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What is the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet?

The world of plant-based eating can be confusing. There are seemingly endless categories of vegan and vegetarian that all have unique facets to their diets. Choosing the one that’s best for you can be tricky. Regardless of the diet you choose to pursue, eating more plant-based is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact while also reducing the animal suffering caused by how we choose to eat.

What is a vegetarian?

A vegetarian diet is a type of plant-based diet. The adherents of this type of eating consume some animal-derived products but do not consume meat. There are a few different types of vegetarians, identifiable by the types of animal products that they consume.


Ovo-vegeterians do not eat meat, dairy, or other animal products, with the exception of eggs and foods that contain eggs. This means that ovo-vegetarians would not eat a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast but might opt instead for scrambled eggs and toast or a muffin made with eggs but not dairy.


Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can make up part of a lacto-vegetarian diet, but those following this diet abstain from meat, eggs, poultry products, and other animal-derived ingredients and foods.


With perhaps the most common type of vegetarian diet, ovo-lacto-vegetarians consume both eggs and dairy products but abstain from eating meat itself.

Vegetarian-adjacent diets

Though they aren’t true vegetarian diets because they include meat derived from animals either routinely or on occasion, there are two other diets that are sometimes categorized as being vegetarian. The first is pescatarianism. Pescatarians will consume fish and other seafood but will not eat meat derived from other animals such as chickens, cows, and pigs. They will also frequently consume dairy and eggs. Another diet that may be considered vegetarian is flexitarianism. Flexitarians prioritize eating animal-free meals and foods but will consume animal products including meat on some occasions. Some flexitarians may eat meat while traveling or if visiting a friend for dinner.

What is a vegan?

A person following a vegan diet abstains from all animal and animal-derived products. This means that they do not consume dairy, eggs, meat, fish or other seafood, chickens or other poultry, gelatin, or honey. Some vegans will also avoid consuming dyes and flavorings that are derived from animals. As is the case with vegetarianism, there are a number of different vegan diets.

Raw vegan diet

Those following a raw vegan diet consume entirely uncooked foods. Consuming raw foods avoids the loss of any nutrients that may result from cooking the food. Not all of the food consumed by raw vegans is cold though. Some dishes are heated up to a maximum temperature of between 104 and 118 degrees Fahrenheit (40 and 48 degrees Celsius).

Fruitarian diet

Following a fruitarian diet means eating meals that are made primarily up of fruits, nuts, and seeds. Some fruitarians supplement these with beans, lentils, and peas. There are a number of substrains of fruitarianism but the focus in all of them remains consuming fruit as a primary source of sustenance.

Whole food vegan diet

Vegans that follow a whole food diet focus on eating foods that have not been processed. Staples of this diet include vegetables, fruits, whole grain bread and pasta, nuts, seeds, and legumes. A whole food plant-based diet is one of the healthiest diets one can choose to follow.

Junk food vegan diet

Junk food vegan diets are those that contain a lot of processed foods. This diet has risen in prominence as processed vegan foods such as burgers, ice creams, hot dogs, cheeses, cookies, and other snack foods have become more widely available.

On top of there being a number of different vegan diets, there are also a variety of different reasons to adopt a vegan diet. Some choose to go vegan, or vegetarian, for religious reasons, as is the case for many Buddhists. Other plant-based eaters adopt the diet for ethical reasons.

These plant-based eaters may cite the massive environmental impacts or animal welfare consequences of consuming meat and other animal-derived products as among their reasons for choosing to eat vegan. Other vegans may have adopted the diet for personal health reasons.

What’s the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet?

There are a number of distinct differences between the diets of vegetarians and vegans.



Dairy (cheese, milk, etc.)

Many vegetarians will eat dairy products.

No, vegans do not consume dairy.


A lot of vegetarians do eat eggs.

Vegans do not eat eggs.


Vegetarians do not eat animal-derived meat.

Vegans do not eat animal-derived meat.


Vegetarians do eat fruit.

