Partial vegetarian

Alternative names 
Lacto-ovovegetarian; Semi-vegetarian; Vegetarianism; Vegan; Lacto-vegetarian


A vegetarian diet is one that excludes all or most animal products, particularly a diet that excludes any food that requires the death of an animal. There are many variations, including the following:

  • Vegan: Diet consists of only foods of plant origin.  
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Diet consists of plant foods plus some or all dairy products.  
  • Lacto-ovovegetarian: Diet consists of plant foods, dairy products and eggs.  
  • Semi- or partial vegetarian: Diet consists of plant foods and may include chicken or fish, dairy products, and eggs. Excludes red meat.


A vegetarian diet may be adopted for a variety of reasons, including religious, moral or political beliefs, economics, or the desire to consume a more healthful diet.

The American Dietetic Association states that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be consistent with good nutritional intake. Dietary recommendations vary with the type of vegetarian diet.

For children and adolescents these diets require special planning, because it may be difficult to obtain all the nutrients required for growth and development. Nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian’s diet are protein, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, and iron.

Eating protein, which is made up of smaller chemicals called amino acids, is necessary for good health. There are two types of proteins: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins contain adequate amounts of the essential amino acids needed for health and are found in animal products such as meats, milk, fish, and eggs.

Incomplete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids, but not in adequate amounts. These proteins generally have one amino acid in insufficient quantity, referred to as the limiting amino acid. Grains and beans are sources of incomplete proteins.

You don’t have to eat animal products to get complete proteins in your diet. You can mix two incomplete proteins or an incomplete protein with a complete protein to get all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts. Some combinations are milk and cereal, peanut butter and bread, beans and rice, beans and corn tortillas, and macaroni and cheese.

Integrating the vegetarian style of eating into a non-vegetarian diet is recommended for individuals wishing to choose a healthier diet. For example, a person may choose to simply eat meat less frequently.


Vegetarian diets that include some animal products (lacto-vegetarian and lacto-ovovegetarian) are nutritionally sound. Vegan diets require careful planning in order to obtain adequate amounts of required nutrients. The following are recommendations for feeding vegetarian children.

  • Breast milk or formula should be the basis of the diet until one year of age. (See Appropriate Diet for Age)  
  • Milk or a fortified soy formula should be used.  
  • Fat should not be limited for a child less than two years of age.  
  • For children not drinking milk or a fortified substitute, the following nutrients may be limited: calcium, protein, vitamin D, riboflavin. These children may need a vitamin and mineral supplement.  
  • Vitamin B-12 must be supplemented if no animal products are consumed.  
  • Adequate iron intake is difficult to achieve if meat is not consumed. Good sources of iron include prunes and prune juice, fortified cereals and grain products, raisins, and spinach.

NOTE: Any specialized diet, particularly for children but also for adults, should be reviewed by a registered dietician prior to the start of the diet to ensure that it meets all nutritional needs.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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