Vegan vs. Vegetarian Lifestyles: What's the Difference?

Vegan vs. Vegetarian

Many people don’t realize that being a vegan and being a vegetarian are two different things. While there are some similarities, vegans do tend to live a different lifestyle than vegetarians. In fact, some vegans will condemn vegetarians, even though they eat plant-based diets, because they do still use some animal products, even though they do not eat any meat.

Let's take a look at veganism and vegetarianism, and discuss the various differences between the two in order to eliminate any confusion that you may have. We will also be talking about the health benefits that come from being vegan or vegetarian.

Vegans and Vegetarians: What's the Difference?

There are actually many differences between vegans and vegetarians. For one thing, while vegetarians do not eat meat, they do eat some animal products, including dairy products and eggs. Vegans on the other hand eat nothing that comes from an animal whatsoever.

When you come right down to it, vegetarianism is a diet. Veganism is a lifestyle, and one that is not easy for a lot of people. We will get into the vegan lifestyle later on in this article.

For the most part, those who are vegetarians choose to be so because they want to enjoy the health benefits of this type of diet. Some also choose to be vegetarians based on religious and political reasons.

On the other hand, veganism is a lifestyle, and in most cases, vegans tend to have much stronger beliefs regarding their diets. This includes political beliefs, because they feel that animals need to have more protection just as humans do.

Therefor, this can be broken down into three categories:

  • an introduction to what is veganism and vegetarianism
  • the diet of each
  • the products used by both vegans and vegetarians

What is Veganism?

When you come right down to it, veganism is a lifestyle and a philosophy. Those who choose this lifestyle adhere to certain things, including ensuring that they do not eat any animal products, or use any other products that are made from any part of an animal.

So, not only do they not consume meat, dairy, eggs, and so on, they also do not wear leather or use petroleum-based products.


What is Vegetarianism? 

When one is a vegetarian, they are following a diet that doesn’t include any meat. But, some vegetarians still consume some animal products and by-products, including dairy and eggs.

Some vegetarians do not completely shy away from meat, and will eat poultry, fish, and shellfish. But, this tends to be more when they are making the transition to a plant-based diet.

What is a Vegan Diet?

As previously mentioned, when one is living a vegan lifestyle, their diet consists of no meat, dairy, or any animal by-products, including eggs. They also do not eat honey, as it is made by bees. They do use some sugar, and other natural sweeteners that are environmentally sustainable and are not coming from or harming animals in any way, like brown rice syrup.

What is a Vegetarian Diet?

Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish in most cases, although as already mentioned, there are some exceptions. Some vegetarians do not eat any animal products at all, while others do consume eggs and dairy products. These vegetarians are referred to as lacto-vegetarians and ovo-vegetarians.

Like vegans, most vegetarians do not eat other animal by-products, including gelatin.

What Products are Not Used by Vegans?

Vegans do not use animal derived products at all. This means that they do not wear leather or suede, and they don’t even use any products that contain wool, even though animals are not harmed to create it. They also do not use any products that have been tested on animals.

Vegans look for products that have certain certifications to ensure that they are not harming animals in any way.

What Products are Not Used by Vegetarians? 

Vegetarians do not eat meat, but the majority of them do use animal-derived products, including fur, leather, and wool. As previously noted, this is more of a diet than a lifestyle, although it is a stepping stone for many into the vegan lifestyle.

What do Vegans Eat?

The vegan diet is a very strict one, and it is completely devoid of any animal-derived foods. Vegans do not eat any meat, fish, poultry, dairy or eggs, nor do they eat any products that are derived from animals in any way. Vegans are also careful about the medicines that they use, because many are animal-derived as well.

Vegans do eat all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. In order to get the protein that they are not getting from meat, they use supplements or use tofu as a meat replacement.

What do Vegetarians Eat?

All vegetarians do not eat any meat, but some will concede to eating a bit of fish or poultry, as well as eggs. Vegetarian diets are much like the vegan diets, because they do include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. As with vegans, many vegetarians substitute meat with tofu.

There are some distinctions in the types of vegetarianism. For instance, lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products, but they do not eat any eggs. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but they don’t consume dairy products. Then, there is a type of vegetarianism known as pescetarianism, which is a type of vegetarian diet that doesn’t include meat or poultry, but does include fish.

Why are Some People Vegetarians?

We know that most vegans adopt this particular lifestyle because of their moral and political convictions. But, why do many people make the move to vegetarian diets, especially if they don’t have any moral objections to eating meat?

