For some reason, people love to argue with other people about the personal choices they make. That goes double when it comes to food. Weightlifters endlessly debate meal plans, jerks criticize the diets of those on public assistance, and some meat-eaters debate the merits of veganism and vegetarianism. It’s all very silly. Honestly the worst thing vegans and vegetarians can be accused of is rating mediocre restaurants five stars on Yelp just because they offer more than just sides as meat-free options. Veganism and vegetarianism has been shown time and time again to be a healthy way for people to eat and good for the planet. But what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian? How do vegan vs vegetarian diets compare? And if you are considering either, how do you choose between vegan or vegetarian?
Vegan vs vegetarian
We’ve all heard the terms vegan and vegetarian, but what precisely do they mean? Vegetarians typically do not eat any animal products or animal byproducts that are made by slaughtering animals. So that would eliminate meat, poultry, fish/shellfish, insects, and gelatin. Gelatin is made from animal collagen, so goodbye Jell-O. Vegetarian is a pretty broad term and a few types of diets can fit under that umbrella. Lacto-vegetarians refrain from animal products but will partake in dairy. Ovo-vegetarians allow themselves to eat eggs. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians stay away from meat, but eat eggs and dairy, so they can have cheese omlets. Then there are vegans.
Veganism is a more restrictive form of vegetarianism. Vegans exclude all animal products and animal byproducts. This means no meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, or honey. For many, veganism is not just a diet, it is a way of life. They avoid all forms of animal exploitation. That means avoiding things like wool, silk (made by worms!), and leather; cosmetics tested on animals; and soaps and candles made from animal fat. To follow a strict vegan diet, you have to know how to read labels as some things don’t seem like animal products at first glance. Things like whey, pepsin, casein, and some forms of vitamin D3 are hidden in a product’s ingredients and make a surprising amount of things unfriendly to vegans.
Vegan or vegetarian diet?
So, you’re ready to eat a plant-based diet, but you don’t know which to choose. Both vegan and vegetarian diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Some studies show vegetarians get slightly more calcium and vitamin B12. Both diets have a better environmental impact than a diet that includes meat since they use less products from the factory farming system. Veganism has a more positive impact in that aspect since it rules out dairy and poultry farms.
With the growing number of food choices and supplements for vegans and vegetarians, most people on a plant-based diet do not have to worry about being deficient in any vitamins or nutrients. People love to ask people on plant-based diets if they are getting enough protein and the answer is always yes. There are more than enough plant-based proteins like veggie burgers, vegan hot dogs, tofu—there’s even vegan Buffalo wings. The danger is one that carnivores can easily have as well: a poorly planned diet. A plant-based diet with nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products is fantastic. A poorly planned plant-based diet that consists mostly of french fries, refined grains, and processed and prepackaged snack foods will lack iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D. So, at the end of the day, how do you choose between veganism or vegetarianism? Consider what’s important to you and what you can live with and then do it. That’s how I found my water and ostrich egg diet and it works for me.