So you want to try a meatless diet, but you don't really know the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian. While alike in some ways, they're definitely different in some important ways.  Therefore, if you're planning on trying either, you first must know the difference between the two. So, what's the difference between vegans and vegetarians?

First, some disclaimers:

1) Most (but not all) vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products, which is something vegans don’t do. 

2) There are actually several sub-categories under the vegetarian umbrella, such as vegetarians who choose to eat meat and use animal by-products like grease or oil made from animal fat.


The Vegan Society defines veganism or being a vegan, as "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose". 

This includes not using products that are made by animals, such as honey made by bees, and even clothing products derived from animals, such as leather. 

Types of Veganism

Just vegans (environmental/ethical): These are those who mostly become vegans because of their care for animal welfare and/or the environment. 

Raw-veganism: This is someone who only eats raw, plant-based foods. Raw vegans avoid heating their food above 45 degrees Celcius and often soak certain foods, such as nuts and grains, to make them easier to eat. 

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Whole foods, plant based vegans: People following this lifestyle try to consume as many "whole" products as possible. Meanwhile, they avoid food that comes from tins and chemically-altered packages. 

Fruitarian: This vegan's diet is all or mostly composed of fruits and other foods that fall from trees, such as nuts and seeds.

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While these definitely aren't all of the sub-classifications of vegans out there, they definitely are some of the more common types of veganism.


The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as "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." 

Vegetarians tend to be a bit more lenient when using products that come from animals, such as milk or eggs. In other words, vegetarians might not eat meat or dairy, but will still eat eggs; they might not choose to eat meat, but might still wear leather. 

So, what exactly does this look like in practice?? Well, just like with veganism, there are many different types of vegetarianism. 

herb, vegetable, cress, watercress
Grace Becker

Types of Vegetarianism

 Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: If you identify as this type of vegetarian, you usually eat both dairy products and eggs along with many vegetables and nuts. It is typically the most well-known type of vegetarian diet and one that many people follow.

 Lacto-vegetarian: This is typically a person who is a vegetarian and does not eat eggs, but will eat dairy products such as milk and cheese.

Ovo-vegetarian: This is when a person does not eat meat or dairy products but does eat eggs. This one tends to be the least common among the three. 

 Semi-vegetarian: Also known as a flexitarian, this is a person who eats a primarily plant-based diet, but still includes the occasional meat or seafood when they want it. 

 Demi-vegetarian: A person on this diet eats mainly vegetables, while occasionally including fish; they also eat eggs and cheese.

Why Choose Either Option?

Now, you're probably thinking, "Okay, so now that I know a little bit more about the difference between vegans and vegetarians, why should I choose either option?" Well, some make the choice for religious reasons, health goals, or even to help the environment. Whether it's these reasons that motivate you or a set of totally different ideals, in the end, it's all up to you!