Vegetarian, Vegan or Plant-based Diet?

Vegetarian, vegan or plant-based diet labels can be so confusing.  What are the differences between these diets or lifestyles as some people refer to them?

The popularity of cooking reality shows in recent years creates more discussions than ever before about the topic of food.  Food as nourishment and sustenance.  Food for eating and taste enjoyment.  Even food as art!

Included in these discussions are various thoughts and ideas about what food people should and should not be consuming and numerous reasons as to why.

And it’s not just about what food people enjoy eating but which foods are healthy and unhealthy and which foods are considered by some to be acceptable and unacceptable to eat.

There seem to be so many factors involved in deciding what people should eat.  Some people base their decisions on health reasons, while some factor into their decisions:  religion, ethics (such as animal rights) and even politics.

So what are the differences between these diets?

Regarding the vegetarian, vegan or plant-based diets, here are the FAQs on these three similar, yet different eating lifestyles!


Vegetarians consume plant-based foods but generally eliminate meat, poultry, fish and shellfish from their meals.  However, many vegetarians also consume eggs, dairy products (for example:  milk, cheese, butter and/or yogurt) and honey.

There are several different types of vegetarian diets including:

  • Fruitarian – yep, just fruit!
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian
  • Lacto-vegetarian
  • Ovo-vegetarian
  • Pesco-vegetarian
  • Vegan


Veganism is the strictest of the vegetarian diets.  Vegans only consume food from plant sources, such as vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, seeds and nuts. They do not eat food that is animal-derived.  This means eating no meat, dairy, eggs or honey.

In addition, vegans generally don’t use or own products that contain anything made from an animal (leather, silk, wool, gelatin or beeswax, for example).  Other products containing anything made from an animal and excluded from use or owning are clothing, shoes, personal care products (such as shampoo and makeup) as well as furniture and even cars that have leather interiors.


People living a plant-based diet or lifestyle focus on fresh produce — as in, they only consume whole plant foods. This includes unprocessed or minimally processed vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.

There are generally no restrictions in regard to buying leather and other goods made from animal products.

Still a little confused?

Here’s an example: French fries are vegetarian/vegan but are not considered to be plant-based because French fries don’t resemble the original plant form of the potato.

All of these forms of eating tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  However, many believe that these diets lack protein, calcium and other nutrients necessary for a truly healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Therefore, if you are following any of these diets, you might want to consider taking high-quality, food-based supplements to compensate for the nutrients you may be missing in your diet.

If you’re thinking about adopting any of these lifestyles or any type of diet that involves eliminating entire food groups, perhaps consider your reasons for switching and ask yourself these questions:

Is this change realistic and doable for me on a long-term basis? Is it a good fit for me health-wise? Do I have the support of key people in my life?

Because this would be such a major lifestyle change, consider starting off slowly and consulting a nutrition professional before deciding if such a change in diet is right for you.

Here’s my choice

My eating lifestyle is that I eat mostly plant-based foods though I do eat fish once or twice a week.  If I have to put a label on myself, I say that I’m a Lacto-Ovo Pesco-Vegetarian.  It’s also my belief that if you eat a certain way/follow a diet lifestyle 80 percent of the time, you can use whatever label that is to define yourself.

So what about you?  Please comment below and let me know if you follow any of the diets discussed in this blog post.  Let our community here know which diet you’re following and why you’re following it.  And if you’re following a different diet than one of the diets mentioned in this post, let us know what diet you’ve chosen to adopt.  As always, your comments are much appreciated.

Categories: Blog, Food, Lifestyle, Plant-based Diet, Vegan, and Vegetarian.


  1. Allison Friday

    Hi. I just did a month of a plant-based, no oils diet and felt great. Got plenty of iron from Frosted Mini Wheats and a healthy amounr of spinach for protein, calcium etc. I do take supplements. The only negative i found was eating out with friends. Many restaurants had plant-based options but many don’t

    • Barb Wickland

      Hi Allison,

      Glad you liked your plant-based diet. It is difficult to eat out, but here are some suggestions. Most important is that we have to be advocates for ourselves. This means politely asking for modifications and inquiring how the dishes are prepared. The chef may be willing to make substitutions. Also, most plant-based items are served as sides. You can always order a couple of them to make an “entrée” for yourself or order a couple of appetizers. And a salad is a good place to start or maybe ask for some sautéed greens. With a little pre-planning, dining out can still be pleasurable, and you definitely don’t want to miss out dining with your friends! Thanks for sharing with us!


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