Vegan vs Vegetarian Diet Comparison
It seems people's reasoning for choosing a vegan or vegetarian diet is just as diverse as the types of plant-based eating styles out there, and understanding which diet is best for you can really depend on the person.
To help you understand the differences between these two meal plans, we’ve compared how each diet stacks up based on the following criteria:
Neither vegetarian or vegan diets are designed with specific nutritional requirements in mind. Both diets are intended to exclude certain types of food (aka meat, seafood, and dairy), not necessarily increase your intake of healthy foods.
After all, soda, french fries, and Oreos are all considered vegan!
That being said because both emphasize a lot of plants, the potential to improve nutrition intake is there.
Let’s pretend each diet uses calorie control, macro balance, and includes plenty of nutrient-dense plant foods, then how would they compare in terms of nutrition?
Done right, both vegan and vegetarian eating will get you a lot of key nutrients, especially vitamins A, C, E, potassium, and folate, along with loads of healthy fat and fiber (1,2,3,4). That's because plants, especially fruits and veggies, tend to be some of the most nutrient-dense foods we know of.
But when it comes to balancing your vegan macros, mainly protein intake, vegetarianism may have a clear advantage. Plants are not typically a protein dense food, but dairy and eggs are.
Of course there is a difference between loading up on cheesy vegetarian dishes and opting for more quality choices.
Including some options like low fat yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, and eggs with meals and snacks can significantly boost your protein intake. Plus, they are a source of complete proteins and contain other key nutrients often lacking in plants like calcium and vitamin D (5).
However, high protein meat alternatives can help fill in the gaps in any vegan diet.
Bottom line: both diets can add loads of nutrition to your day, but vegetarian diets have an edge with the potential for more protein dense options, along with calcium and vitamin D from dairy and eggs.
Many people choose to go vegan or vegetarian in the first place for health reasons. And it's because diets high in nutrient-dense plant foods are associated with a wide range of health benefits.
Of course these benefits are only fully realized when calorie control and overall nutrition balance is considered.
The option to add or remove dairy and eggs with vegetarian eating, has its pluses and minuses - it's not as clear cut as one may think. Yes, full fat dairy can be a source of saturated fat, but a well-planned vegetarian diet should opt for low fat dairy and also contain a ton of healthy fats.
Additionally, some dairy intake has been associated with potential health benefits like improved blood sugar control and better weight management (11).
Bottom line: It's a draw. Vegan and vegetarian diets done right may provide some significant health benefits but like most things, it depends on what works best for the individual.
Sustainability and Animal Welfare
Both styles of eating get points for sustainability since opting for more plants in your meals is thought to be slightly easier on the environment by using less resources (mainly less land, feed, and water) for production (12,13).
Of course, it always depends on the type of vegan and vegetarian foods you choose. A lot of energy goes into processed foods.
Overall vegan diets have the edge when it comes to sustainability since dairy can require just as many resources as meat. Additionally because vegans avoid all animal products and by-products there are likely zero animals harmed in the making of their meals.
Bottom line: Vegan diets are the gold standard here since opting for more plant foods over meat and dairy might help reduce the use of natural resources in food production.
These two diets are very similar and quite different at the same time. And figuring out which one to choose really boils down to personal preference.
Vegan diets have a possible advantage when it comes to sustainability and animal welfare, but vegetarian diets might be superior when it comes to nutrition and health benefits. Of course all of this depends on how well you plan and execute your nutrition.
Learning how to balance your food choices to match your health and fitness goals is where the real challenge lies, and ultimately the best diet for you is the one you enjoy eating most - as this is the diet you will stick to the longest!
Need help planning and prepping a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet? Let us do the hard work for you with high protein, nutrient dense meals cooked and delivered right to your door.