Do Some Vegetarians Eat Chicken? The Pollotarian Diet Explained

A pollotarian is someone who eats poultry but not red meat or pork products.

People choose this dietary pattern for various reasons.

For some, becoming pollotarian is a step towards becoming vegetarian, while others are more concerned about the health and environmental effects of eating red meat.

This article provides an overview of the pollotarian diet, including its benefits, downsides, foods to eat and avoid, and a sample meal plan.

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What is a pollotarian diet?

Also known as pollo-vegetarian, the pollotarian diet is considered to be a type of semi-vegetarianism, as some forms of animal meat are allowed.

While the prefix “pollo” literally translates to “chicken” in Spanish, pollotarians generally eat all forms of poultry, including turkey and duck.

People who follow this diet don’t eat red meat or pork products. Additionally, some include eggs and dairy products in their diet, while others don’t.

Pollotarians who sometimes eat fish and seafood are considered pesce-pollotarians.

In addition to allowing poultry, the diet emphasizes plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.

As there are no set guidelines regarding the types and amounts of poultry to consume, the nutrient composition of a pollotarian diet can vary greatly by individual.

SUMMARYA pollotarian diet is a type of semi-vegetarianism in which chicken is allowed, but red meat and pork are not. Some pollotarians may also include eggs and dairy in their diet. Those who eat fish and seafood are considered pesce-pollotarians.

Possible health benefits

Given the limited amount of research on the pollotarian diet specifically, its potential health benefits are largely based on the reduction and elimination of red and processed meats.

The diet may provide benefits similar to those offered by vegetarian diets, as it also emphasizes plant-based foods.

May decrease heart disease risk

Some studies have associated high intakes of red meat, especially processed red meats, with an increased risk of heart disease (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

In contrast, population-based studies have linked poultry intake to a decreased risk of heart disease. This relationship may be due to an increased poultry intake resulting in a decreased intake of red meat (1Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).

In a study in 84,136 women, replacing 1 serving of unprocessed red meat per day with poultry was associated with a 19% reduced risk of heart disease (1Trusted Source).

In addition to being lower in red and processed meats, pollotarian diets are meant to be high in plant foods.

As a result, the diet can be rich in fiber and antioxidants, which may protect against heart disease by reducing blood pressure and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (8Trusted Source).

May lower your risk of certain cancers

High intake of red meat, particularly processed red meat, has been associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

In contrast, regular intake of poultry has not been associated with colon cancer, and vegetarian diets may even help protect against it (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

An observational study in 492,186 adults found that for every 1,000 calories eaten, a 10-gram increase in poultry intake combined with an equal reduction in red meat was linked to a significant 3–20% decreased risk of several types of cancer (13Trusted Source).

Therefore, replacing red meat with poultry and more plant-based foods by following a pollotarian diet may reduce your risk of some types of cancer.

May decrease type 2 diabetes risk

Certain types of red meat, especially processed meats, have been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (14Trusted Source).

In a study in 53,163 healthy adults, replacing processed red meat with poultry, fish, and unprocessed red meat was found to significantly reduce type 2 diabetes risk over the 15-year follow-up period (15Trusted Source).

Pollotarian diets are also meant to be high in plant foods, which may protect against type 2 diabetes, as these foods are often high in fiber and low in saturated fat.

One study in over 60,000 adults found that semi-vegetarians were 1.5% less likely to have type 2 diabetes, compared with non-vegetarians (16Trusted Source).

May aid weight loss

A pollotarian diet may also benefit your waistline.

Poultry is generally lower in calories and saturated fat than red meat and pork products, while still being a good source of protein.

Research has shown that a high-protein diet can reduce appetite, helping you eat fewer calories throughout the day (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).

Additionally, those who follow vegetarian diets tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegetarians, while primarily plant-based diets, such as a pollotarian diet, have been found to aid weight loss (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

SUMMARYDue to a lower intake of red meat and higher intake of plant-based foods, a pollotarian diet may decrease your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, some types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. It may also aid weight loss.

May be good for the environment

A pollotarian diet may benefit the environment.

One study found that producing beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than producing other livestock. Plus, it produces 5 times more greenhouse gas emissions, on average, compared with other livestock, including poultry and pork (22).

Additionally, plant-based foods are often found to be more sustainable than animal products, as they require fewer resources than raising animals (23Trusted Source).

Nonetheless, research suggests that reducing your overall intake of animal products and choosing more sustainable options, such as chicken, can still benefit the environment and may be more realistic for current meat-eaters (24Trusted Source).

SUMMARYReducing your intake of red meat and replacing it with more sustainable options, including poultry and plant foods, can be good for the environment by using fewer resources and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Potential downsides

A well-planned pollotarian diet that contains a variety of plant-based foods along with moderate poultry intake can be quite healthy and not require any supplementation.

