How is a Vegan Different from a Vegetarian?

I don't know about anyone else, but I try to eat healthy whenever I can. After all, the carefree 'fast-food diet' we had when we were teenagers doesn't work so well when we're adults and have to do things like watch our cholesterol levels or weight. Many people I've known have chosen a vegetarian diet in an effort to help them cut down on things like fat.  Some even opt for the more-restrictive vegan instead of vegetarian diets, although not everyone wants to put that much effort into selecting their foods.  Many restaurants will now offer vegetarian selections, but finding vegan vs vegetarian friendly foods when grocery shopping or dining out can be a bit more tricky. You're probably asking by now, how is a vegan different from a vegetarian? The difference is that each lifestyle has a different and distinct set of foods that are allowed. If you're thinking about adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, here are some things you should know.

How Is a Vegan Different From a Vegetarian?

All vegans are vegetarians, but not all vegetarians are vegans. Vegetarians generally do not consume meat, although some go a little farther than that and cut out other animal products. For instance, a lacto-vegetarian will consume dairy, but not eggs.  Ovo-vegetarians will consume eggs, but not dairy.  Lacto-ovo vegetarians will consume both dairy and eggs.  The reasons for the inclusion or exclusion of eggs or dairy from a vegetarian's diet vary with each person.  Vegans, on the other hand, generally don't consume or use animal products at all.  Since a vegan lifestyle is often about activism along with diet, many vegans are different from vegetarians in that they also avoid using animal products in clothing (leather, wool, etc) or soaps as well as eliminating animal-based foods.  This includes the dairy and eggs mentioned above, but also things such as gelatin or whey. Some less-restrictive vegans might use animal products like honey or wool that don't involve the slaughter of an animal, but vegans generally avoid animal products out of concern for the treatment of the animals themselves.  Many religions will advocate a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and some people consider these to be much healthier than a diet that includes meat.

Healthy Vegan Menus

While living a vegan lifestyle can be pretty complicated, you can cook and eat vegan meals without having to give up the tastes you love. For instance, I once had a roommate who didn't eat meat but loved teriyaki chicken.  Tofu and temp-eh are both soy-based foods that are often used as meat substitutes in various recipes. One reason these two foods are so popular is because they do a very good job marinating in whatever kind of sauce you want to use and thus give you the taste of your favorite meat dishes without any of the harm done to animals.  With the growing popularity of vegan diets, pretty much any meat product has a vegan-friendly equivalent. A trip to the freezer section of most grocery stores can yield veggie burgers, veggie sausage, soy hot dogs, etc.

Here are a few other things no vegan's cabinets should never be without:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Dried and/or canned beans-pintos, green beans, kidney beans, etc
  • Pasta and noodles
  • Dried Fruits
  • Grains-rice, oats, popcorn, etc
  • Bread products
  • Canned tomato products
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Flours
  • Fruits and Vegetables

Many foods can replace meat or other animal products in vegan recipes. Pureed potatoes or cauliflower can be used in the place of dairy products in soups or pasta dishes.  Eggplant and portabello mushrooms are excellent to use in the place of meats.  Tofu can also be used as an egg substitute, and my roommate used to like soy milk. You can probably find a vegetarian or vegan version of most condiments and other foods at the grocery or health food store, although the products can be a bit pricey.

So, how is a vegan different from a vegetarian? To sum up, they both avoid meat, but vegans are more strict in their use of other animal-based products. If you're considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan, you'll find that you'll never be without options.

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