Vegan and Vegetarian – What’s the Difference?

Many people get confused with the varying terms for dietary choices. “Vegetarian” is often used to denote any diet that does not include meat, but it is actually more complex than that. For example, is fish considered “meat”? What about dairy products?

The term “vegan” is somewhat newer, and people often use it interchangeably with the term “vegetarian.” Actually, while vegans are vegetarians, not all vegetarians are vegans. Here are some of the distinctions between the two dietary types.


People who call themselves vegetarian vary quite a bit in their food choices. There are, in fact, three main types of vegetarians – ovo vegetarians, lacto vegetarians, and ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Ovo vegetarians eat eggs, lacto vegetarians eat dairy products, and ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both. None of these types of vegetarians eats animal flesh, however. Animal flesh is generally defined as red meat or poultry, but some vegetarians do not eat seafood or fish, either. Some vegetarians do. So, as you can see, the definition of “vegetarian” is quite flexible!


Vegans (pronounced VEE-gans) do not eat any animal products whatsoever, nor do they wear animal skins or furs (including leather or suede). Vegans shun dairy products and eggs, and even refrain from eating honey and white sugar. Honey is a bee product, and vegans do not eat any animal product. Bees, then, are considered animals by vegans.

The refining process that produces white sugar uses charred animal bones in a filtration process, so vegans steer clear of white sugar. Some acceptable vegan sweeteners are agave nectar, unrefined sugar (such as Sucanat), and maple syrup.

Vegans are a type of vegetarian. But being purely vegan is just about impossible. Animal by-products are everywhere, from gelatin (derived from animal bones and cartilage) to car tires (animal fat is used to vulcanize rubber) to shampoo (collagen and keratin from animal hair and hooves are used in some shampoos). However, eating a purely vegan diet is possible, and many people do so successfully.

What Do Vegetarians Eat?

Vegetarians eat – surprise – vegetables! They also eat fruit, grains, pasta, and sometimes fish. As noted above, some vegetarians eat dairy products and eggs. Many vegetarians enjoy tofu and other meat “substitutes.” Nuts and seeds are eaten as well.

What Do Vegans Eat?

Vegans also eat fruits, vegetables, grains, pasta, and soy products. Vegans bake tasty cookies and cakes without refined sugar, eggs or milk. Vegans also eat nuts and seeds. Some vegans find an iron or vitamin B12 supplement to be necessary, especially for their children.

13 thoughts on “Vegan and Vegetarian – What’s the Difference?

  1. A lovely, informative and colourful post – and thanks for your interest in poet’s platter! I like vegetarian and vegan diets as they are super for the figure!

  2. Thank you for following my blog and thank you for clarifying the differences between vegetarian and vegan some I knew but not all… I eat meat but also lots of vegetables so I make food depending on what I want to eat not on whether it is veggie or vegan both have some great recipes 🙂

  3. Loved your ‘plain talk’ explanation for Vegan and Vegetarians. Most of us never heard of ‘glutton free’ foods either. Can you do something about that? In my latest blog on I alerted my readers about the connection between whole foods recipes and God’s recipes. Its a hoot and a holler. Check it out for how to incorporate humor when dishing out advice. Keep up the good work.

  4. I took a nutrition course before, but it’s always helpful learning about the differences between the two in a fresh perspective. That’s what you have accomplished-taught us something in a new way. Thank you for the information.

    Also thanks for following my blog. Definitely following yours.

  5. Hello! Vegan here – something else that vegans tend to eat a lot of is beans and pulses! Chick peas, beans of all kinds, lentils and the like make up a huge proportion of my diet, and it is through these products that I get a lot of my protein.

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