What is an Ovo Lacto Vegetarian?

Mary McMahon

An ovo lacto vegetarian is someone who avoids animal flesh of all kinds, but does consume milk and eggs. People who eat an ovo lacto vegetarian diet may also be known as lacto ovo vegetarians. Worldwide, this is one of the most common forms of vegetarianism and in some regions, when people identify as vegetarian, it is assumed that they are ovo lacto vegetarians. Receiving accommodations for this type of vegetarian diet can be very easy, especially in urban areas.

An ovo lacto vegetarian dish.
An ovo lacto vegetarian dish.

People may choose to become ovo lacto vegetarians for ethical reasons, health reasons, or simply a dislike of meat. Some people believe that this diet is more ethical because it does not involve the direct slaughter of animals for food, but still provides ample protein sources through eggs and milk products, such as cheese, in addition to traditional vegetarian proteins like beans, lentils, and nuts. Others may find health benefits in cutting animal products from their diets.

Ovo lacto vegetarians typically avoid cheese, which is made with rennet, a type of meat product.
Ovo lacto vegetarians typically avoid cheese, which is made with rennet, a type of meat product.

Eating a balanced ovo lacto vegetarian diet does require a little bit of work, but the diet is not as restrictive as veganism, in which no animal products are consumed at all. Some people take the additional step of cutting eggs out of their diets, in which case they are known as lacto vegetarians. The lacto vegetarian diet is especially widespread in India, where cheeses and other dairy products are an important part of the traditional vegetarian diet.

One thing which ovo lacto vegetarians have to be careful of is hidden animal products. Gelatin, for example, is a common ingredient made from animals which sometimes shows up in surprising places. Likewise, cheeses are sometimes prepared with rennet, which is made from the scrapings of calf intestines. Products which are traditionally made with gelatin or rennet are sometimes specifically labeled "vegetarian" to alert ovo lacto vegetarians to the fact that the producer is using alternatives so that their products will be safe for vegetarians.

Airlines, restaurants, and other meal providers are generally aware of the restrictions of the ovo lacto vegetarian diet and they can make special meals available by request. It is advisable not to request a "vegetarian" meal, because of the different definitions of that term, but to clearly specify that an ovo lacto vegetarian meal is desired. Otherwise, there is a chance that the meal may include unwanted animal ingredients such as fish, a product which some people view as an acceptable inclusion in a vegetarian diet.

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?