At some point in your career, you may need to provide dietary counseling to a vegetarian or vegan. A 2008 survey conducted by Harris Interactive Survey Bureau determined that were 7.3 million vegetarians in the United States (3.2% of U.S. adults) and 1 million vegans (0.5% of U.S. adults). [Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid all animal flesh, including fish, but they do eat eggs (ovo-) and milk (lacto-).]

Note the amount of dairy and sources of protein in the vegetarian and vegan food pyramids shown below.

 Vegetarian Food Pyramid


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Vegan Food Pyramid

Pros and Cons of Vegetarian Diets



  • Reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes
  • Decreases risk of certain cancers
  • Reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, gallstones
  • Nutrient intakes closer to national recommendation
  • Diets can be low in vitamin B12
  • Diets can be low in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Certain stages of life (e.g. pregnancy and lactation) require special attention
  • Some people may adopt vegetarian diets solely to lose weight
  • Some people may adopt vegetarian diets to mask an eating disorder


These are also some common myths about vegetarianism:

Note that when children follow vegetarian diets, there are several special considerations.

You should also review the USDA Recommendations for Vegetarians.


In the "Quiz Me" below, match each of the three potential problems with a vegetarian to its most likely solutions.


 Toggle open/close quiz question

Match the items.
The task is to match the lettered items with the correct numbered items. Appearing below is a list of lettered items. Following that is a list of numbered items. Each numbered item is followed by a drop-down. Select the letter in the drop down that best matches the numbered item with the lettered alternatives.
a. Add eggs, dairy, B12-fortified foods, and vitamin supplements
b. Add soy, legumes, nuts, and seeds to the diet
c. Add avocados, olive oil, canola oil, algae, hempseeds