Ever wondered ‘what’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian?’ You’re not alone! Here, we consider vegan vs. vegetarian lifestyles and how these two nutritious plant-based diets differ.

A photo of a vegetarian bowl next to a vegan oat breakfast with text overlay that reads, "Vegetarian vs Vegan. What's the difference?"

Today, many of us are on a mission to introduce more plant goodness into our diets. This perhaps isn’t surprising, given how well our planet feeds us! If you’ve recently become curious about primarily plant-based cooking, you may have come across the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’.

You may also be wondering – what’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian? Let’s take a look! 

Photo of a Greek salad with chickpeas.

Chickpeas replace cheese in a vegan Greek salad.

Vegan vs. Vegetarian

Vegetarian and vegan diets are both plant-based ways of eating. This simply means that balanced vegetarian and vegan diets naturally contain lots of plant sources, including veggies, legumes and pulses. Yep, the good stuff!

Many vegans and vegetarians also share similar reasons for adopting a plant-based lifestyle. 2019 research shows that almost a quarter of Americans have reduced their meat intake, with the most prominent reasons behind this change being concerns surrounding health, the environment, food safety and animal welfare.

Despite the many similarities between these two diets, there are some crucial differences to be aware of!

Photo of a bowl of quinoa topped with avocado, kale and an egg.

A vegetarian quinoa, kale, avocado and poached egg bowl.

Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is an umbrella term. It refers to diets that exclude all forms of meat, including beef, pork and poultry, and all forms of seafood, including fish and shellfish.

Some vegetarians do eat animal byproducts (such as dairy and eggs) but avoid anything that requires animals to be killed. This means that animal gelatin, stock and rennet are off the menu.

Eating a balanced vegetarian diet means replacing the meat and fish in your daily meals with plant-based whole foods, including both unprocessed ingredients (such as veggies) and mildly-processed ingredients (such as tofu and tempeh).

Sometimes, tuning into the needs of your body means not sticking strictly to one particular diet! We don’t live in a cookie-cutter world, which explains why there are different types of vegetarians.

Types of vegetarians

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets: Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat and fish, but include dairy and eggs. We’re just going to leave the recipe for these cute, lacto-ovo veggie lasagne cupcakes riiiight here!
  • Lacto-vegetarian diets: Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and eggs (or any egg-containing products), but include dairy. If this speaks to you, please check out our scrumptious baked Brussels sprouts mac and cheese!
  • Ovo-vegetarian diets: Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and dairy (or any dairy-containing foods), but include eggs. Our overnight mini baked egg casseroles are simply perfect for ovo-vegetarian diets, and although this particular recipe contains cheese, you can add your own twist with any variation of ingredients.
  • Pescetarian diets: Some people also consider pescetarianism to be a type of vegetarian diet! Pescetarian diets are those that avoid all forms of meat but include fish and seafood, such as shellfish.

Veganism

Unlike vegetarian diets, veganism excludes all animal products. Balanced vegan diets rely solely on plant-based whole foods, and do not include any form of meat, fish, eggs, dairy or insect-derived ingredients, such as honey, beeswax and carmine.

Vegan diets also exclude any foods that have been produced using animal products, which can include some brands of wine, beer and sugar.

Ultimately, veganism is considered to be a ‘philosophy and way of livingwhich influences not just the contents of your pantry, but also your clothing, household goods and entertainment choices. Following a vegan lifestyle is simply about minimizing harm towards animals as much as possible.

We know what you’re thinking. How do you bake without eggs and dairy? How can anyone tackle a stressful day without tucking into a warming bowl of cheesy pasta? How does anyone live without chocolate?

We get it! Veganism is often made out to be limiting and unfulfilling – but ooooh no. We’re here to tell you that incorporating plant-based goodies into your diet can introduce you to new flavor combinations, boost your energy levels and help you lap up those delicious antioxidants we all need to thrive.

We’ve also compiled a long list of indescribably tasty vegan dishes to satisfy any craving and leave you feeling completely nourished. Whether you want to veganize your mom’s homemade chili or whip up a batch of gooey, fudgy vegan brownies for you and your girlfriends, we have all the inspiration you need!

A vegetarian Chipotle inspired burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, salsa, corn salsa, romaine, and guacamole.

This chipotle burrito bowl is a whole food plant based recipe.

A note on the term ‘plant-based’

The terms ‘vegan’ and ‘plant-based’ are used often interchangeably, which we know can be a little puzzling.

Here’s the deal: Plant-based diets aren’t necessarily free from animal products, as many primarily plant-powered people do eat animal-derived products on occasion. Plant-based diets simply incorporate as many plant proteins as possible.

What is a Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet? 

While some people are vegan for ethical reasons (they don’t believe in harming animals), others embrace it for health reasons or both. Some go a step further and adopt a whole food plant based diet, which is vegan and also excludes anything processed, including oils. 

On a whole food plant based diet (WFPB), only whole foods are used. For example, a whole avocado would be acceptable but using avocado oil would not. WFPB is very different from the way many “junk food” vegans eat, as Oreos and french fries are vegan, but definitely not WFPB! 

The ingredients for a healthy vegan smoothie in a Vitamix blender.

Inviting nutritious vegetarian and vegan foods into your diet

The great thing about eating primarily plant-based is that you’ll naturally invite lots of health-boosting goodies into your pantry!

Balanced vegan and vegetarian diets are rich in wholesome, mineral and vitamin-rich ingredients which can help to increase your iron, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids intake.

You should also stock your kitchen with B12-fortified foods, such as nutritional yeast and enriched plant milk, to make sure you’re getting plenty of this essential vitamin.

Some of your pantry staples might include:

  • Vegetables, such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, zucchini and eggplant
  • Fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, oranges and avocados (yes, these are fruits!)
  • Legumes, such as pinto beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, farro and oats
  • Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews
  • Seeds, such as chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.

Once again, it’s Yummy Mummy Kitchen to the rescue! Here are more than 30 delicious plant-based pantry staple recipes that can be made vegan with just a few simple ingredient swaps.

Our favorite Mediterranean Lentil Salad can be made vegetarian (with feta) or vegan (with plant-based cheese).

Vegan vs. vegetarian diets – a lasting note

Whether you opt to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet depends on what feels good for your body. We firmly believe in taking a holistic approach to food by eating ingredients that leave you feeling full of energy! There’s no room for judgment in something as personal as nutrition.

No matter how you fuel your body, the key is to create a balance of nourishing whole foods that boost your energy and protect your immune system. If you also have tiny mouths to feed, you may need to experiment to find an eating style that suits them!

We hope you have fun exploring the wide range of gorgeous veggie and vegan recipes we have available!