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What is an Ovo-Vegetarian Diet?

Updated on March 15, 2013

"Ovo" means egg, but exactly what is an ovo-vegetarian diet? It's one in which a person avoids meats of all types but does eat eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet and can be quite versatile, since eggs are an excellent source of nutrition and are present in many common foods.

What an Ovo-Vegetarian Will and Won't Eat

Strict vegetarians won't eat any type of animal flesh. Sometimes this is described as "anything with a face," which is a good way to remember it. Vegetarians don't eat red meat, poultry or fish of any kind. They also avoid all products made with animal flesh, including meat broths and even gelatin, which is made from animal bones. Some people describe themselves as vegetarians although their eating habits are not this strict, but chances are that if someone is specifying that they do eat eggs, they are probably pretty strict about the other animal products.

Ovo-vegetarians may or may not eat dairy. Technically a vegetarian who eats both is called an ovo-lacto vegetarian. An ovo-vegetarian may also eat dairy and just not mention it, but if you are serving food to an ovo-vegetarian it would definitely be worth asking whether they eat any dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, and so on.

Ovo-Vegetarian Foods and Cooking

Ovo-vegetarians may eat a lot of eggs because they're an excellent vegetarian source of protein. This could include a variety of egg dishes like fried or scrambled eggs, omelets, quiche and souffles, as long as they don't contain any meat products. Other foods with lots of egg include soups and rice and noodle dishes.

Many baked goods are appropriate for ovo-vegetarians. However, if an ovo-vegetarian doesn't eat dairy then they must watch out for that in many prepared foods. Recipes that use dairy ingredients can usually be made with substitutions, for example using almond milk instead of milk and coconut oil with a little salt instead of butter. Compared to vegan cooking (see what is vegan eating? for more information) ovo-vegetarian cooking is actually much simpler, since eggs are used as binders in many recipes.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of other foods that ovo-vegetarians can enjoy. They do eat eggs, but that doesn't mean they always need or want to eat eggs. Ovo-vegetarians enjoy may of the same foods that any vegetarian could eat, including salads, bread and sandwiches, vegetable soups, stir-frys, curries and so on. Other sources of protein that most ovo-vegetarians will eat include nuts, tofu and many types of beans.


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