Understanding Key Differences of Animal-Free Diets

Understanding Key Differences of Animal-Free Diets

What are the differences between a whole food, plant-based diet, vegan diet, and vegetarian diet?

Vegan vs. Whole food, plant-based

The basic principles of a whole food, plant-based diet include foods that are whole, unrefined, and not heavily processed that come from plants.  The key food categories include fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes but also allow nuts/seeds, avocadoes, tofu, tempeh, whole-grain flours and breads and plant-based milks.  Vegan and whole food, plant-based diets are very similar but there are some key differences.  Highly processed foods including bleached flours, refined sweeteners, and white rice can be incorporated in a vegan diet.  A vegan diet does not necessarily mean a healthy diet as there are many non-animal-based products that that can be high in added sugar, saturated and trans fats.


There are different types of vegetarian diets.  While all of them exclude meat and poultry, some of them do allow for some animal-based products.

Lacto-vegetarian – excludes meat, fish, poultry, and egg but allows dairy products

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – excludes meat, fish and poultry but allows dairy products and eggs

Ovo-vegetarian – excludes meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but allows eggs

Pescatarian – excludes meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs but allows fish

When following a more restrictive diet, you will want to be mindful of the nutrients listed below as some of these vitamins and minerals may be lacking.  Meal planning can be a benefit to ensure that you are getting the nutrients that you need.

  • Calcium and vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Iodine





Michelle Graves, RD, LD, CHWC

Hancock Wellness Center – McCordsville


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