What is the Difference Between a Vegan and a Vegetarian? (2023)

More and more Americans are into healthy eating these days. It seems that every week, we learn of a new diet craze through the media, whether it’s keto, low carb, paleo, Atkins, vegan, vegetarian, or something else. All of these fad diets can be confusing, and many times it can be difficult to know how to eat in the optimal way for your health. Here, we will discuss the similarities and differences between two of the most popular ways of eating, vegan and vegetarian.

What is a Vegetarian Diet?

A vegetarian is a person who does not eat the products or byproducts of animal slaughter, per the Vegetarian Society. Therefore, vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, fish/shellfish, insects, gelatin and rennet and other types of animal protein, or stocks or fats derived from animal slaughter. Vegetarians will usually eat animal byproducts that are not the result of animal slaughter, like eggs, dairy products, and honey.

Within the broader category of vegetarianism, there are other sub-categories of types of vegetarian diets. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lacto-vegetarian: do not eat meat, fish or eggs but do eat dairy products
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: do not eat meat or fish but do eat dairy products and eggs
  • Pescatarian: do not eat meat but will eat fish or seafood
  • Ovo-vegetarian: do not eat meat, fish or dairy products, but will eat eggs

What is a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet is much stricter than a vegetarian diet. According to the Vegan Society, veganism is a way of living that excludes all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals – for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans will avoid eating all of the same things that vegetarians won’t eat, and also try to avoid animal products in their daily lives, such as:

  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Leather
  • Beeswax
  • Soaps, candles and other products containing animal fats
  • Latex products containing casein (from milk proteins)
  • Cosmetics and other products tested on animals

The Vegan Society was started in 1944, at which time a vegan diet was defined. The current vegan definition of avoiding exploitation of and cruelty to animals wasn’t in use until 1988, however.

Nutritional Considerations for Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Avoiding certain foods altogether can be risky nutritionally, unless a vegan or vegetarian makes sure that they are eating a balanced, healthful diet that meets nutritional requirements. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a well-thought-out and planned vegan or vegetarian diet can be healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may help to prevent and treat certain diseases. Nutrients in which vegan and vegetarian diets can often be lacking include:

(Video) Vegan vs. Vegetarian

  • Vitamin B-12: this vitamin is not often found in plant-based foods and is important to support the nervous system and for cardiovascular health. Vegans and vegetarians can eat foods fortified with B-12 like breakfast cereals and plant-based milk to meet this nutritional requirement. They may also opt to take b-12 supplements.
  • Vitamin B-6 and niacin: vegetarians may be lacking in these vitamins
  • Zinc and Omega-3: vegans may be lacking in these minerals

Another important consideration for vegans and vegetarians is not to “load up” on unhealthful foods in lieu of eating animal-based foods. Doing so can result in a lower intake of vegetables, fiber and nutrients, along with increasing levels of sugar and processed ingredients. Foods to avoid eating in large quantities include sweetened beverages, French fries, refined grains, processed and prepackaged snack foods, and candies.

Which is the Healthier Diet – Vegetarian or Vegan?

Both vegan and vegetarian diets can offer health benefits to those who follow them and make sure to incorporate the above nutrients into their diets. Vegans can suffer from calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D deficiency as they avoid dairy products. However, vegans may have lower cholesterol levels than vegetarians by avoiding dairy products and eggs.

Studies have shown that vegans are more likely to be deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DPA, even if they consume plant sources in an attempt to get these nutrients (often found in eggs and seafood).

When it comes to weight loss, a study from 2006 found that vegans had a lower body mass index (BMI) than vegetarians. Vegans also tended to gain less weight than vegetarians and meat eaters over a five-year period. Veganism tended to promote more fat loss around the abdomen than vegetarianism or eating animal protein.

No matter which diet you decide to follow, eating whole foods that are plant-based is just one part of staying healthy. You should also drink at least 64 oz. of water daily, exercise every day, and get regular exposure to sunlight. Avoiding junk and processed foods is also vital for everyone who wishes to remain in good health, not just vegans and vegetarians.

Veganism – More than a Diet

As mentioned above, vegans avoid all animal products, not just those found in foods. There are some exceptions, however. Many medicines are tested on animals before they are released to the general public for use. Vegans are not against using necessary prescribed medicines that are tested on animals, but do encourage other vegans to ask for medication that does not contain lactose or gelatin.

(Video) Vegetarian vs Vegan Explained

Many vegans also avoid all forms of animal exploitation, such as aquariums, zoos and horse racing.