There are actually several reasons why one would choose to become a vegetarian. One of the main reasons tends to be food allergies. It seems that more and more people are discovering food allergies these days, and often they can eliminate allergy symptoms by switching to a plant-based diet, and not eating a lot of processed foods.

Another reason why many people choose to become vegetarian is their health in general. A vegetarian diet is high in fiber and low in sugar, as well as being low in unhealthy saturated fats. This is great for anyone who is trying to lose weight. Some people choose to stop eating meat because they are concerned about food safety regarding how meat is handled and packaged.

Others follow this type of diet because of environmental reasons. Many religions require that their followers follow plant-based diets. These religions include, but are not limited to, Hinduism, Jainism, and some Christian sects (particularly during the season of Lent).

Why are Some People Vegans?

Many people have their own personal reasons for turning to a vegan lifestyle. For many, just like some vegetarians, it has a lot to do with food allergies. But, in most cases, it has to do with their lifestyle choices.

Vegans do not do anything that is going to harm animals or the planet. They do not believe that animals are put on this planet for man to enjoy and exploit, and therefore do not use anything that comes from or is derived from an animal.

Vegans respect all forms of life, and make the choice to live a cruelty-free life in harmony with nature.

Health Benefits of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

There are many benefits that come with being on vegetarian and vegan diets. In most cases, both vegans and vegetarians tend to be a lot healthier than those who eat meat, because their diets eliminate a lot of foods that contain allergens, including shellfish and dairy products.

Both vegans and vegetarians enjoy plant-based diets that are loaded with nutrients that the body needs. Plant-based diets are also high in complex carbohydrates, which come from whole grains and root vegetables.

Health benefits of both types of diets include:

  • Weight Loss – If you are trying to lose weight, cutting meat and dairy out of your diet is going to help. Of course, you will need to find plant-based foods that contain the same nutrients that you need from meat, or take dietary supplements. Caloric intake remains pretty much the same, but the foods are more nutritious and not providing empty calories.
  • Cancer and other Diseases – Many people associate good health with a plant-based diet, and they are not as susceptible to many different diseases, including certain types of cancer.
  • Longer Life Span – Longer life spans can be attributed to following plant-based diets, and it is noted that both vegans and vegetarians tend to live longer than their meat-eating counterparts.

Are there Any Risks Associated with Being Vegan or Vegetarian?

It is important that vegans and vegetarians take steps to get the important nutrients that are found in meat. In particular, they need to take vitamin B12 supplements, as well as other dietary supplements to replace these lost nutrients, which include amino acids, protein, iron, and vitamin D.

Vegan/Vegetarian Diets and Children

There are many arguments about whether or not children should be vegan or vegetarian. While some experts say that it is perfectly healthy, others say that children need specific nutrients that they may not be able to get from a plant-based diet. In fact, many vegetarian parents do not force their dietary preferences on their children, because they know that they need to make sure that their children are getting all of the nutrients that they need to grow up strong and healthy.

If you do want to have your children eating a plant-based diet, it is important that you first discuss it with either your family doctor or their pediatrician. This is not something to be taken lightly, as the health of your children is at stake.

The doctor will likely recommend that if you are going to feed a plant-based diet to your children, that you supplement it with vitamins and other supplements that will ensure that they are getting all of the vital nutrients that they need. Many vegan and vegetarian parents will make exceptions and have some animal-based foods in their children’s diets, including milk, eggs, and cheese.

What About Pets?

Many people who follow a vegetarian diet or live a vegan lifestyle believe that their pets should also have diets that are free of meat. While this type of diet is perfectly fine for humans, it is not something that should be imposed on your pets. Cats and dogs in particular are carnivores, which means that they are naturally meat-eating animals. It is never a good idea to have your pets on a plant-based diet.

Many pet foods are made with vegetable fillers, and there are many vegetables, and fruits, that are perfectly healthy for dogs and cats to eat. But, they also need to have meat in their diets, organ meat in particular.

If you need more information about what your pets need to have in their diets, talk to your veterinarian.


As you can see, vegetarianism is more of a diet, whereas veganism is more of a lifestyle. As long as you are making sure that you are getting all of the nutrients that your body needs in order to be healthy, either way of eating and living is perfectly acceptable. While being a vegetarian is not a strict lifestyle like it is when one is a vegan, it is still a part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, many vegetarians end up becoming completely vegan over time, both for personal and environmental reasons.

If you have been considering going on a plant-based diet, talk to your doctor. Make sure that you are going to be eating the right foods and getting all of the right nutrients.

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