An ovo-lacto vegetarian includes both eggs and dairy products in his diet, but meat is completely excluded. In a regular non-vegetarian diet, meat is very important and provides many benefits if properly consumed.

I've heard of many problems that can be induced by vegetarianism, because the body stops receiving important nutrients and it's common that the diet is not changed to compensate for the lack of meat.

How should an ovo-lacto vegetarian compensate? The meat benefits are lost, and the body still needs them. Which changes in diet should a vegetarian perform to keep receiving the nutrients that the meat stopped providing?

In other words, what diet should a ovo-lacto vegetarian have to be healthy without meat?

4 Answers 4


There are a few considerations when looking at a healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

Complete Proteins

This is fairly easy in this type of diet, as eggs contain complete proteins. There are also a few plant sources (such as quinoa, buckwheat and hempseed) that contain either a complete protein profile or the 9 essential amino acids in good amounts. Hempseed also contains Omega-3 fatty acids which can be difficult to get without seafood.

Healthy Fats

One of the main reasons for healthy fats in the diet is for the proper transport of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) into the body. Nuts and avocados are examples of healthy fats, as are olives and olive oils. If possible, for olive oils get extra virgin and as fresh as possible, as this will ensure the highest levels of polyphenols.

Along with the basic considerations, you need to be aware of possible deficiencies due to age, sex, things of this nature. For example, this study suggests that B-12 deficiency can be a problem in pregnant lacto-ovo vegetarians. High soy intake can possibly impact estrogen levels in both men and women, and possibly delay maturation/height in maturing individuals, although this is only a precaution (most of what I've read suggests further studies are needed).

I would talk with a nutritionist and/or doctor about the diet, and why you want to follow it. There's no reason you can't be healthy and safe about whatever diet plan you choose.

  • 1
    You left out soy as an excellent and cheap plant source of complete proteins. Beneficial omega 3 fats are also found in some algae.
    – Turion
    Apr 1, 2015 at 17:13
  • 1
    @Turion - There are around 8-12 complete plant protein sources, I just put in a couple of examples. Soy, amaranth, spirulina, etc.
    – JohnP
    Apr 1, 2015 at 18:15
  • 1
    There is no such thing as an "essential protein." I think you meant amino acid. Also be aware that B-12 deficiency is even more problematic during lactation than during pregnancy. It is a scourge of childbearing women in many developing countries. Jun 27, 2015 at 19:37
  • @JohnP, could you explain to me how to nominate a question for reopening please?
    – Raiden616
    Feb 20, 2019 at 15:03

NOTE: this answer only focuses on proteins.

Short answer

With beans (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) and cereals.

Long answer

There are proteins in many vegetable foods, the difference with meat is the percentage of protein. Here you have a table of protein content of most protein-rich plant foods, plus beef meat for comparison (values are g of protein per 100 g of uncooked product):

  • beef meat 22
  • beans 24
  • chickpeas 21
  • lentils 23
  • wheat (bread, pasta, etc.) 10-13
  • corn 10
  • rice 6-8

In a omnivore diet, meat is just one source of proteins among others, and provides just a part of total protein intake. It's perfectly possible to get enough proteins without meat. Actually our society is suffering from diseases that are caused by excess, not lack, of proteins [3,4].

Essential amino acids

Every protein we eat through the diet is made of amino acids. There are some amino acids we need to eat in order to satisfy our requirements, these are called essential amino acids.

While meat contains all essential amino acids, common vegetable foods -individually- lack some essential amino acid. The essential amino acids that are not found in some vegetable foods can be found in other vegetable foods, for this reason it's important to eat variedly. If focusing on one type of bean, like soy, can lead to deficiencies, we avoid them by rotating the consumption of beans and cereals over the week. Some examples can be found on the web[1].

Vegan diets

What was said until now is also valid for vegan diets: diets that exclude any animal product as meat, fish, milk, dairy, eggs, honey.

With diets based on vegetable foods it's perfectly possible to satisfy all nutritional needs 'during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes', as stated by the American Dietetic Association in 2009[2]. You just have to eat enough beans, cereals and vegetables (they contain proteins too).


[3] Report of a Joint WHO / FAO Expert Consultation. (2003). Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. World Health Organization technical report series (Vol. 916). doi:ISBN 92 4 120916 X ISSN 0512-3054 (NLM classification: QU 145)

[4] World Cancer Research Fund, & American Institute for Cancer Research. (2007). Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Cancer Research.

  • 2
    But what about vitamin B12 in a vegan diet? You still need supplements for that.
    – Turion
    Apr 1, 2015 at 17:14
  • 1
    society is suffering from diseases that are caused by excess, not lack, of proteins -- Needs citation that proteins are the culprit.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jun 26, 2015 at 19:17
  • 1
    @CareyGregory done. Proteins are not the culprit; medicine reasons in terms of risk factors. Also, the problem is not proteins theirselves, but their excess, as explicitly stated in my answer.
    – Attilio
    Jun 28, 2015 at 12:38

Meat mostly provides you with protein and fat, so you'll have to make up for this. This will be easier for an ovo-lacto vegetarian.

Sources of fat

Nuts, nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.), oils, avocados

Sources of protein

Nuts, nut butters, eggs, dairy, soy foods (tofu, soy milk)

Vitamin B12

Cow milk, soy milk, eggs, fortified cereals (Multi-Grain Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Special K)

How to Be a Healthy Vegetarian


In addition to including nutrients in your diet, you can consider natural supplements in your diet as well.

This is because these days fruits and veggies are not as pure as they used to be, due to usage of fertilizers, insecticides etc. To get right nutrition, one option is to eat organic products but then they can be expensive. That's why I do not find harm in taking natural supplements. One such supplement is spirulina (which @JohnP mentioned as well). Spirulina is considered as super food and is shown to have a lot of health benefits:



  • 1
    Not all natural supplements are ok either: iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/…
    – JohnP
    Jun 28, 2015 at 16:36
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    Thanks @JohnP for the link. Yes you are right that we should be cautious but that doesn't make all supplements bad as well. I personally tried spirulina from Elken and could see the results. I chose this brand after listening to my friends who tried it. After using it, the first thing I see is improved digestion. So, I feel that if it works for you and has genuine certifications, no harm. Well at the end of the day, we must admit that we can't be fully sure about the authenticity of a product but then that doesn't mean we won't use them. Thanks again :)
    – Ruchir
    Jun 29, 2015 at 2:19
  • 1
    Anytime :) As long as people make informed decisions, it's all good.:)
    – JohnP
    Jun 29, 2015 at 2:46

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