Conclusion

Vegans and vegetarians both avoid eating meat and fish. Veganism, however, goes even farther than vegetarianism, excluding all products that are derived from animals, such as dairy products, eggs, honey, wool, silk and leather. There are variations of the vegetarian diet in which they may choose to eat eggs but not dairy products, or fish but not other types of meat. Both types of diets may provide health benefits, as long as you make sure to obtain the necessary nutrients that you are no longer getting from foods. Before starting any type of major diet change, check with your physician. They might want to check your blood for levels of the above-mentioned vitamins and nutrients, to determine if there is a deficiency or any other health condition that would contraindicate starting a vegan or vegetarian diet.

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FAQs

Is it healthier to be a vegetarian or a vegan? ›

The few studies directly comparing vegetarian to vegan diets report that vegans may have a somewhat lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various types of cancer than vegetarians ( 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 ).

Is vegan the same as vegetarian? ›

Some people eating a plant-based diet may choose not to eat meat and animal products for various reasons. A vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs), whereas a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish and seafood.

What can vegetarians eat that vegans can t? ›

Both vegetarians and vegans choose not to eat meat and fish. However, veganism is a stricter form of vegetarianism that prohibits the consumption or use of any products that come from animals, including dairy, eggs, honey, leather goods, wool, and silk.

Do vegans eat eggs? ›

Can you eat eggs if you're vegan? The bottom line is that vegans don't eat eggs due to the fact that they are animal products. This can be for a range of reasons, from health to environmental variables, but primary motivators include a concern for animal welfare. This is where vegganism comes in.

Do vegetarians eat eggs? ›

Well, the short answer is yes! Unless they are vegan (meaning they don't eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals), some vegetarians do eat eggs and belong to a group known as lacto-ovo-vegetarians which according to the Vegetarian Society is the most common type of meatless diet.

Which is the healthiest diet in the world? ›

Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, and Flexitarian Diets Remain the Best Diets of 2022. All three diets are also highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits. “The Mediterranean eating plan doesn't have a set calorie range or portion guidelines, which is why it can fit almost anyone's needs.

Do vegans drink milk? ›

The Reasons Vegans Don't Drink Milk

Milk is a product of cows or in some cases Goats. No matter how the milk is produced, even if it is organically farmed, it is not a product that a Vegan will consume.

Can vegan drink alcohol? ›

Yes, however, for wine and beer, many companies use animal products as fining agents including fish bladders, egg whites, gelatine and skim milk. All hard liquors are vegan-friendly as well as most distilled spirits except for the cream-based liquors—as they have dairy—or drinks with honey on the label.

Do vegans eat pasta? ›

Is pasta vegan? Most packaged pasta—including spaghetti, rotini, and any other type—is 100 percent vegan. To know for sure, simply check the ingredients on your package! Sometimes, you might see “egg” listed as an ingredient in “fresh” pastas, so avoid those—but generally, pasta contains no animal-derived ingredients.

Why is honey not vegan? ›

Vegans avoid eating honey to take a stand against bee exploitation and farming practices that are thought to harm bee health.

Why do vegans don't eat honey? ›

For some vegans, this extends to honey, because it is produced from the labor of bees. Honey-avoiding vegans believe that exploiting the labor of bees and then harvesting their energy source is immoral — and they point out that large-scale beekeeping operations can harm or kill bees.

Do vegans eat potatoes? ›

Potatoes are a plant. A very tasty plant and totally fair-game for vegans to eat!

Can vegans eat chocolate? ›

Ah, chocolate. With its multitude of good qualities, it's no wonder that one of the first questions asked by those thinking about an animal-friendly lifestyle is “wait a minute, can vegans eat chocolate?” The answer is a resounding YES!

Can vegans have peanut butter? ›

But of course! Most peanut butter is a simple mixture of ground peanuts and salt. Others might also contain oil or added sugar. Once in a blue moon, you may find a kind that contains honey, but nearly all peanut butter is 100 percent vegan.

Do vegans eat for breakfast? ›

A vegan breakfast contains all the same nutrients you would find in a dairy, or meat-based breakfast.. Milk, yogurt, cereal, fruit, toast and butter, Danish and many many more items are all on the menu – you just need to source the vegan versions.

Can a vegetarian eat cheese? ›

Given that dairy — including cheese — does not require the slaughtering of an animal, it's usually permitted by lacto- and lacto-ovo-vegetarians, as well as some pescatarians. On the other hand, vegans avoid all animal products or animal byproducts, including dairy and milk.

Do vegetarians eat chocolate? ›

The good news is chocolate is considered vegetarian and many dark chocolates are considered vegan.

Can vegetarians eat ice cream? ›

Even ice cream isn't safe for vegetarians. Castoreum, a musky brown liquid that beavers use to mark their territory, has a rich vanilla-like scent that some companies use to flavor vanilla ice cream without using artificial flavoring.

