What is a Vegan vs. Vegetarian Diet?

Simple, healthy recipes that work every time!

What’s the difference: vegan vs. vegetarian? Here’s what the difference is, and how to find healthy and delicious recipes for both diets.

Vegan vs. vegetarian
Best teriyaki vegetable stir fry

Eating meat has been the norm in the American diet for quite some time. But these days more and more people are beginning to eat a primarily plant-based diet. Why? There are many studies that link eating more plants to increased health. In addition, eating more plants can be gentler on our planet. What’s the difference between vegan vs. vegetarian? And what is plant-based? Keep reading for more.

Related: Listen to why eating more plants helps our planet

Vegan vs. vegetarian
Chickpea Salad Sandwich

What is vegan vs. vegetarian?

So, what is vegan vs. vegetarian? There are several different variations on each, but here are the most common definitions currently in the US.

  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian. Someone who occasionally eats animal products, but not on a regular basis.
  • Pescatarian. Someone who does not eat meat and poultry, but still eats fish and seafood. Basically, a vegetarian plus fish.
  • Vegetarian or Lacto-ovo vegetarian. Someone who does not eat meat, poultry, fish and seafood, but still includes dairy and eggs in their diet. (A Lacto vegetarian excludes all but eats dairy; an Ovo vegetarian excludes all but eats eggs.)
  • Vegan or plant-based. Someone who eats not animal products at all: no eggs, no dairy, and no honey.

The term plant-based diet is gaining popularity. There is some contention around the definition. Typically, it’s used as a synonym for vegan. However, in certain circles it is used to mean “mostly vegan” or essentially vegetarian. On this website, we use the word plant-based as a synonym for vegan.

Related: Our cookbook Pretty Simple Cooking, was named “one of the best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious

Vegan vs. vegetarian
Loaded quinoa tacos

Vegetarian recipes

If you’re moving from a traditional diet to a vegetarian diet, it can be difficult to find recipes without meat that are still satisfying and filling. A key to eating a mostly plant-based or vegetarian diet is to load up on plant proteins, including beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. For vegetarian, cheese and dairy are included in the list of proteins as well.

Here is a list of a few vegetarian dinner recipes and resources:

Vegan vs. vegetarian
Tomato basil gnocchi soup

Vegan recipes

If you’re moving from a traditional diet to a totally vegan diet, it can be difficult to find recipes without meat that are satisfying and filling. A key to eating a plant-based or vegan diet is to load up on plant proteins, including beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. If you are eating a fully vegan vs. vegetarian diet, you may want to contact your doctor about whether you should take a B-12 supplement.

Here is a list of a few vegan dinner recipes:

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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