Find out about the various types of vegetarian diet and whether or not they can include eggs
Whether or not vegetarians can eat eggs is a common question - but there is not a clear-cut answer!
By definition, someone who follows a vegetarian diet excludes all foods that are of animal flesh - specifically the meat, muscles and tissues of the animal.
Because eggs don’t contain a developing embryo, they do not actually contain any meat, muscles, or tissues. Technically, this makes them an acceptable part of a vegetarian diet and many vegetarians do eat eggs on those grounds.
But some vegetarians regard all eggs - even chicken eggs - as meat, and won’t eat them. This is often the case in certain religions. In India, for example, vegetarian Hindus won't eat eggs as they consider them meat.
Many vegetarians base their choice of eating eggs on how the egg is harvested.
For example, caviar eggs are farmed by cutting open a fish’s stomach, and removing the eggs. As the fish had to die in order to retrieve the eggs, the majority of vegetarians won’t eat them.
But chicken eggs are laid by the chicken. Assuming they are raised in a good farm, most vegetarians will consume them, because the chicken doesn't come to any harm when the eggs are gathered.
That being said, many vegetarians will opt for organic eggs, so they can be assured the chickens are farm-raised and fed a healthy diet.
There are a few different types of vegetarian diet:
Lacto-vegetarian: this type of diet does not include meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, including the foods that contain them. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter can be consumed.
Ovo-Vegetarian: excludes meat of any kind and dairy products, but allows eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: a combination of both diets previously mentioned that does not include meat of any sort, but allows dairy products and eggs.
Pescatarian: this diet excludes meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, but allows the consumption of fish.
Vegan: excludes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products and any other animal by-product.
Vegetarians that won’t eat eggs of any form, regardless of the way they were obtained, would be classed as vegans.
Vegetarians following a plant-based diet for health reasons are encouraged to eat eggs as they are a good source of protein; an average egg contains approximately 6-7 grams of protein.
If, however, you're being mindful of your cholesterol or have diabetes, eating too many eggs isn't recommended. Other high protein sources you can enjoy are tofu, chickpeas, lentils and peas.
The decision of whether or not to eat eggs as a vegetarian tends to be more of a cultural or personal decision than a hard and fast rule that must be followed.
And don't miss our tips for peeling hard-boiled eggs!