October is National Vegetarian Month

Debbie Archer | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

October is National Vegetarian Month. Have you ever wondered what a vegetarian diet is? Many individuals follow a vegetarian diet because they want to be healthier or want to avoid animal products that may have hormones in them, Teresa Henson, Extension specialist-program outreach coordinator at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. 

“There are many reasons why people change their diet to become complete vegetarians,” she said. “Others only partly practice vegetarianism.” 

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Mayo Clinic, there are several vegetarian diet classifications:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume dairy products and eggs, but exclude meat, fish and poultry.
  • Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, but exclude meat, eggs, fish and poultry, including any foods that contain these products. 
  • Vegans exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products, including any foods that contain these products. 
  • Pescatarians eat fish, but exclude poultry, meat, eggs and dairy products. 
  • Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. 

Many people choose a vegetarian lifestyle for their own preferences, Henson said. For example, the decision may be related to environmental, religious or health reasons. 

“Whatever the reason might be, following a vegetarian diet has its benefits if followed correctly,” she said. “The benefits include better heart health, reduced cancer risks, lower blood pressure and diabetes and obesity prevention, just to name a few.”

Vegetarians must carefully plan what they eat daily and avoid processed foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar, she said. They should focus on eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts that provide more daily nutrients and minerals the body needs to function. 

“If you are interested in becoming a vegetarian, first, do your research before making a big change to your diet,” she said. “Second, check with your primary care physician. He or she may want you to meet with a dietitian to make sure your nutritional needs will be met by shifting to a vegetarian diet.” 

For an easy, tasty plant-based recipe, Henson suggests that you try Caviar Salsa. It can be served quickly by using items from your food pantry. 

Caviar Salsa (Bean Salsa)
16 Servings     
Prep Time: 10 minutes

1 can kidney beans, drained (15 ounces) 
1 can black beans, drained (15 ounces) 
1 can corn, drained (15 ounces) 
1 can crushed tomatoes (15 ounces) 
1 can chopped green chilies (4 ounces) 
1/4 cup finely chopped onion 
1 tablespoon oil 
Limes, juiced (3 limes, optional) 
Salt (to taste, optional) 
Pepper (to taste, optional) 
Hot sauce (optional)

1. Mix kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies and onion in a large bowl.
2. Add lime juice (if using) and oil, toss gently to combine. Taste. Add small amount of salt and pepper if desired. 
3. Serve by itself, with raw vegetables and/or corn chips.

Note: Be creative. Add any kind of beans you have. Make it spicier by adding more hot sauce. 

Nutrition Information
Serving Size: ½ cup
Total Calories 94
Total Fat 1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 244 mg
Carbohydrates 17 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Total Sugars 2 g
Added Sugars included 0 g
Protein 5 g
Vitamin D 0 mg
Calcium 33 mg
Iron 2 mg
Potassium 304 mg 

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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