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.