Whether you go vegetarian for a day on Mondays or habitually cut meat out of your diet, “vegetarian” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
As of 2011, roughly 5 percent of people in the United States said they were vegetarian, according to One Green Planet, but the same survey showed that 33 percent of Americans were vegetarian or vegan meals more often.
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But what’s the difference?
There are actually five different categories under the umbrella term of vegetarian:
- Semi-vegetarian: This diet allows meat consumption on occasion, but usually excludes red meats like beef, according to Livestrong. Similarly, pescetarians eat seafood, but omit all other forms of meat.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: As the name suggests, these vegetarians don’t eat meat, but will still eat eggs and consume dairy products. Common ingredients lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid are gelatin (derived from pigs or cows) and carmine (insect derived), among others, according to Vegetarian Resource Group.
- Lacto vegetarian: Will eat and drink dairy products, but exclude eggs and meat.
- Ovo vegetarian: Slightly different from lacto vegetarians, this diet excludes dairy and meat, but allows eggs, according to SF Gate.
- Vegan: People who follow this diet not only exclude all forms of meat, but also exclude all animal-derived products, including honey. Common animal-derived ingredients include whey and casein, both of which are dairy based.
Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or fall somewhere in between, be careful of non-vegetarian ingredients tucked away on the label. Here’s a cheat sheet of some common items for your next grocery trip:
- Refried beans: Unless marked “vegetarian,” canned beans can have animal lard in them. Same goes for refried beans at restaurants—ask before you order.
- Marshmallows, gelatin packets, gummy candies: Gelatin is an animal-derived agent that is used in gummy foods and even some yogurts, according to Huffington Post.
- Some beers: Some beers, including Guinness, use fish bladder during the brewing process to remove leftover sediment, Huffington Post reports. Some other beers have honey, which is usually marked on the label, Smithsonian reports.
- Some cheese products: Even non-vegans who wish to avoid animal products should read the label on cheese products. Some contain an enzyme called pepsin, which is derived from hogs or cows, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.