Vegans, vegetarians, and other people who avoid some or all animal products use many approaches. Use this guide to help you decode the terms people use to describe what they eat. There are many variations within these broad terms, including practitioners who strive to eat the kindest or healthiest version of the diets they follow.
What is vegan?
Vegans avoid all animal-based products, often for ethical and moral reasons as well as for health. They don’t eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. Many vegans don’t eat honey and some avoid dyes and other additives that come from insects. Ethical vegans also avoid leather, wool, silk, bone, and other products that come from animals.
I’m an easy-going vegan transitioning to a fully vegan lifestyle. I’ll eat a small piece of whatever birthday cake is offered but hope my own is dairy- and egg-free. If someone says a dish is vegan when I’m eating out, I don’t grill them about possible traces of milk or honey. And although I no longer buy things made with leather, wool, or silk, I’m keeping what I have until it wears out.
What is a plant-based diet?
Someone on a plant-based diet eats like a vegan but may not think twice about wearing leather shoes or using a gut string on a violin. A popular subset is the Whole Foods Plant Based (WHPB) diet, which avoids processed foods and added sugar or oils.
What is vegetarian?
Vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter as well as plants. They don’t eat food that directly requires killing the animal, such as meat, lard, chicken, and fish.
Unfortunately, raising chickens and cows for eggs and dairy does result in killing nearly all the young males at birth or very early ages. The chickens and cows are also killed quite young when they are past their most productive years. I had a hard time coming to grips with this during my two decades as a vegetarian.
What is pescetarian?
Pescetarians eat water animals (fish and shellfish) but not land animals, plus eggs, dairy products, and plants. The term comes from piscatus, a Latin verb meaning “to fish.”
- Diet for a New America: How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth
- The China Study
- What a Fish Knows
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