What Exactly Do You Eat, Again? Decoding Eating Styles

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In today’s health-conscious culture it is common to encounter people with specific eating styles. Despite the frequency with which we all encounter people with restrictive diets, it can still be a tremendous source of aggravation when encountering that inevitable question, “What exactly do you eat, again?”. This question is often followed by other people interjecting their own opinions, and sometime incorrect information exchanged.

Some of the most common eating styles that are adopted in today’s culture include:


Though the common perception of a vegetarian as a whimsical hippie is fading from popular thought, there is still some confusion over what vegetarianism actually is. In its most simplest terms, vegetarianism refers to an eating style that eliminates the flesh products of animals. This includes red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, fish and lard. Some people refer to themselves as lacto-ovovegetarians, meaning that while they do not eat meat, they still eat eggs and dairy products.

Vegetarians must seek alternative sources for protein and amino acids others get from eating meat products. These sources often include dairy products, tofu, meat replacement products referred to as textured vegetable protein, beans, nuts and legumes. Supplementing the diet with a vitamin B tablet can help to fill other nutritional gaps often experienced by vegetarians.


Veganism is a particularly strict form of vegetarianism that goes beyond just eliminating the flesh of animals, and completely eliminates all food products related to animals. Those that follow this eating style avoid all forms of meat, eggs and dairy products. Though it is not universally accepted among vegans, some also eliminate honey from their diets. Vegans are also particularly careful about the additives that are found in food, eliminating products that contain lactose derivatives such as casein.

Vegans often have a more difficult time achieving a truly nutritionally balanced diet. With appropriate meal planning, however, they are able to maintain a low-fat, high nutrition eating pattern. Protein sources for vegans are more limited than vegetarians, but also include tofu, soy products, beans, nuts and legumes.


Sometimes erroneously grouped in with vegetarianism, pescatarianism is an eating style that eliminates red meat, pork and poultry, but still includes fish and other seafood. This fish acts as a main protein source, as well as a source of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. A pescatarian will also get protein from dairy, beans, nuts and legumes, and may also turn to vegetable protein and soy products such as tofu.

Gluten Free

Gluten has recently come under tremendous scrutiny recently as the prevalence of a gluten-free lifestyle has increased. Though some may interpret “gluten free” as just meaning “bread free”, the concept of a gluten free diet is actually more complicated than that. Gluten is a substance naturally found in grains including wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. Generally used as a flavoring, thickener or conditioning product, gluten has been linked to a variety of health concerns including worsened celiac disease, fatigue, digestive issues, joint problems and mental fogginess. Eliminating gluten is often recommended for the management of celiac disease, Autism spectrum disorders, digestive problems and attention disorders.

Eating a gluten free diet is about more than eliminating obvious grain products such as bread and cereals. Those with serious gluten sensitivities must also avoid products that contain gluten as a derivative of other ingredients, such as in the instance of malt vinegar, which contains gluten by merit of the malt, a product made primarily of barley. Following a gluten free diet also means being conscious of the potential for cross-contamination; which can occur when gluten free foods come into contact with the same surfaces as foods with gluten.

Paleo Diet

Many nutritional experts believe that the body functions best when fed the types of foods that would most likely have made up the diet of our prehistoric ancestors. Just as veterinary nutrition often focuses on feeding animals the types of foods that would be eaten in the wild in order to support their prime health and functioning, this eating style is developed around supporting ideal health with a diet grounded in the foods thought to be eaten by our ancestors prior to the development of agriculture.

Also known as the Paleolithic diet or the caveman diet, this eating style allows for foods including fish, naturally-raised beef, vegetables, nuts, roots and fungi, but eliminates other foods that would not have been available until the development of agriculture and the intercultural sharing of products. This eliminates grains, potatoes, dairy products, legumes, processed salt, processed oils and refined sugar. Support behind the Paleo diet began with studies that demonstrated a lack of particular diseases, often referred to as “diseases of affluence” in humans of the Stone Age as has been indicated through the extensive examination of the remains of these people. The belief is that their limited diet encouraged the body to remain healthy and strong, while the addition of various products, and particularly processed ingredients, has led to the development of a variety of diseases and health concerns.



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