Do vegetarians eat dairy?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Do vegetarians eat dairy?”  and will discuss different classes of vegetarianism based on what they eat.

Do vegetarians eat dairy?

Yes, vegetarians do eat dairy. Dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal-free byproducts are all acceptable to vegetarians. Vegetarian diets come in a variety of forms. Some vegetarians, for example, choose to eat eggs but not dairy products since they are healthier for them.

Milk is widely produced in Europe totaling 165 million metric tons in the 28 European Union member states for 2014 and contributing to about 25% of the global milk production. The EU is a major player in the world dairy market due to its role as lead exporter of many dairy products. Germany and France are the main producers within the EU accounting for almost 40% of total EU production. Other major producers are the United Kingdom (10%), the Netherlands (8%), Poland, and Italy (both 7%). Most milk is used to produce cheese and butter, 36% and 29%,respectively. The remaining products include cream for consumption (13%), milk for consumption (11%), milk powder (3%), and other products (8%) (5).

Class of vegetarianism

To characterize a person’s dietary constraints, the term “vegetarian” by itself isn’t enough. Vegetarian diets now come in a wide variety of flavors, from the outright restriction of all animal products to occasional consumption of animal flesh. As each person’s motivations for being a vegetarian are unique to him or her, so are their particular criteria for what they do and don’t consume.

The choice of adopting a vegetarian diet could have positive outcomes, such as better physical health, positive feelings related to the adoption of a morally correct attitude, an increased sense of belonging (to a vegetarian community), and lower environmental impact (1). In general, shifting to plant-based diets not only results in greenhouse gas emissions reduction but also other environmental benefits such as water savings (2).

Vegetarians who are lacto, ovo, or lacto-ovo

Meat, poultry, fish, and game are generally avoided by vegetarians and vegans, respectively. Those who are lacto-ovo vegetarians consume dairy and eggs in addition to their regular vegetarian meals. They’re known as lacto-vegetarians since they refuse to eat eggs but will consume dairy products. Ovo-vegetarians, on the other hand, consume eggs but no milk or dairy products in their diet. However, unless they include animal products, bread is allowed on these diets (1).

Studies show that the greenhouse gas footprint is highest with beef and lamb (~30 gCO2eq/g), followed by pork (~3 gCO2eq/g), eggs, milk, rice and palm oil (~1–2 gCO2eq/g) (2).


In addition to vegetables, eggs, and dairy products, this diet contains fish — shellfish and mollusks, as well as finfish — as well as shellfish and mollusks. Some people select this diet because it is lower in fat and cholesterol since they avoid eating other animal parts. Those who believe that marine creatures suffer less than land animals choose to consume only fish or poultry as a humanitarian gesture. This diet may be used to help people make the transition from a meat-eating lifestyle to a strictly vegetarian one, which excludes any seafood (1).

Studies show that the vegan, vegetarian and Pescatarian scenario leads to 83%, 63% and 64% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels, the freshwater use stays almost the same (2).


This phrase was first used in the early 2000s to denote a diet that restricts meat consumption rather than forbidding it. On two to five days a week, people consume animal flesh; on the other days, they don’t eat any meat. The goal is to eat a more plant-based diet while still enjoying meat occasionally. Flexitarians have the option of increasing the number of meatless days they observe, or they may choose to be as flexible as possible.

The flexitarian diet is much more relaxed than the vegetarian and includes small amounts of animal-sourced products. A Flexitarian diet is basically a Vegetarian dietary pattern predominantly involving the consumption of vegetal products, but it occasionally permits the consumption of animal-based products and foods derived from animals (milk, cheese, fish, meat, and eggs). Considering an ideal male subject of age between 30 and 59, weight 69 kg, who does not have specific nutritional requirements, it was estimated that the Flexitarian diet has an energetical content of 2216 kcal, proteins 70 g, fat 83 g, carbohydrates 317 g (3).


The vegan diet, which is the most restrictive vegetarian option, excludes all animal products. You won’t find any animal products like meat, eggs, or milk in this world. Animal byproducts like casein and whey from milk, or gelatin made from skins are off-limits to vegans, who carefully check ingredient labels to be sure they’re not there. Because honey is made by a living creature, it is best to avoid it entirely. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts are all included in the diet since they are all plant-based (1).

Among vegans, there are subgroups, namely (1) raw vegan diet, which is mostly based on food in its most natural (raw) state, with an emphasis on the choice of organic and self-grown products; (2) frugal or frugivorous diet, which is similar to the raw vegan diet, but with 70–80 percent of the diet being composed of fruits, with a small proportion of nuts, seeds and some vegetables; and (3) macrobiotic diets, which encompass various degrees of restriction but are primarily composed of whole grains, soybeans, algae and some vegetables (1).

