By: Nikki Nies
Lacto vegetarian (sometimes referred to as a lactarian; from the Latin root lact-, milk) diet is a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ghee, cream, and kefir, but excludes eggs. Furthermore, this term is used to describe a vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products. Many Hindu vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians who avoid eggs for religious reasons while continuing to eat dairy. The prefix “lacto” comes from the Latin word for milk
Some vegetarians eat a wide variety of foods that may include fish, eggs and even meat-based broths. Others are stricter and eat no animal products whatsoever, including honey and gelatin. Lacto vegetarians fall in the middle of the spectrum. They eat milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products, but they do not eat eggs or fish
The term “lacto vegetarian” comes from the Latin word lactis, meaning milk. Historically, many lacto vegetarians have followed religions that are widespread in the Far East, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, which incorporate nonviolence and respect for animals into their belief systems. In addition to avoiding meat, most lacto vegetarians avoid eggs because they are undeveloped embryos. A lacto-ovo vegetarian eats both eggs and dairy products.
Eating dairy products is the main factor that distinguishes lacto vegetarians from vegans. Lacto vegetarians eat milk and milk products, yogurt, cheese, butter and cream. However, they do not eat dairy products made with gelatin, such as some puddings and custards, because most gelatin contains pulverized animal hooves, bones or marrow. Lacto vegetarians also avoid dairy products containing animal-based rennet, a collection of enzymes that cheese-makers normally get from calves.
Additional foods that do not contain animal products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and plant-based proteins, make up the rest of a lacto vegetarian diet. Examples include citrus fruits, berries, root vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, wheat products, oats, corn, beans, legumes and soy products. According to the USDA, a lacto vegetarian diet that is balanced among all of those foods plus dairy items can help reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other health problems.
A lacto vegetarian menu plan can look a lot like a plan for a traditional vegetarian, but without the eggs. A sample breakfast might be oatmeal with milk and berries, a yogurt and granola parfait or a tofu vegetable scramble. Lacto vegetarian lunch options include a green salad with a side of tofu and fruit, meat-free chili or pasta with vegetables and olive oil. For dinner, lacto vegetarians might have a bean burrito, lentil soup with bread and salad or a vegetable curry with rice.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians may have higher blood cholesterol levels because of the eggs they eat, so choosing to follow a lacto vegetarian diet may improve heart health and encourage weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. According to a 2004 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” self-identified lacto vegetarian women have a lower risk of overweight and obesity than women who eat meat. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic reports that all vegetarians tend to weigh less and consume fewer calories and fat grams than meat eaters.