarian if they fast from meat once a week. So you see, this term has become a sort of catch-all for many versions. I find it best to just ask what they do eat if you are preparing a meal for them. Recently, I was eating with some friends, many of whom claim to be vegetarian. Here were their orders; chicken based soup, salmon salad, veggie 3-egg omelet, eggplant parmesan and a pizza. I had to chuckle.
Pescetarians – The word “pesce” comes from the Italian word, fish. Some variations of the word/term are Pescetarians, Pescatarians and Pescevegetarianism. Pescatarians typically refrain from all animals that do not live in water. They will eat fish, lobster, shrimp, oysters, etc and follow a diet very similar to the Mediterranean diet. People debate that Pescetarians are not “Vegetarians”, however, those that follow this lifestyle say that fish are not “warm blooded animals” and do not feel pain so it is a humane choice. This has been an ongoing debate among Vegans and Pescetarians and a most recent study found that fish do not feel pain http://www.weather.com/news/fish-feelings-20130114. This debate/discussion will continue on throughout my lifetime I am sure. When I agreed with my doc to add in “meat”, I did this first as I convinced myself they did not feel pain and after all Jesus fed a crowd of fish so it must be okay.
Flexitarian/Semi-vegetarian – “Flexitarian” is a term recently used to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat. Meatless Mondays has become very popular and many people consider themselves a flexitarian when practicing this ritual. Personally, I now feel if you consume anything from an animal (red meat, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, cheese, etc), you simply are not a vegetarian.
Lacto-vegetarian – No eggs, but does consume dairy products such as butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.
lacto-ovo vegetarian – lacto = dairy, ovo = eggs. This person consumes egg and dairy products.
Ovo-Vegetarian – Refers to people who do not eat dairy products, but do eat eggs.
Vegan – Vegans do not only abstain from consuming organ meat of any kind, they do not use anything that comes from any living creature as well, including honey and gelatin. They typically will not wear or purchase anything that is produced from living creatures such as clothing, belts, shoes, purses, etc. Vegans are usually very concerned with environmental issues and often associated with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
Raw Vegan – Will only eat unprocessed “non animal” foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). To maintain this lifestyle requires an enormous amount of time if you like to create meals/dishes.
Many people are truly unaware of where their food comes from. Many do not care or are not interested in knowing. As a nurse, I am acutely aware of how eating and health are intertwined and hope that others will realize this as well. Local, farm raised, open range, grass fed is best of course, however, that is not always an option. Many stores are now offering organic, free range meat at reasonable prices so as more consumers demand this quality, the more they will provide.