Views of vegetarianism in the general public

In the United States, there is an increasing preference for vegetarianism. 7 million individuals, according to “Vegetarian Times” research from 2008, live a vegetarian diet. Even though being a vegetarian is becoming more popular, there are social taboos attached to not eating meat. As seen by the abundance of fast food and burger places, the United States is a meat-loving nation. Vegetarianism has a lot of bad press, but there are also a lot of good things to say about it.

According to studies, some of the factors that prevent or hinder the adoption of a plant-based dietary pattern are related to one’s family (family members or close people do not adopt this eating pattern); convenience (difficulty finding options or preparing food); health (fear of iron, protein and other nutrient deficiencies); cost and lack of options for eating out; and lack of information about vegetarianism (1).


“Meat, Morals, and Masculinity” from the University of British Columbia (4).

concluded that vegetarians and vegans are seen as more virtuous and have better morals than their meat-eating counterparts. This might be because many vegetarians choose a plant-based diet more for ethical reasons than for health benefits. People who are vegetarians abstain from eating meat because of ethical and environmental considerations. The survey also found that most people had a favorable view of vegetarians.


The general population has preconceived notions about vegetarians that may or may not be correct. According to the previously cited University of British Columbia study, vegetarians were viewed as less macho by both men and women than meat-eaters when graded on masculinity. Meat has traditionally been associated with affluence and masculinity in the United States. In between-subject studies, people’s perceptions of others who follow omnivorous and vegetarian diets were investigated, controlling for the perceived healthiness of the diets in question. As a result, participants rated vegetarian targets as more virtuous and less masculine than omnivorous targets (4).

 Most men take pride in their carnivorous diet, calling themselves “meat and potatoes” guys and claiming their manhood as a result. Our meat-eating society reinforces this notion, which may or may not be accurate.

Appearance and well-being

People who follow low-fat diets, such as vegetarians, are seen to be more beautiful and physically fit, according to a study published in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” by experts at the University of Utah. People are consuming less fat and more veggies and other whole foods since they’ve been informed about their nutritional worth.

On the other hand, vegetarians (especially vegans) have been shown to have lower levels of serum vitamin B12. In addition, increased homocysteine levels are observed, a metabolite that is elevated due to deficiency of vitamin B12 (and other nutrients), and which is associated with increased inflammation. B12 deficiency and increased homocysteine can lead to neurological problems, anemia and developmental delay in children, in addition to increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease, dementia, osteoporosis and death. For this reason, it is necessary to monitor and supplement vitamin B12 levels among these groups, and possibly encourage the intake of fortified foods. Iron, an essential mineral used for hemoglobin formation and oxygen transport in the body, also needs to be carefully adjusted. Vegetarians have been shown to have lower serum ferritin levels, a protein responsible for storing iron in the body. Lower levels of iron could increase the risk of developing anemia (1).

Recognizing and Honoring Divergent Personality Types

It’s crucial to keep in mind that although society has a generally favorable view on vegetarianism, everyone is an individual with their own set of circumstances. If you have an opinion about someone who follows a less typical lifestyle like vegetarianism, whether it’s negative or favorable, keep this in mind.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Is absolut 3g vegetarian?

How is vegetarian cheese made?

How is vegetarian chicken made?

Does vegetarianism help the environment?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Do vegetarians eat dairy?”  and discussed different classes of vegetarianism based on what they eat.


  1. Hargreaves, Shila Minari, et al. Vegetarian diet: an overview through the perspective of quality of life domains. Int j environ res public health, 2021, 18, 4067.
  2. Chen, Canxi, Abhishek Chaudhary, and Alexander Mathys. Dietary change scenarios and implications for environmental, nutrition, human health and economic dimensions of food sustainability. Nutrients, 2019, 11, 856.
  3. Vettori, Virginia, et al. Widespread Dietary Patterns (Healthy and Balanced Diet, Western Diet, and Vegan and Vegetarian Diets) Compared for Water Consumption: Which Is the Winner?. Sustainability, 2021, 13, 11946.
  4. Ruby, Matthew B., and Steven J. Heine. Meat, morals, and masculinity. Appetite, 2011, 56, 447-450.
  5. van Asselt, ESTHER D., et al. Overview of food safety hazards in the European dairy supply chain. Comprehen Rev Food Sci Food Safe, 2017, 16, 59-75.