Lots of people call themselves vegetarians and then say they also eat chicken, or fish, or even a steak on occasion. If you eat any kind of meat, you are not a vegetarian. Quit calling yourself that.  It makes it harder on those of us who really ARE vegetarians and are served shrimp because someone thinks that most vegetarians eat seafood.  It is OK to say that you prefer to eat vegetarian meals but will also have a steak once in awhile. It is OK to call yourself a semi-vegetarian or to say you mostly eat vegetarian.

Vegetarians come in a lot of different varieties. If you know that you’ll be cooking for a vegetarian, it does help to know what their limits might be.

First, if someone says they are vegetarian, go ahead and assume that means no red meat, no chicken, no wild game, no seafood, no broth, stock, or sauce made with any of the above.  Anything cooked with meat (for example, the potatoes and onions underneath a pot roast), is off-limits.  Instead of asking “Do you eat chicken?”, a better question would be “Do you eat dairy or eggs?”.

These are the main types of vegetarianism:

  • Ovo-lacto vegetarian – Eats eggs, cheese, all dairy products
  • Ovo vegetarian – Eats eggs but no dairy
  • Lacto vegetarian – Eats dairy but no eggs
  • Vegan – Eats no animal products or by-products at all including honey

You don’t need to remember the fancy names. Just remember to ask whether someone eats dairy, eggs, or cheese. That provides a perfect opening for anyone with more (or less!) restrictions than that to let you know. With food allergies as prevalent as they are today, this is probably a good discussion to have anyway!

Just for fun, there are a few other types of vegetarians. A fruitarian eats only fruit and sometimes nuts or seeds. A raw foodist eats only raw foods and believes that cooking destroys many of the healthy enzymes in foods. I’ve also run across the term flexitarian recently which appears to be a more creative name for a semi-vegetarian.