Many people follow the lacto-vegetarian diet for its flexibility and health benefits. Like other variations of vegetarianism, a lacto-vegetarian diet can help reduce your environmental impact ( 1 ). However, you should take several factors into account to ensure your diet is healthy and balanced. This article looks at the benefits and downsides of a lacto-vegetarian diet, in addition to providing a list of foods to eat and sample meal plan. Share on Pinterest
What is a lacto-vegetarian diet? The lacto-vegetarian diet is a variation of vegetarianism that excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Unlike some other vegetarian diets, it includes certain dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese, and milk. People often adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet for environmental or ethical reasons. Some also choose to follow the diet for health reasons. In fact, reducing your intake of meat and other animal products may be associated with several health benefits ( 2 ). Other common forms of vegetarianism include the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, ovo-vegetarian diet, and vegan diet. Summary The lacto-vegetarian diet is a type of vegetarianism that excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, but includes dairy products. People may choose to adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet for environmental, ethical, or health reasons.
Benefits Following a nutritious, well-rounded lacto-vegetarian diet can offer impressive health benefits. Below are a few of the potential health benefits associated with this eating pattern. Improves heart health Multiple studies have found that lacto-vegetarian diets may improve heart health and decrease several common risk factors for heart disease. A review of 11 studies found that vegetarian diets like the lacto-vegetarian diet may help lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, both of which can contribute to heart disease ( 3 ). Several other studies have found that vegetarian diets may be linked to reduced blood pressure. This is beneficial, as high blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke ( 4 ). Promotes blood sugar control Some research suggests that adopting a lacto-vegetarian diet could help enhance blood sugar control. A review of 6 studies including 255 people linked vegetarian diets to significant reductions in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes ( 5 ). Another review reported that following a vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes ( 6 ). In addition, a study including more than 156,000 adults found that those who followed a lacto-vegetarian diet were 33% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared with those who followed non-vegetarian diets ( 7 ). Supports weight loss Adopting a lacto-vegetarian diet may not only be good for your health but also your waistline. In fact, several studies have shown that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who eat meat ( 8 , 9 ). Vegetarians also tend to consume fewer calories and more fiber than meat eaters. Both of these factors may be especially beneficial for weight loss ( 10 , 11 ). A large review of 12 studies showed that people who followed a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost an average of 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than non-vegetarians ( 12 ). May reduce the risk of certain cancers Numerous observational studies have found that following a lacto-vegetarian diet may be associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer. Notably, vegetarian diets have been linked to a 10–12% lower risk of developing cancer overall. They’ve likewise been linked to a reduced risk of specific types, including colorectal and breast cancer ( 13 , 14 , 15 ). Keep in mind that these studies show an association, not a cause-effect relationship. Further research is needed to evaluate whether following a lacto-vegetarian diet may help reduce your risk of cancer. Summary Studies show that following a balanced lacto-vegetarian diet may help improve heart health, promote blood sugar control, aid weight loss, and reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.
Potential downsides A balanced lacto-vegetarian diet can supply all the nutrients your body needs. However, without proper planning, it may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. Meat, poultry, and seafood supply a range of important nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids ( 16 , 17). Eggs are also rich in many micronutrients, such as vitamins A and D ( 18 ). A deficiency in these important nutrients can cause symptoms like stunted growth, anemia, impaired immune function, and mood changes ( 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 ). If you’re following a lacto-vegetarian diet, make sure you’re getting these nutrients from other food sources or supplements to meet your daily needs. Filling your diet with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, milk products, and plant-based, protein-rich foods will help ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need. In some cases, a multivitamin or omega-3 supplement may also be necessary to help fill any gaps in your diet. Summary Following a lacto-vegetarian diet requires you to pay special attention to your nutrient intake. Using supplements and following a diet rich in whole foods can help you meet your daily needs and prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Foods to eat A healthy lacto-vegetarian diet should include a variety of plant-based foods and dairy products. Here are some foods you can enjoy as part of a lacto-vegetarian diet: Fruits: apples, oranges, berries, melons, peaches, pears, bananas
apples, oranges, berries, melons, peaches, pears, bananas Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, peppers, arugula
broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, peppers, arugula Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas
lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas Healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil
avocado, coconut oil, olive oil Whole grains: barley, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, rice, amaranth
barley, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, rice, amaranth Dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter
milk, yogurt, cheese, butter Protein foods: tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, whey, vegetarian protein powder
tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, whey, vegetarian protein powder Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, nut butters
almonds, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, nut butters Seeds: chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds
chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds Herbs and spices: cumin, turmeric, basil, oregano, rosemary, pepper, thyme Summary A lacto-vegetarian diet can include a variety of different foods, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy products, and protein-rich foods.
Foods to avoid A lacto-vegetarian diet does not include meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Here are some of the foods you should avoid as part of a lacto-vegetarian diet: Meat: beef, pork, veal, lamb, and processed meat products like bacon, sausage, deli meat, and beef jerky
beef, pork, veal, lamb, and processed meat products like bacon, sausage, deli meat, and beef jerky Poultry: chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail
chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail Seafood: salmon, shrimp, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, tuna
salmon, shrimp, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, tuna Eggs: includes whole eggs, egg whites, and egg yolks
includes whole eggs, egg whites, and egg yolks Meat-based ingredients: gelatin, lard, suet, carmine Summary A lacto-vegetarian diet limits the consumption of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and meat-based ingredients.
Sample meal plan Here is a five-day sample meal plan that you can use to get started on a lacto-vegetarian diet. Monday Breakfast: oatmeal with cinnamon and sliced banana
oatmeal with cinnamon and sliced banana Lunch: veggie burger with sweet potato wedges and side salad
veggie burger with sweet potato wedges and side salad Dinner: bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, beans, and mixed veggies Tuesday Breakfast: yogurt topped with walnuts and mixed berries
yogurt topped with walnuts and mixed berries Lunch: curried lentils with brown rice, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes
curried lentils with brown rice, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes Dinner: stir-fry with peppers, green beans, carrots, and sesame-ginger tofu Wednesday Breakfast: smoothie with whey protein, veggies, fruit, and nut butter
smoothie with whey protein, veggies, fruit, and nut butter Lunch: chickpea pot pie with a side of roasted carrots
chickpea pot pie with a side of roasted carrots Dinner: teriyaki tempeh with broccoli and couscous Thursday Breakfast: overnight oats with chia seeds, milk, and fresh fruit
overnight oats with chia seeds, milk, and fresh fruit Lunch: burrito bowl with black beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, salsa, and vegetables
burrito bowl with black beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, salsa, and vegetables Dinner: vegetarian chili with sour cream and a side salad Friday Breakfast: avocado toast with tomatoes and feta cheese
avocado toast with tomatoes and feta cheese Lunch: lentil-baked ziti with roasted asparagus
lentil-baked ziti with roasted asparagus Dinner: falafel wrap with tahini, tomatoes, parsley, onions, and lettuce Lacto-vegetarian snack ideas Here are a few healthy snacks you can include on a lacto-vegetarian diet: carrots and hummus
sliced apples with nut butter
cheese and crackers
mixed fruit with cottage cheese
yogurt with berries
trail mix with dark chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit Summary The five-day sample menu above provides some meal and snack ideas you can enjoy as part of a lacto-vegetarian diet. You can adjust any of them to fit your personal tastes and preferences.