Gina Crome by Gina Crome

Vegetarian diets can take on a number of forms, depending on the type of animal-based products one chooses to consume.

Ovo-lacto Vegetarians: Plant-based Diet + Eggs and Dairy

Lacto-vegetarians: Plant-based Diet + Dairy

Pescatarians: Plant-based Diet + Fish

Flexitarians: Plant-based Diet + Occasional Animal Flesh

Vegans: Plant-based Diet Only

The commonality among the various vegetarian groups is that they all center on a plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes (beans, lentils, and peanuts). Plant-based nutrition has long been studied for its health benefits. Research indicates that plant-based diets may reduce the likelihood for specific cardiovascular complications such as:

-Higher LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
-Elevated Triglyceride Levels
-High Blood Pressure
-Overweight and Obesity

Recent findings from a large Oxford study demonstrated that vegetarians were 32 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease as compared to their non-vegetarian peers (Crowe, 2013). But reaping the health benefits of a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to make major changes in the way we eat. Incorporating plant-based foods just one day a week can make a big difference in the way we feel. This is the basis for the “Meatless Monday” movement, which began as a public health campaign to encourage individuals to consume a vegetarian diet just one day each week for better health by consuming lean, plant-based protein sources (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Plant Protein Examples


Serving Size

Protein (grams)


1 cup



1 cup



3 ounces



1 cup


These protein sources can be easily incorporated into meals. For example, quinoa and buckwheat can be served in place of traditional sides such as potatoes or rice and also doubles as a protein-packed breakfast cereal. And beans and lentils are great protein additions to toss in soups and salads. Other plant-based proteins such as tempeh, seitan and tofu can be cooked as you would meat (broiled, baked, grilled or sautéed) and enjoyed a number of ways.

Cannellini Bean Soup with Kale

The perfect soup for the fall season. Serves 2

2 tsp. olive oil
½ cup yellow onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup carrots, chopped
1 cup canned Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups kale, chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven; add onion and garlic. Sauté about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Nutritional Information (per serving): 200 calories, 10g protein, 3g fat, 60g carbohydrates


For more recipe ideas to help you kick off Vegetarian Awareness Month, visit the Healthy Living section of the ACE Fit website.


Crowe, F. L. and Appleby, P. N. (2013). Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97,  3, 597-603. 

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