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Vegan vs Vegetarian vs Plant-based, What Is The difference Between These Terms?


You might have heard about one or all of these terms ( vegan vs vegetarian vs plant based diet ) before, or you might have never heard about them at all. However, they have been a confusing topic of discussion for many people, who usually don’t quite understand what these terms mean, or hear them used interchangeably with each other.

Is there a difference between Vegan vs Vegetarian ? How about Vegan vs Plant-based? Well, let me try to clear up a bit of the confusion for you. While these three terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same term, and mean completely different things. For instance:

What Is Vegetarianism?

Being a vegetarian is often most people’s first step when it comes to reducing their dietary impact. This is often for health reasons, but is mainly due to ethics and environmental reasons. Being a vegetarian simply means that you do not eat meat, or the flesh of an animal. This means no chicken, no beef, no pork, and almost always, no fish.

Is Pescaterianism a form of Vegetarian?

Pescaterianism is often considered to be a form of vegetarianism, but many vegetarians don’t believe this is accurate, as fish are still an animal.

Pescaterians don’t eat any other form of meat, but do eat fish, often a fair amount of fish. This is believed to be a form of vegetarianism due to the widespread belief that fish are not a form of meat, it is so widespread that many people to celebrate Lint and vow to eliminate their meat intake for a month, often replace beef, pork, and chicken with fish.

Health Benefits

Being a vegetarian can be very beneficial for most people. Usually, when someone eliminates meat from their diets, they often replace it with more fruits, vegetables, and grains. They also tend to reduce their consumption of oils and added sugars as well.

This can be highly beneficial due to the fact that added sugars, high glycemic index foods, and saturated fats can increase your risk for getting heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

An Ethical Loophole

A vegetarian can reduce or eliminate their use of animal-cruelty laden cosmetics or household products, such as some eyeliners, lipstick, toothpaste, and fur, but it is not required. According to The Vegetarian Society,

“A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal.

This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, insects, by-products of slaughter or any food made with processing aids created from these.”

So the only thing that is needed for one to be a vegetarian, is to abstain from eating the more fleshy parts of animals. So technically, you can be a vegetarian, and still wear fur, leather, and beat dogs with sticks, thankfully, most tend to avoid doing these.

 What Is Veganism? (vegan vs vegetarian )

Veganism is actually just a stricter version of a vegetarian. In fact, a vegan is in the vegetarian umbrella right next to lacto-vegeterians and lacto-ovo vegetarians. Veganism, according to The Vegan Society, “is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

This means that a vegan diet consumes no animal products at all, which includes gelatin, dairy, eggs, honey, and the like. Many vegans even go as far as to eliminate foods made with animal byproducts, such as refined sugar processed with bone char, or alcohol that has been processed through isinglass, a product made from the bladders of fish.

Health and Ethics

According to most health organizations and dietetics organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as Harvard University, that a well-planned vegan diet is safe and can provide nutritional benefits.

As a result of this, it is clear to many that eating animal products is unnecessary for the vast majority of people in the first world. It is the position of most vegans that if you do not need to eat animals, but do so anyways because you like the taste, that the act of still buying and eating animals is unethical.

Especially nowadays, when most large grocery stores have a wide variety of vegan options, such as processed veggie meats, plant-milks, protein bars, and some even holding vegan cheeses. There is even a wide variety of “accidental” vegan foods, such as BBQ potato chips, Ritz crackers, and even Sour Patch Kids candy.

Based on the fact that we have all of these great tasting vegan foods out there that are readily available for most people, simply claiming that you want to cause animal suffering because you like the taste is no longer any kind of argument.

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What do vegans eat?

Vegans eat a wide variety of plant foods, all deriving from beans, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, and the like.

They often eat a far healthier diet than the standard American, but they do not have to. Store bought cereals, veggie burgers, plant-milks, plant-cheeses, crackers, etc can all be used to make transitioning to veganism much easier, but also to allow people to eat a vegan diet without feeling alienated.

Most fast food paces, such as Taco Bell, White Castle, and even pizza places like Papa Johns and Pizza Hut have vegan options to choose from for those who like easy food without the cruelty. This is great because they can sit down and eat with family and friends who may not be vegan, and not feel like they have to go without.


However, do be wary of the fact that some people live in areas of extreme poverty or have health problems that can make being vegan extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible.

