Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy. Eating a diet that is high enough in nutrients is a concern for some vegetarians. If you are a vegan, you do not eat any animal products including dairy and eggs, so getting enough protein and calcium takes some dietary planning. Lacto-ovo vegetarians get protein from the dairy and eggs they eat, but women still need to pay attention to getting enough iron in their diet.
Egg dishes of all kinds make getting enough protein easy for lacto-ovo vegetarians. Whole eggs combine with many different ingredients to make tasty recipes. Classic egg dishes include omelets, baked eggs in souffles, and hard-boiled eggs combined with mayonnaise to make an old-fashioned egg salad. If you are concerned about cholesterol counts, use egg whites only. They are nearly pure protein and contain little fat.
Dairy in all forms is part of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Typically, dairy products include milk — ranging from skim milk to whole or full-fat milk — and cream products. Cheeses are an important part of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Cow-milk cheeses abound in markets, and goat cheeses gave a tangy quality that goes well in salads or on pizzas. Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and buttermilk are useful for snacking or in baking.
Grains form a large portion of the lacto-ovo vegetarian’s diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating six portions of grains each day. Brown rice is in the grain food group, as is barley. Most grains are mild or neutral tasting, so they accept highly spiced sauces well. Winter dishes made from brown rice and roasted vegetables get an extra boost from some feta cheese or goat cheese. You can combine bulgur wheat with lots of flat-leaf parsley, mint, tomatoes and onion chopped together to make a refreshing salad.
Beans, pulses and nuts provide complex carbohydrates, and when combined with some grains such as rice, they also provide some complete protein. Pulses are beans that you usually cook after they dry. Examples of pulses are kidney beans or pinto beans. Green beans are not pulses because you cook them fresh. People sometimes use the term bean for both types of food. Because you have access to animal protein through the eggs and dairy products, eating beans and pulses is not as complicated a process as for people who eschew all animal products. Mexican food is a natural choice for bean recipes, and bean and cheese burritos are vegetarian comfort food. Nuts contain oils important for health and provide a welcome crunch in salads or just eaten out of hand.
Vegetables also play and important part in a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Eating a lot of leafy green vegetables helps ensure that you get enough iron. Combine iron sources with a lot of vitamin C to help absorption into your body. Vegetable lasagna is a good main dish, and zucchini is a natural with ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Carrots provide beta-carotene as well as a sweet taste, and potatoes provide the rich taste and satisfying heft sometimes lacking in vegetarian fare.