October 21, 2020
by Hy-Vee Dietitian


You may have heard the terms plant-based, vegetarian or vegan before but do you know the difference? Eating a diet rich in plants has been shown to help support health, increase longevity, and play a role in disease prevention. So there is no wonder, why more and more people are adapting an eating pattern that includes more plants.

Let’s define what a plant-based, vegetarian and vegan diet is. 

Plant-BasedA plant-based diet consists of a diet high in minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, spices and may or may not include the seldom intake of animal or dairy products. A plant-based eater may occasionally enjoy a hamburger or steak, but primarily consumes mostly plant based food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, herbs, spices).

Vegetarian: A vegetarian diet does not contain meat, but rather consists largely of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes contains eggs or dairy products. Within the broad category of vegetarian diets, there are a few common subtypes.

  • Lacto-vegetarian diets, which include dairy products but not egg products
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets, which include eggs and dairy products
  • Ovo-vegetarian diets, which include eggs and egg products but not dairy products

Vegan: A vegan diet also includes minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices. A vegan lifestyle values all living things, therefore avoids all animal based/made products such as meat, fish, fowl, dairy, egg products, and honey.  Possible nutrients of concern for vegans include calciumvitamin B-12, and vitamin D as this eating style does not include dairy products. It is important to choose whole grains and plant based milks that are enriched with these nutrients such as whole grain breads or almond milk. 

Reasons you might choose to follow a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan eating pattern may include environmental concerns, humanitarian and ethical values, religious practices, or for better overall health. No matter which eating pattern you chose, a diet rich in a variety of colorful, whole, raw plants has shown to provide multiple health benefits!

If you are interested in eating a more plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet and are not sure where to start, start small. Increasing your fruits and vegetables intake by 1 cup a day can do wonders for your health. So start small and keep going!


Take the Vegg Diagram Challenge to show off your new plant-based eating knowledge! 


This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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