What Is The Difference Between Vegan And Vegetarian?

by Zara Mohammed, Lifestyle Columnist

Published in Lifestyle on 18th April, 2019

You might think that there is no difference between being a vegan and vegetarian. Some people even think that the term "vegan" is just a newer and trendier version of or term for vegetarianism.

This is easy to understand when you think about fact that the well-known common trait for both vegans and vegetarians is that neither eat meat.

vegan vs vegetarian

But there may be some similarities and differences that you aren't aware of yet, and these often affect whether a person chooses to be vegan or vegetarian. Vegan and Vegetarian are both different and separate lifestyle and diet choices.

So let's explore the similarities and differences, and find out why people are choosing one over the other.

Why Do People Choose Not To Eat Meat?

As I have said, both vegans and vegetarians choose not to eat meat, although there are some vegetarians who do still occasionally include fish in their diet.

There can be a number of different reasons that a person chooses not to include meat in their diet, and this reason usually boils down to personal preference, beliefs, health or lifestyle choice, and sometimes even a sense of identity or belonging to a community.

The most obvious reason that many people choose not to eat meat is because they don't want to support animal cruelty.

Cutting out meat from your diet means that you are not contributing to fund the meat industry where unspeakable things happen to the animals that end up on our plates. All you have to do is a quick search on YouTube to put you off fully enjoying your next meat feast or milkshake.

People also choose to avoid meat for health reasons. They may feel that more nutrition can be had from eating fruits, vegetables, legumes etc.

Certain health conditions may also define a diet that must reduce the consumption of meat, for example Type 2 Diabetes, Liver disease, various types of Cancer, and even Depression.

Some people were simply not brought up eating meat and had their vegan or vegetarian diets imposed on them as young children because this was the way their whole family cooked and ate together. Adults may not enjoy the taste or texture of meat if they have not been used to eating it their whole lives.


Nowadays it is common for young people to follow "Veganism" as a trendy lifestyle choice. There are countless YouTubers that rave about being a vegan, or even a "raw vegan" or "fruitarian" at the extreme end, and this fun online content can have a massive impact on other young people who may be impressionable and want to be just like their online role models.

There are even people who follow diets on the more extreme end of the spectrum due to suffering from an eating disorder, though they may not be aware of it.

Restricting what you eat can feel like a way to impose an element of control over something in your life. It can also dramatically change your body shape, which may appeal to people who have an unhealthy relationship with food.

How Is Veganism Different From Vegetarianism?

I suppose you could say that Veganism is a more extreme version of Vegetarianism, in that it follows similar rules and sentiments to the vegetarian diet, but goes one step further to eliminate animal products altogether.

What this means is that while you can have a vegetarian who is still comfortable eating eggs and consuming milk, for example, a pure vegan will choose not to eat anything that comes from an animal. This includes eggs, all dairy products, and supplements that contain anything animal related.

This key difference changes the diet significantly because suddenly the restrictions are a lot higher, and the person will find that they have to be much more conscious about checking labels to find out what exactly is going into any packaged food that they purchase.

It's amazing how dairy and eggs manage to slip into so much of what we eat.

Often vegans will turn to vegan versions of common foods like cheeses, yoghurt and milk so that they can mimic a lot of the recipes that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

But to make life easier and healthier many vegans opt for simple diets containing whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.

eating veggies

Vegans also have to be more conscious of where they are getting certain nutrients from and that they are consuming enough of them, because they have taken out so much out of their diet.

To ensure that nutritional needs are met there are a variety of different supplements in the form of powders that vegans can add to their meals and smoothies so that they don't have to worry about any nutrient deficiencies.

Although if the person is more health and food savvy then these supplements aren't necessary and all the right nutrients can still be found in a vegan diet from eating whole foods, it may just take some extra time and planning.

Another key difference between veganism and vegetarianism is that vegans are often more conscious of the products they choose to buy or use outside of their food shopping.

Anything that has been tested on animals is a big no-no, which means that vegans often opt for special vegan brands of make-up, toiletries, and household products. They are also more conscious of what clothing they buy and would rarely feel comfortable purchasing anything made of real leather or other animal products.

Which Diet Should You Choose?

The answer to this question is a really personal one. It comes down to so many factors, all of which only you can answer for yourself.

But here are 5 questions you may want to consider if you are trying to choose a healthy diet that is just right for you.

  • What do you truly believe in? Not everybody is aware of or feels strongly about animal cruelty. I think this is a journey of self-discovery and perhaps the more you learn about where your food is coming from the more you may be inclined to alter your food choices. There are many people who do choose to continue to eat meat even though they don't believe in animal cruelty, because the meat they source is from cruelty-free sources like true free-range farms and doesn't support the big industries that are causing all of the problems. You don't have to be a strict vegan to care about animals or the planet.
  • Are you concerned about your health? Figure out exactly what concerns you by doing your own research and speaking to your doctor or a health and nutrition professional to come up with a personalised diet that suits you as an individual. You don't need to put a label on your diet or restrict yourself unnecessarily. Diets should be personal choices that are made because they are right for you, not just because you have decided to "be a vegan" and so you're "not allowed" to eat certain things on that diet. There is no need to out yourself in a boxed category if it isn't right for you.
  • What is your lifestyle like? If you eat out a lot with friends, having a restrictive diet can make that difficult for both you and friends to enjoy spending time eating out together. There are a lot more cafes and restaurants that are now catering for vegans due to the popularity of the diet increasing, but if you live in a smaller town or village you may find that a vegan or vegetarian diet limits you and your activities, and you will have to decide what is more important for you personally.
  • How many people do you cook for? If you live with your partner or if you have a large family, it may not be realistic to expect everybody in your household to want to go along with your diet choices and be vegetarian or vegan too. Are you prepared to buy and handle meat to cook meals for your whole family if they don't agree with your new diet choice? It is important to consider how many people your decisions will affect and work out whether you feel strongly enough about your choices to make it work, or whether this is a short-term whim that may cause more conflict than good in your home. Think about how strongly you feel about your new diet and how realistic it is.
  • How much time and money do you have? Depending on how restrictive your diet becomes it can be more expensive to buy food and make your meals if you aren't clever about it. Many vegetarians and vegans like to buy high quality organic fruit and vegetables to maximise the health benefits and make sure they are getting the nutrients they need, which can end up being much more expensive. If you are able to be organised and cook or prepare food in advance to store in your fridge or freezer you may be able to cut costs by buying in bulk.

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