As you might have noticed, a growing number of people have decided to reduce their consumption of animal products. Some of them prefer to have a plant-based diet or vegetarian diet, while others opt for a vegan diet to completely remove these products from their diet.

But what are the differences between these terms? Although they might sound similar, the truth is that there are subtle differences between plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan diets. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what a plant-based diet is and what makes it different from vegan and vegetarian diets. Plus, you’ll discover why including more plant foods in your diet can benefit your health and the environment!

What is a Vegan Diet
What Does It Mean to Be Vegan?

According to The Vegan Society, veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. In other words, people who describe themselves as “vegans” try to avoid animal harm through their lifestyle and dietary choices.

Vegans avoid purchasing items that directly or indirectly involve animal use. That’s why they carefully select goods that weren’t made from animal by-products or hadn’t been tested on animals, from clothing and accessories to personal care products and household goods. 

What is a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet strictly excludes all animal foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and honey. Likewise, this diet excludes any other food additives, ingredients, or beverages made from animals products, like gelatine, stock, or fats.  Instead, a vegan diet consists of fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and other plant foods.

Even though a vegan diet sounds restrictive, it doesn’t mean vegans will only eat salads. While some vegans rely on whole foods and avoid processed options, others add both options to their vegan diet. 

Remember that there’s a wide variety of junk foods, like cookies and burgers, made from plant-based ingredients. 

Also, keep in mind that some people decide to eat a vegan diet, but don’t call themselves “vegans” because they’re not strict about other lifestyle choices.

What is a Vegetarian Diet
Ovo-lacto vegetarian diet concept. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, seeds, healthy fats and grains
What is a Vegetarian Diet?

According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian diet doesn’t include products or by-products of animal slaughter, like meat, poultry, insects, rennet, gelatine, fish, shellfish, and stock or fat from animals.

So, what do vegetarians eat? 

A vegetarian diet includes a range of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, and pulses. But that’s not all. Although vegetarians remove some animal foods from their diet, they can still eat eggs, honey, and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.  For that reason, people who eat a vegetarian diet are also known as “lacto-ovo-vegetarians”.  

That said, there are different types of vegetarian diets:

For example, some people (lacto-vegetarians) include dairy products but not eggs in their vegetarian diet. On the other hand, “ovo-vegetarians” eat eggs but remove dairy products from their diet.

What is a Plant-based Diet?
Tasty fresh kale salad on wooden table
What is a Plant-based Diet?

As the name suggests, a plant-based diet is a type of diet plan that either entirely or mostly consists of plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, plant-based oils, nuts, and seeds.

The interesting part about this way of eating is that it’s not restrictive. Usually, people who stick to a plant-based diet can still choose to eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy foods, and other animal products in small portions and less often. They’re also known as “flexitarians” or “semi-vegetarians”.

In short, meat is more of a side dish, while plant foods become the main dish.

If you start a plant-based diet, you can decide whether or not you’d like to eat certain animal-derived products. As a result, you can personalise your plant-based diet and choose what works best for you. Just remember that you should have a colourful plate in front of you!

Whole Foods, Plant-based Diet

Some people focus on eating whole foods when following a plant-based diet. So, they stay away from processed foods, refined grains, conventional snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, they prefer to eat plant foods that are raw or minimally processed.

Vegan, Vegetarian, and Plant-based Diets: Key Differences 

As you’ve probably noticed, there are some similarities and differences between vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based diets. But let’s recapitulate their key differences:

  • A vegan diet often involves making other lifestyle choices, but that’s not the case with vegetarian and plant-based diets.
  • A vegan diet eliminates all animal products, while a vegetarian diet includes dairy products, eggs, honey, and other by-products that do not involve killing animals. A plant-based diet, on the other hand, focuses on reducing the consumption of animal products, but it doesn’t necessarily eliminate them.
  • While vegans remove all animal products from their diet to avoid animal cruelty and exploitation, vegetarians see eggs, honey, and dairy products as harmless to animals. In contrast, those who eat a plant-based diet commonly do it for health or environmental reasons.
  • Those who follow a whole-food, plant-based diet avoid processed foods, while vegans and vegetarians can include processed plant-based foods in their diet.

Environmental Benefits of Plant-based, Vegetarian, and Vegan Diets

Most people don’t know that animal farming and unsustainable fishing practices are causing several problems for the environment, such as biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and water pollution, just to name a few. Here are some benefits of eating a plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian diet:

  • Prevent soil degradation and water pollution
  • Fight climate change and global warming
  • Can eat well for less saving you money
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Decrease deforestation rates
  • Reduce biodiversity loss
  • Save water
Health Benefits of Plant-based, Vegan, and Vegetarian Diets

Health Benefits of Plant-based, Vegan, and Vegetarian Diets

According to the Harvard Medical School, eating a well-balanced plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan diet can have some wonderful health benefits, like:

  • Lose excess weight
  • Prevent heart disease
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Improve metabolic health
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Protect against certain cancers


At first, it might be confusing to tell the differences between plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian diets. But hopefully, this article cleared up the confusion around these terms. If you’d like to reduce your consumption of animal products, give one of these options a try!

If you are new to veganism and what to learn more, read A Healthy Vegan Diet: The Complete Guide for Beginners.


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