These are few and far in between, but people with a ton of digestive issues or food allergies might not be able to eat whatever they desire that many vegans take for granted.

Some people who live in Poverty get most or at least a significant chunk of their food from places like food banks and donations from churches, and don’t have the privilege, at the time, to deny food options. While veganism is the more ethical choice, be knowledgeable that not everyone has it good.

Beyond Diet ( Vegan vs Vegetarian )

Vegans even transcend diet, unlike many vegetarians or people who eat plant-based, and eliminate their use of cosmetics and household products that are known to be detrimental to animals. This includes makeup and cleaning supplies, such as shampoo, deodorant, and shaving cream that is tested on animals, as well as things like some makeup brushes, that are made using horse hairs.They even eliminate clothing items that contain common animal products, such as fur, leather, and silk.

This is why most vegans don’t consider veganism to be a diet, and consider it to be a lifestyle choice. Even wool, which does not kill the animal when it is sheared off, is considered immoral due to the high chance of harm it can cause the animal, as well as the fact that in modern times, we have so many synthetic and plant-based alternatives that risking harm is pretty pointless.

Another reason veganism is not a diet, is because there is no one set way to be vegan. You can be a vegan and eat a very healthy diet, or you can be vegan and eat mostly junk food, it’s up to you. Just being vegan doesn’t necessarily equate to being healthy, as soda pop, potato chips, french fries, and chocolate cake can be vegan.

 What Is Plant-based?

A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like it is, it is a diet based around plants. It can be vegan, it can be vegetarian, or it can even include small amounts of meat, but the main food source are plants.

On a plant-based diet, most days of the week would be devoid of animal products, and on days where you do consume animal products, it is used more as a garnish or flavor enhancer, than as an actual side dish or main course.

A plant-based diet is the only one of these three that is actually a diet, as it focuses around whole foods. This is often referred to as a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, or WFPB. This means that instead of being about ethics or the environment, a plant-based diet is more about health and well-being. According to Forks Over Knives:

“A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”

Ethics and Confusion

To many vegans, it has become an issue where people who eat plant-based call themselves vegan.

This can be problematic due to the fact that it can be potentially confusing to people who see the person calling themselves vegan, but then using non-vegan products. For instance, one can eat a diet that would otherwise be classified as vegan, but still wear fur and buy eyeliner that is tested on rabbits.

Plant-based diets have nothing to do with ethics, and almost entirely to do with health. Forks Over Knives, the documentary and book that pushes this diet, only ever mentions reduction of disease and improved health as a selling point for the diet.

There is no mention of ethical concerns about factory farming, animal abuse, or even environmental pollution.

What are Whole Foods?  Is it the Grocery Store?

No, we are not talking about the popular supermarket Whole Foods, but instead, foods that are whole. Whole Foods are any foods that are either eaten in their natural form (whole fruit, vegetables, wild rice, beans), or made at home from these natural form foods (smoothies, stews, chili, veggie burgers, all homemade and from scratch).

As a result, a well-planned whole foods plant-based diet can be extremely beneficial for your health for a few reasons. It can reduce preservatives, chemicals, unnecessary added sugars and fats, and sodium, which can in turn lower your risk of heart problems, diabetes, and blood pressure issues.

It can also increase fiber, phytonutrient, and vitamin and mineral intakes, which can lower cancer rates, and reduce issues associated with them.

What can you eat that is Whole Food Plant-Based?

There are awesome recipes that you can make that are plant-based, such as oatmeal sweetened with a blended dates and fruit, veggie burgers made with beans and oats, and even healthy cookies that can be made using only oats and bananas.

You can also have homemade chili on wild rice, and even homemade nut butters and plant milks. The possibilities are endless, so one does not have to feel excluded or stressed when it comes to eating.

However, it does require a lot of preparation and cooking at home, so you will have to learn some kind of cooking skills if you take this route.


So the difference between vegans vs vegetarians , and people who eat plant-based is pretty simple to note. It’s good to know the differences of Vegan vs Vegetarian vs Plant-based when having a conversation, even if you are a new or even experienced vegan.

It seems confusing at first when you hear someone misusing the word, or seemingly using it interchangeably, but once you see how the definitions ( vegan vs vegetarian ,  plant based diet ) can easily overlap, it’s fairly easy.

Adopting any of these three are also pretty easy, and can be very beneficial for your health.