What’s the difference between being vegetarian and vegan?

South China Morning Post

What is a pescatarian? How about a flexitarian? They all revolve around eating a plant-based diet, but there are notable differences

South China Morning Post |

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A 2018 report by food consultants Baum and Whiteman showed that more than 30 per cent of Americans have meat-free days, more than 50 per cent of adults drink non-dairy milk and about 83 per cent are adding more plant-based foods to their diets. 

Some people refrain from eating meat on ethical grounds because they believe eating animals is morally wrong. Others decide to lead a plant-based lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

Vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian and vegan – all are no- or limited-meat diets, so what’s the difference?  They all revolve around eating a plant-based diet, but there are notable differences when it comes to what specific food groups each includes.


A vegetarian is someone who refrains from eating all types of meat, whether it be poultry, red meat or fish (including shellfish). 

Their diet consists mostly of grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy and practically anything else that does not involve the body parts of an animal.


A pescatarian follows the same dietary guidelines as a vegetarian, except they eat fish.
The word pescatarian comes from combining “pesce”, which means “fish” in Italian and “vegetarian”.

Why fish? It depends on the person’s preference. It could be for environmental or health reasons. Some pescatarians allow fish and seafood in their diet so that they can add more protein and other nutrients they might be missing from eating an all-round plant-based diet.


A flexitarian is someone who is a part-time vegetarian. What? Flexitarians eat a vegetarian diet without completely removing meat. Their diet consists of more plant-based foods while eating things like red meat and poultry sparingly.

It’s the most flexible of diets (ha, get it? Flexitarian = flexible). You get the best of both worlds, and there are no hard rules about what you’re allowed to eat and what you can’t. It was made popular by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian, who wrote The Flexitarian Diet. The diet adds healthy foods to your diet, rather than taking food away.


A vegan is someone who refrains from eating all animal products. So while some vegetarians eat things such as eggs, cheese and yogurt, vegans do not eat dairy or any animal by-products, such as gelatin.

It’s important to note that just because you are a vegetarian or vegan does not automatically mean you eat a “healthy” diet.

Edited by Doris Wai

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