What is the simplest diet you can live on? ›

Under the diet, each meal should consist of four handfuls of food — one handful of protein, one of carbohydrates, and two of vegetables — plus a spoonful of fat. This means no calorie counting or weighing food portions, which can be difficult if you're on the go or don't own kitchen scales.

What is the healthiest breakfast? ›

The 12 Best Foods to Eat in the Morning
  1. Eggs. Eggs make a simple, nutritious breakfast choice. ...
  2. Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a great option if you're looking for a quick breakfast. ...
  3. Coffee. Aside from water, coffee is the world's most popular beverage. ...
  4. Oatmeal. ...
  5. Chia seeds. ...
  6. Berries. ...
  7. Cottage cheese. ...
  8. Whole wheat toast.

What country has the unhealthiest food? ›

Madagascar had the WORST SCORE in terms of food quality. An average of 79% of people's consumption is derived from nutrient-poor cereals, roots and tubers, compared to a global average of 47%.

Can vegans drink Coke? ›

The vast majority of our drinks, including Coca‑Cola, are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as they do not contain any animal derivatives.

Do vegans drink coffee? ›

Black coffee is always vegan, but dairy-based milks and creamers are a no-go. So instead of reaching for the rich 2% or classic coffee creamer, try one of these plant-based alternatives. Almond Milk — A classic nut milk with a thin and velvety body and a subtle nutty, semi-sweet flavor.

Do vegans eat bread? ›

For the most part, bread is suitable for vegans. The fundamental ingredients of bread are flour, yeast, water, oil, and salt – all of which are vegan!

Can you eat sugar if you are vegan? ›

Most vegans consider sugar a generally acceptable food, but strict vegans abstain from refined cane sugars that are likely to have been processed with animal products. They can, however, consume vegan-friendly raw cane sugar, certified-organic cane sugar, and sugar made exclusively from beets.

Can vegans eat honey? ›

As vegans seek to end animal exploitation, honey is not part of a vegan diet. This is because taking honey from bees does not meet the definition of veganism and is detrimental to their health.

Do you lose weight going vegan? ›

Following a whole food plant-based diet, means you cut out all the saturated fats, sugars, additives and preservatives that's found in processed food. So yes, a vegan diet can help you lose weight, if done in a healthy whole food manner.

What kind of bread do vegans eat? ›

Editor's Note: The most common vegan bread types are sourdough, Ezekiel bread, ciabatta, focaccia and baguettes.

Why is bread not vegan? ›

Traditionally bread is made from yeast, flour, water, and salt, so it would be suitable for vegans. Unfortunately some commercially sold breads (e.g. sold at supermarkets) contain dairy such as whey (a milk protein) or eggs as fillers or stabilizers and those breads would not be considered vegan (or plant-based).

Why can't vegans eat avocados? ›

Uncovering the myth – why vegans can't eat avocados

Why? “The same reason as honey,” Toksvig said. “Because they're so difficult to cultivate naturally, all of these crops rely on bees, which are placed on the back of trucks and taken long distances across the country.

What fruit do vegans not eat? ›

Because it's not enough that bananas aren't always vegan, you also have to worry about non-organic apples and citrus fruits. Unnaturally shiny fruits are often treated with beeswax or insect-derived shellac to give them that extra sparkle.

What alcohol is vegan? ›

Fortunately, virtually every brand of hard liquor—bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum—is vegan. Nearly all distilled spirits are vegan except for cream-based liqueurs and products that mention honey on the label.

Are avocados vegan? ›

Remember, avocado is a fruit, so it is safe to eat on a vegan diet. To help the planet even more, you can source your produce nearby or buy locally from farmers who don't use commercial bees for pollination.

Can vegans eat eggs from their own chickens? ›

No, vegans can't eat eggs even if they come from their own chickens. Chickens do not produce eggs for humans to eat, they produce them as part of their natural reproductive cycle. To take eggs from chickens for profit or sustenance is exploitation, which is not permissible for those following a vegan lifestyle.

What can't vegans drink? ›

Common non-vegan ingredients
  • Milk and cream. These dairy products are sometimes added to beer and liqueurs to give a creamy, rich flavor. ...
  • Whey, casein, and lactose. These milk byproducts are occasionally used as ingredients or fining agents ( 5 , 6 ).
  • Honey. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Isinglass. ...
  • Gelatin. ...
  • Cochineal and carmine. ...
  • Chitin.
30 Jan 2020

Are McDonald's fries vegan? ›

Unfortunately NOT Vegan at McDonald's (in the US):

French Fries (contain “Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]” and are fried in beef fat) Hash Browns (contain milk and fried in beef fat) Donut Sticks (contain milk in sticks and sauce)

What kind of cheese do vegans eat? ›

Vegans can eat cheese that is comprised of plant-based ingredients like soybeans, peas, cashews, coconut, or almonds. The most common types of vegan cheeses are cheddar, gouda, parmesan, mozzarella, and cream cheese that can be found in non-dairy forms.

