Vegan vs Vegetarian | What’s the Difference?

What does it even mean to be vegan? Why are there so many types of diets? Can I still eat eggs if I’m vegetarian? Is mayo vegan? These are some of the questions I frequently see in my comments and I want to answer them for you! There can be a lot of confusion around food diet and lifestyle vocabulary, so let me clear up what it means to be vegan vs. vegetarian and all the other things in-between.

Maple Mustard Tempeh Bowl

Sweet Potato Soul’s journey began in 2010, but my vegan journey began long before that. Growing up we never ate red meat in our house: only poultry and fish. As I got older, eliminating animal products was a no-brainer for me. I started eating a vegetarian diet before going fully vegan, slowly removing all animal byproducts from my plate.

Vegan vs Vegetarian

In simple terms, vegetarianism is a diet of no animal meat, but byproducts, like eggs or milk, are okay to consume. Veganism is a diet where no animal products are consumed at all. In reality though, it’s so much more than that!

Diet vs. Lifestyle

A diet is the food you eat. By following a vegan diet, no animal products are eaten. A lifestyle is a way of living. By following a vegan lifestyle, not only do you not consume animal products, you don’t wear them or use them; you practice veganism in every aspect of your life. This includes fashion items and cosmetics.

Other Types of Diets

Pescatarian is a vegetarian diet including seafood and shellfish.

Lacto-vegetarian is a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products, but not eggs.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian is a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs.

Ovo-vegetarian is a vegetarian diet that includes eggs, but not dairy products.

Plant-based diets may not totally eliminate animal products in some cases, but focus primarily on eating plants and vegetables.

Flexitarian is a diet similar to plant-based, but more flexible in allowing for animal products. It is still vegetarian-forward.

everyday vegan bean recipes

Read the Label

It might surprise you what is and what is not vegan. Always check the label! White granulated sugar for example is often processed with bone char, making it not friendly for vegans. I like to use cane or coconut sugar instead. Other things to look for in an ingredient list that aren’t vegan are anything with gelatin, honey, leather, wool, silk, lanolin, casein, and rennet. Things may seem vegan friendly but contain animal fat or something like gelatin. And yes, there is such a thing as vegan mayo!

best vegan lentil meatballs

How do I go vegan?

It’s easier than ever to transition to a vegan lifestyle. I have a lot of guides on my blog and on my YouTube channel. In essence, be consistent! To stay consistent, I try to follow an 80:20 diet. That means 80% of my diet is healthy whole foods like plant protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and other things with high nutritional value. The other 20% is where I allow for processed foods like meat substitutes and other vegan-friendly junk foods. Ideally I strive for 90:10, but that’s not always possible. I follow this to get the right nutrients in my body for health benefits like preventing heart disease and high cholesterol, and to keep my nervous system in check.

To make sure I consume the right vitamins and minerals, I take a multivitamin supplement every day to avoid nutrition deficiencies and to hit my nutritional requirements. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new medication or supplement and to find the one that’s right for you. It’s important to read the label on supplements too. Some omega-3 supplements contain fish oil, while some calcium and vitamin d pills contain gelatin.

If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that eating vegan is not and should not be boring! Having a colorful plate not only makes eating more fun, it almost always guarantees a more balanced meal. Two of the easiest foods to help you transition are tempeh and tofu. They take on whatever flavors you cook them with and they’re extremely versatile in cooking.

Why should I go vegan?

You should go vegan because you want to. While a vegan lifestyle promotes a healthy diet and clean way of living, it also is a way to help prevent animal slaughter and cruelty. I’m vegan for the health aspects, but more importantly the ethical aspects. It’s not a process that needs to or should happen overnight, and there might even be setbacks along the way. And look at all the delicious vegan food you can eat! By following my advice and your own research, you’ll be on your way to a vegan lifestyle in no time at all. Take a scroll through my blog and you’ll find plenty of delicious, soulful vegan recipes to get you started on your journey.

What did you learn being vegan vs vegetarian? Leave a comment below with your favorite plant-based recipe!

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