Confused male

What’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian?


After covering the main differences, I share some tips on how to switch to a more plant-based diet.

I got hounded with the same questions when I ran the market stall in Birmingham Rag Market (pre-vegan days).

“Have you got any egg-free cake?”

“What sweets are gluten-free?”

“Anything dairy-free?”

At first, I couldn’t understand the difference between egg-free and dairy-free (until someone pointed out they’re from different animals) and so understand the confusion when you see vegan and vegetarian being thrown around all over the place.

I’m here to clarify the differences between these three buzz words:

  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Plant-based

This will help anyone who’s curious about exploring one of these diets, joining a movement, or just knowing if the product on your supermarket shelf is suitable for you or a friend.

Let’s start with a quick overview:

No animal produce whatsoeverNo meat, but produce made by animals is okayNo meat and should contain a maximum of 5% ingredients that come from animals
Products verified by The Vegan SocietyProducts verified by The Vegetarian SocietyCurrently being fast-tracked by BSI for regulation

What is vegan?

To summarise the definition by the Vegan Society, vegans seek to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, and any other purposes – as far is possible and practical.

The perfect vegan (which does not exist) does not eat or use anything that an animal has been slaughtered or used for. For this, it means:

  • No meat
  • No dairy
  • No honey
  • No leather
  • No candles
  • No paintbrushes
  • No medication
  • No condoms

This is solely on animal ingredients and doesn’t include any environmental considerations which is often attached to the vegan movement.

These restrictions don’t limit you. With the rise of veganism, especially in January, businesses are rising to the challenge to create sound alternatives. Alleway’s, for example, loves sourcing small independent confections that quiet the naysayers.

“It’s impossible to go vegan”

From the small list above, you may think it’s impossible to vegan unless you become a hermit. But there’s one part of the definition that’s often overlooked in many judgemental vegan Facebook groups:

“as far is possible and practical”

Let’s be clear, you can’t call yourself a vegan and pull this quote when you’re caught eating a steak. There are absolutes and food is obvious when it comes to calling yourself a vegan.

However, there are many cases when it’s understandable.

You’re on a night out and you choose to wear the leather jacket that you’ve had long since deciding to become vegan. Whilst the leather isn’t vegan by definition, throwing it away straight away and buying a non-leather alternative is worse for the planet and for your wallet. When the times come and you want or need a new jacket, as a vegan it makes sense to donate your old leather jacket and buy a vegan-friendly alternative.

This is being vegan “as far is possible and practical”.

Another act of snobbery is when it comes to money.

Let’s be real – vegan alternatives often tailor to a higher budget. Whether this is due to high quality or vegan inflation (that’s for another post) is beside the point; sometimes you just can’t afford the alternative.

Shoes are a good example.

You’ve got an interview coming up and you need a smart pair. You normally shop at ShoeZone and spend around £20 on Brogues. But now you’re vegan, you want a leather alternative, but quickly find you’ll be spending £80+ for a like-for-like. You can’t afford £80+ on a pair of shoes because you need to land the job first. You have to battle your conscious and buy the leather.

This doesn’t make you a perfect vegan (which, again, doesn’t exist), but you’re still a vegan. If they make £20 vegan brogues, you’d buy them. If anyone wants to cuss you out, ask them to pay the £80 for you.

The difference between vegan and veggie

A bottle of milk with biscuits highlighting the main difference between vegan and vegetarian.

The main difference between vegan and vegetarian is dairy. Vegans do not consume dairy, whereas vegetarians do. Both, however, do not consume meat.

The term plant-based and flexitarian have grown in recent years and refer to someone who is trying or transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Their initial goal is to reduce meat consumption first before taking the big leap – almost like a free trial.

Why do people go vegan or vegetarian?

A muddy pig isn't the only reason people go vegan.
“For the animals” isn’t the only reason.

There are plenty of reasons that people decide to choose one of these diets:

  • Improve their health and stay fit
  • To practice their religion
  • Reduce the severity of their allergies
  • Save the environment and reduce their carbon footprint

But most people turn vegan or veggie for the animals – to reduce their suffering and pain. Animals are living beings and the factory farms, battery cages, and emotional abuse they experience is enough to encourage at least 600,000 people in the UK to turn vegan.

How do I choose which is best for me?

I see veganism as the ultimate goal.

If you want to stop animal cruelty, reduce climate change, and increase your health, veganism is the way forward.

But, I don’t expect you to go 100% vegan overnight.

It’s a big choice that challenges your daily habits. You’ll notice the change every day when you eat. So, I always suggest take it slowly.

Start with a plant-based diet and transition overtime to vegan.

How do I transition to a vegan diet?

1. Plan your meals

By tracking what you’re eating, you can easily see how much meat and dairy you’re consuming and then reduce.

2. Eat out at a vegan restaurant

So many people try to cook vegan or veggie meals for the first time and botch it up – like eating Jackfruit raw. It tastes like dog excrement and then you’ll be put off vegan food forever. By going to a vegan restaurant (not a Wetherspoons who offer vegan options), you’ll have a chef who’s worked for years with these foods and knows exactly how they’re done.

If you live in Birmingham, here are three places we recommend:

3. Make a dessert at home

After your restaurant experience, you’ll know what can be done and be inspired to try your own! We recommend starting with making desserts. Everyone loves pudding and it’s a great starting point.

I share 3 of my favourite vegan desserts when you join our email list (which includes the best Bundt cake ever). If you’re curious about veganism, want more tips, or just want know what’s happening in the vegan world, you need to join now.

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4. Change one meal at a time

Return to your plan made in step 1. Decide what meal you’re going to switch out for a vegan alternative. It can be a straight swap – like switching your beef burger for a pea protein patty. Or, you could try a new recipe, like tofu curry or cashew paella.

It doesn’t have to be your main meal. You could switch your lunch or even your breakfast! The more you look, the more you’re realised is vegan by default or accidentally vegan. I’ve talked to many people who’ve realised they were half way there already without realising!

5. Treat yourself with a gift from Alleway’s.

Switching to a vegan diet is hard. You spend all your time checking the ingredients and trying to the find the perfect alternative for every meal. With dairy being the biggest difference between vegan and vegetarian, giving the up the luscious chocolate sounds impossible.

It gets easier.

You find the most amazing alternatives (that surpass meat!) and you fall in love with new ingredients. Like tofu and mushrooms for me.

But, for now, I’d like to share my top 3 confectionary recommendations in your transition to a vegan diet.

  1. Pick ‘n’ Mix pouch (get a mix of BUBs and your childhood classics!)
  2. HiP’s Creamy Oat Milk (best Dairy Milk alternative)
  3. Fellow Creature’s Raspberry White (just because)

Stay sweet. Stay vegan.

– Josh