Do vegans bananas? ›

Bananas have always been a quick and healthy go-to snack for those on a vegan diet. Enjoyed on their own, and in desserts, they are considered as one of the most versatile fruits.

Can vegans eat chips? ›

Are chips vegan friendly? The very short answer is “yes.” Because potato chips are made from, well, potatoes, they're usually a pretty good starting point if you're looking for a nice snack for movie night or if you just need some crunchy treats after a long day of work.

What's a vegan who eats fish? ›

People who are vegan but eat fish are pescatarians. A vegan that eats fish might think of themselves as vegan, but any vegan diet with fish is best classified as pescatarian.

Is oatmeal vegan? ›

Sure, oatmeal, on its own, is entirely vegan. However, sometimes other ingredients make it no longer vegan.

Are Ritz crackers vegan? ›

Yes – it turns out that Ritz Crackers are one of those surprising vegan foods! You'd be wise to be sceptical as there's literally an image of cheese on the box, but maybe the designers at Ritz intended it to be interpreted at a nice cashew-cheddar.

What chocolate is vegan-friendly? ›

High-quality dark chocolate is a great option for vegans. Look for chocolate with a cacao content of 50% or more. The higher cacao percentage indicates a higher chocolate content.

What do vegans not do? ›

Bottom Line: Vegans avoid eating animal flesh and animal by-products. These include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs and foods made by bees.

What do vegan people drink? ›

Plant milks are also a great solution for people who are lactose-intolerant or who have milk allergies. There is a great variety of vegan milks that you could choose from: think of soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, macadamia milk, hemp milk, spelt milk, even milk made from rice, oats, or peas.

Can you eat bacon as a vegan? ›

Every good natural foods store carries at least one variety of vegan bacon. Here are some top brands: Hooray Foods: Plant-Based Bacon (CNET Review) Lightlife: Smart Bacon.

What Cannot be eaten in vegan? ›

A vegan diet is based on plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits) and foods made from plants. Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.

What arent vegans allowed to eat? ›

Vegans can't eat any foods made from animals, including:
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and other red meat.
  • Chicken, duck, and other poultry.
  • Fish or shellfish such as crabs, clams, and mussels.
  • Eggs.
  • Cheese, butter.
  • Milk, cream, ice cream, and other dairy products.
  • Mayonnaise (because it includes egg yolks)
  • Honey.

Can vegetarians eat fish? ›

Vegetarians do not eat the flesh of animals. Thus, by this definition, fish and seafood are not vegetarian ( 1 ). Some vegetarians, known as lacto-ovo-vegetarians, eat certain animal products, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. Still, they do not eat fish.

Why are avocados not vegan? ›

Uncovering the myth – why vegans can't eat avocados

Why? “The same reason as honey,” Toksvig said. “Because they're so difficult to cultivate naturally, all of these crops rely on bees, which are placed on the back of trucks and taken long distances across the country.

Can vegans eat peanut butter? ›

But of course! Most peanut butter is a simple mixture of ground peanuts and salt. Others might also contain oil or added sugar. Once in a blue moon, you may find a kind that contains honey, but nearly all peanut butter is 100 percent vegan.

Can vegans drink coffee? ›

Black coffee is always vegan, but dairy-based milks and creamers are a no-go. So instead of reaching for the rich 2% or classic coffee creamer, try one of these plant-based alternatives. Almond Milk — A classic nut milk with a thin and velvety body and a subtle nutty, semi-sweet flavor.

Why can't vegans eat potatoes? ›

Many traditional potato recipes include dairy products, like milk, cream, cheese, and/or butter, eggs, and meat broth or stock. Moreover, potatoes are often cooked in animal fat, making them non-vegan. However, most (if not all) potato dishes can be made vegan by replacing animal products with plant-based alternatives.

Can vegetarians eat bananas? ›

Bananas have always been a quick and healthy go-to snack for those on a vegan diet. Enjoyed on their own, and in desserts, they are considered as one of the most versatile fruits.

What vegetarians Cannot do? ›

A vegetarian eats no meat at all, including poultry or fish. A lacto-ovo vegetarian eats dairy products and eggs. A lacto vegetarian eats dairy products but not eggs. An ovo vegetarian eats eggs but not dairy products.

Can vegetarians eat chocolate? ›

The good news is chocolate is considered vegetarian and many dark chocolates are considered vegan.

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