However, as with other vegetarian dietary patterns, some people may be at risk of nutrient deficiencies when cutting back on animal products.

Possible nutrient deficiencies to be aware of when following a pollotarian diet include:

  • iron
  • zinc
  • vitamin B12
  • calcium
  • omega-3 fatty acids

Iron and zinc are present in plant foods but better absorbed from animal products. While poultry contains both minerals, pollotarians may still need to be conscious of including adequate plant-based sources of iron and zinc (25Trusted Source).

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. Depending on how much poultry a pollotarian chooses to include in their diet, a B12 supplement may be recommended.

For pollotarian diets that don’t include dairy, it’s important to incorporate plant-based sources of calcium, including kale, white beans, sesame seeds, and whole soy products.

Finally, if fish and seafood are restricted, a pollotarian may not be getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential and important for physical and mental health (26Trusted Source).

Sources of the plant-based form of omega-3 — alpha-linolenic acid — include walnuts, as well as chia and flax seeds.

SUMMARYPollotarians may be at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies, particularly vitamin B12, calcium, and omega-3s, depending on their food choices.

Foods to eat

A pollotarian diet is ideally high in plant-based foods and contains moderate amounts of poultry. Foods that are okay to eat on a pollotarian diet include:

  • Whole grains and grain products: quinoa, oats, millet, farro, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, grapefruit, bananas, berries, pears, etc.
  • Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, squash, potatoes, peppers, etc.
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
  • Nuts, nut butters, and seeds: pumpkin seeds, almond butter, walnuts, etc.
  • Poultry: including chicken, turkey, and duck
  • Plant-based protein: tofu, pea protein, seitan, etc.
  • Healthy fats: avocados, olive oil, coconut, coconut oil, etc.
  • Non-dairy products: almond milk, coconut yogurt, coconut milk, etc.

Pollotarians may also choose to include eggs and dairy products.

SUMMARYA pollotarian diet includes a variety of whole, plant-based foods and moderate intake of poultry. Depending on the individual, eggs and dairy products may also be eaten.

Foods to avoid

Other than poultry, pollotarians don’t eat any other animal meat. While some may include fish and shellfish, they would technically be considered pesce-pollotarians.

Foods to avoid on a pollotarian diet include:

  • beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • game meat, such as bison, elk, and venison
  • fish
  • shellfish

Additionally, intake of fried poultry should be minimized.

SUMMARYAll forms of red meat and pork are avoided on a pollotarian diet. While the addition of fish and seafood is technically a pesce-pollotarian diet, some pollotarians may include them.

Sample meal plan

If you’re interested in trying a pollotarian diet, this five-day meal plan can give you ideas for how to make the change.

Monday

  • Breakfast: coconut yogurt with almonds, berries, and ground flax seeds
  • Lunch: Mediterranean quinoa bowl with roasted zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and chickpeas
  • Dinner: roasted butternut squash and cauliflower tacos with pinto beans, guacamole, and pumpkin seeds

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: breakfast burrito with a whole-wheat tortilla, black beans, scrambled tofu, avocado slices, and salsa
  • Lunch: mixed greens salad with grilled chicken breast, strawberries, and almonds
  • Dinner: tofu and veggie stir-fry with brown rice

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: two slices of whole-grain toast with almond butter and berries
  • Lunch: lentil soup with whole-grain bread and a side salad
  • Dinner: veggie paella with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and artichokes

Thursday

  • Breakfast: overnight oats with banana slices, chia seeds, peanut butter, and cinnamon
  • Lunch: black-bean burger with avocado and sweet potato fries
  • Dinner: stuffed bell peppers with ground turkey and a side salad

Friday

  • Breakfast: breakfast skillet with tempeh, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and spices
  • Lunch: chopped Thai kale salad with cashews, edamame, mango, and peanut sauce
  • Dinner: stuffed whole-wheat pitas with baked falafel, hummus, tomatoes, spinach, and grilled chicken

While poultry is included in a pollotarian diet, the focus is still on eating a nutritious diet high in whole, plant-based foods. Some people may choose to eat more or fewer servings of poultry and incorporate dairy products or eggs.

SUMMARYThis five-day meal plan provides meal ideas for following a pollotarian diet. However, the amount of poultry eaten may vary by individual.

The bottom line

A pollotarian diet focuses on whole, plant-based foods with the inclusion of poultry in moderation.

As it’s rich in high-fiber, plant-based foods and reduces red meat and pork intake, it may benefit heart health, aid weight loss, and protect against type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Compared with the average Western diet, it may also be good for the environment.

Overall, a pollotarian diet can be a healthy, more realistic option for meat-eaters who are looking to eat less red meat and more plant-based foods.

[“source=healthline”]