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Vegans do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or animal by-products such as eggs and dairy. Honey is also avoided on a vegan diet. While the term vegan is commonly associated with those eating a plant-based diet, veganism goes beyond just diet. Vegan essentially means to avoid animal exploitation and cruelty in all possible spheres of life. Examples of animal exploitation include using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, working tools, and experimentation. That said, many vegans will also avoid using products that were tested on animals or whose ingredients were tested on animals.

Most vegans do not choose this lifestyle for their health or for the sake of the environment, although these are secondary benefits. A vegan’s primary intent is to avoid all forms of unnecessary animal exploitation and cruelty.

What does it mean to be vegan?

Being vegan means avoiding harm to animals, as best as you can, in all aspects of your life. In addition to eating a plant-based diet, being vegan also entails opting for vegan and cruelty-free skincare products, toiletries, clothing, and more. Many products and ingredients that touch our daily lives contain animal-derived ingredients or ingredients that were tested on animals at some point. Luckily, there are tons of vegan and cruelty-free alternatives for everyday products, such as shampoo, face wash, toothpaste, leather, and much more.

Being vegan also means not engaging in activities that exploit animals. That includes visiting a zoo or an aquarium, fishing, horseback riding, and of course, hunting. Purchasing an animal from a breeder is also not vegan. While it may sound highly restrictive to some, it’s actually quite easy once you realize that there are tons of foods, products, and activities to engage in that cause no harm to animals. Instead of taking your kids to the zoo, why not support an animal sanctuary instead?

What do vegans eat?

While it’s a common assumption that a vegan diet is highly restrictive, it’s really not the case. Vegans actually tend to eat a wider variety of food groups than non-vegans. Pretty much any recipe can be made vegan by substituting the animal ingredients with vegan substitutes. Vegans generally eat the following foods:

  • All fruits and vegetables
  • Beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.)
  • Tofu, seitan, and tempeh
  • Grains (bread, quinoa, pasta, rice, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds (peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, hemp seeds, etc.)
  • Dairy-free milks, yogourts, and cheeses (soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, etc.)
  • Plant-based meat alternatives such as veggie burgers and vegan sausages
  • Sea vegetables including seaweed, spirulina, wakame, dulce, agar-agar etc.
  • Vegetable oils & plant-based butters

What don't vegans eat?

Vegans don’t eat anything containing meat or animal-based ingredients. Some of these include:

  • All forms of meat including beef, poultry, pork, etc.
  • All seafood including fish, clams, mussels, shellfish, etc.
  • Dairy products including milk, ice cream, cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc
  • Eggs or egg-based products such as mayonnaise or aioli
  • Candies or desserts containing gelatin including gummies, marshmallows, jello, gum, etc.
  • Beer or wine that uses animal byproducts in its processing
  • Vitamins sourced from animals or fish including vitamin D3, B12, omega-3, etc.

What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?

While the terms vegan and vegetarian are often thrown into the same bucket, there is a huge difference between the two terms. Here is a quick breakdown of how vegan and vegetarian are very different.

Vegans avoid all animal-based ingredients, vegetarians avoid meat

The main difference between veganism and vegetarianism is that vegans avoid all animal-based ingredients and go beyond just diet. This means avoiding all products that contain animal ingredients or ingredients that were tested on animals. It also means avoiding engaging in activities or supporting businesses, as much as feasible, that exploit animals. This does not mean avoiding grocery stores or restaurants because they sell meat. Vegans still have to survive. Instead, it means not buying an animal from a breeder or a pet shop when you can adopt one from a shelter.

Vegetarian, on the other hand, means to exclude meat or products containing meat from your diet. Vegetarians regularly consume dairy products and eggs. Some vegetarians will still consume seafood, although vegetarians who consume seafood are technically considered pescetarians. Another distinguishing factor is that vegetarians generally do not limit themselves to cruelty-free products and activities. Vegetarian is therefore a diet that excludes meat.

Vegan is a lifestyle, vegetarian is a diet

As previously mentioned, the term vegan goes beyond just diet. It’s a lifestyle that avoids any food item, product, or activity that exploits or causes harm to animals. Vegetarian, on the other hand, is a diet that excludes meat. While some vegetarians opt for cruelty-free products, it’s not a criterion for being vegetarian. Most vegetarians still go to zoos, go fishing, or purchase animals from pet shops or breeders.

What is the difference between plant-based and vegan?

While plant-based and vegan may sound like synonyms to some people, they are actually quite different. Plant-based is a diet that consists of plant-based ingredients, whereas veganism is a lifestyle that excludes animal ingredients and animal exploitation in all areas of life. While vegans do eat a plant-based diet, being vegan goes beyond just diet.


Whether it's vegan cooking or nutrition, I'm passionate about veganism and the wealth of benefits that come with the lifestyle. Since going vegan in 2017, I made it my life's mission to educate people about veganism and reshape the common perception that vegan food is boring.