Are you considering a meat-free diet as a way to promote your health? While eating more fruits and vegetables is certainly healthy, being vegetarian is not the magic fix for health and weight that it’s believed to be by some.

A vegetarian diet can be a very healthy approach, but it’s not necessarily the best approach for all people. Other diets have also shown similar health benefits, such as supporting weight management, promoting healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and healthy aging. So you may not have to give up meat after all.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has always received a lot of attention as a healthy way to eat. Even the Mayo Clinic loves the Mediterranean diet for its cardiovascular benefits. 

Quite simply, this diet looks at the typical foods and recipes used in Mediterranean-style cooking. The focus is on fresh fruits and vegetables with a healthy approach to fish and whole grains. There is also a limited amount of unhealthy fats.

Fresh sea bass with spices and vegetables

Closely mimicking the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower cholesterol, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. 

These characteristics of this diet include:

♦ Eating more plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
♦ Replacing unhealthy fats, like, butter, with olive oil 
♦ Using less salt and more herbs and spices for flavor
♦ Limiting red meat consumption
♦ Focusing on fish and poultry for meat-based protein
♦ Drinking red wine in moderation
♦ Exercising, specifically walking, is common in Mediterranean lifestyles


DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. But don’t discard the DASH diet just because it focuses on lowering blood pressure; it actually has a lot more to offer. 

The DASH diet is also used as a preventative measure against osteoporosis, cancer, stroke, diabetes, as well as heart disease. 

Vegetarian buddha bowl

The Mayo Clinic outlines the DASH diet as one that focuses on portion size, having a wide variety of foods to get your nutrients from, while limiting sodium. In this diet, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy play a significant role. You’ll also get to enjoy moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.

One major component of the DASH diet is limiting sodium. There are two DASH standards: one that allows up to 2,300 mg of sodium a day and the more restrictive one that allows only 1,500 mg. 

If you want to try the DASH diet, aim to hit these goals:

♦ Lowered sodium as mentioned above, no more than 2,300 mg per day
♦ 6-8 servings of grains a day with a focus on whole grains
♦ 4-5 servings of vegetables a day
♦ 4-5 servings of fruits a day
♦ 2-3 servings of dairy a day, low fat and fat-free, are the best options
♦ 6 ounces or less of lean meat per day
♦ 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes each week
♦ 2-3 servings of fats and oils, avoid all trans fats
♦ Limit sweets to 5 or less a week
♦ Limit alcohol to one per day for women and up to two per day for men or less

Fresh fish

Pescatarian Diet

The pescatarian diet is kind of a hybrid of the vegetarian diet in that it focuses on plant-based foods but allows fish and seafood as the animal-based protein. University Health News refers to it as a diet that gives you the best of both worlds.

The pescatarian diet is often associated with lower blood pressure, lower risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes, lower inflammation, and some reduced risk for certain gastrointestinal cancers.

Following a pescatarian diet is as easy as following a vegetarian diet but includes fish and seafood. The trick with this diet, as with all plant-based diets, is learning more about the foods you eat, so you can make well-rounded, diverse choices that will give you all of the nutrients your body needs.

Vegetarian Diet

Now that we’ve explored other diets let’s return to the vegetarian diet. Many vegetarian diets include junk food which obviously will be counterproductive to your health goals, so this diet is not just as simple as removing the meat.

Avacado toast

A plant-based vegetarian diet is one that skips the sugar and junk food or at least limits them. It uses a balanced approach to eating that swaps meat-based proteins for plant-based proteins and racks up vitamin and mineral benefits by focusing on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

The Bottom Line

While adopting a vegetarian lifestyle can be very healthy and beneficial, it doesn’t necessarily mean instant health, and it’s not the only way to achieve those benefits. If a vegetarian eats thoughtfully and with a plant-based focus, they’ve certainly opted to make health a priority. 

There are also benefits to limiting meats and focusing on lean meats, poultry, and/or fish. Give the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, and pescetarianism a try to see if any of those diets appeals to you and fits your health goals.