Vegans do eat fruit.


Vegetarians do eat vegetables.

Vegans do eat vegetables.


Vegetarians do eat grains.

Vegans do eat grains.


Some vegetarians will eat honey.

Vegans do not eat honey.

Do vegetarians eat eggs?

The majority of vegetarians are ovo-lacto-vegetarians, who will eat eggs whether cooked into a cake or prepared as a stand-alone dish.

Do vegans eat eggs?

As a rule, vegans do not eat eggs. Instead of using eggs, vegans can use a wide variety of egg replacements depending on what they are making. Applesauce can be swapped into many baked goods. Tofu can be scrambled with spices to create a delicious replacement for scrambled eggs. Aquafaba can be whipped and used in place of meringue. The options for swapping out eggs are endless and ensure that there’s always an appropriate alternative for every dish.

Do vegetarians eat cheese?

Many vegetarians will eat cheese as a standard part of their diet. In fact, a love of cheese is often given as a primary reason by vegetarians for refusing to adopt a vegan diet.

Do vegans eat cheese?

While vegans do not consume cheese that is derived from cows, goats, sheep, or other animals, they do have a vast array of options to replace this dairy product. One popular alternative product is nutritional yeast, which can be used to top basically any dish that would normally be topped with cheese. It’s delicious when used to make a vegan mac and cheese, too. There are also an ever growing number of ready-made vegan cheeses available at supermarkets. Whether a recipe calls for goat cheese, mozzarella, or cheddar, there’s a vegan cheese out there to swap in. Another option available to vegans is to make homemade vegan cheese.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is one in which most of the foods eaten come from plants. Both vegetarianism and veganism are examples of plant-based diets, as those following these diets consume mostly products and foods that are made up of plant-derived ingredients.

What do vegans eat?

Vegans are able to consume a vast array of delicious foods to meet their daily nutritional needs. Listed here are just a few of the many foods that vegans are able to eat. In addition to this list, there are also substitutes and replacements available for virtually any nonvegan dish such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled cheese.

  • Pasta, bread, and grains

  • Peanuts, cashews, seeds, and their butters

  • Berries, bananas, peaches, and other fruits

  • Asparagus, jackfruit, broccoli, spinach, and other vegetables

  • Oreos, NutterButters, Sour Patch Kids, and many other snack foods

  • Olive oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, coconut oil, and other oils

  • Soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and other dairy alternatives

  • Any other foods that don’t contain animal products

Is vegan healthier than vegetarian?

Adopting any plant-based diet, whether vegan or vegetarian, has been associated with a number of health benefits, including decreasing the severity and mortality of COVID-19. The primary health difference between the two kinds of diet is that a vegan diet is better for the health of the environment and communities than a vegetarian diet. Industrial dairy production is responsible for the production of greenhouse gases, the degradation of local water sources, and the loss of areas of ecological importance. Consuming only plant-based foods also means not contributing to the industrial farming of animals that leads to vast animal suffering.

Should I switch to a vegan diet?

Making the switch to a vegan diet is one of the best steps you can take to support environmental health and reduce animal suffering. Going vegan has never been easier than it is now thanks to a greater availability of vegan products and recipes, many of which mimic the classics you may have grown up on.

How can I eat more plant-based foods?

Eating more plant-based foods is as easy as adding more vegetables and grains to your plate instead of meat. Just changing the proportions in the meals you eat can help to greatly reduce the amount of meat you’re eating and increase the amount of plant-based foods in your diet. Another good way to start eating more plant-based meals is to plan ahead and stock up on plant-based ingredients. If you have a plan for what you’re going to eat and have a plant-based meal to hand that you’ve picked out, then you’re less likely to reach for a dish featuring meat as the main course.


Adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best steps you can take to support the environment and animal welfare. There is no time like today to make the commitment to go plant-based, whether that means you eliminate all animal products at one time or you choose to wean yourself into a vegetarian or vegan diet.

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