Diets that exclude certain foods and food groups can be tricky to follow, especially when the line between what is and isn’t okay to eat is hazy.
For vegetarians, that’s the deal when it comes to eggs. Sure, eggs come from chickens, making them a no-go for vegans (who steer clear of eating both animals and their byproducts). But vegetarians just don’t eat meat, right? So…what’s the deal?
Can Vegetarians Eat Eggs?
This is actually up for debate, even within the vegetarian community. Here’s what is clear: The kind of eggs you buy at the store aren’t fertilized by a rooster, so they’re not turning into baby chickens anytime soon. Also, vegetarians do not eat animal proteins, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. That means the following foods are off limits:
- Other animal meats, such as bison, or exotic meats like ostrich or alligator
Vegetarians do eat the following, though:
- Whole grains
No one is contesting that info. But, here’s where it gets dicey. There are actually different types of vegetarians—some eat dairy foods, like cheese, milk, and eggs; others take a solid pass on any food that comes from an animal, according to the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
These are the different types of vegetarians, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
- Vegan: This diet includes only plant-based foods. They don’t eat animal proteins or animal by-products such as eggs, milk, or honey.
- Lacto-vegetarian: This includes plant foods plus some or all dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: This one includes plant foods, dairy products, and eggs.
- Semi- or partial vegetarian: These vegetarians eat plant foods and may eat chicken or fish, dairy products, and eggs. They don’t eat red meat.
- Pescatarian: These vegetarians eat plant foods and seafood.
So…it kind of depends on who you’re talking to. It’s also worth noting that PETA, who tends to take a hardline stance on things, suggests that vegetarians do eat eggs, while vegans don’t. Here’s what they have to say on the topic:
“Vegetarians don’t eat any animals, including pigs, chickens, cows, fish, and all others. In addition to not consuming any animal flesh, a vegan also doesn’t consume dairy milk, dairy cheese, eggs, or any other product derived from an animal.”
So, if I want to be a vegetarian, should I eat eggs or not?
People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons, and it just depends on what your personal values or dietary preferences are. If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian then yeah, eating eggs is no biggie. If you’re a strict vegan, eggs aren’t for you. And, if you’re not sure where you fall on the spectrum, it’s really your choice.
Frankly, the vegetarian police aren’t going to come out and beat you with carrot sticks if you do happen you have an egg, so…this one is really up to you.
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