Vegan vs. Vegetarian: What’s the Difference?

If you are a college student, you have probably seen the signs for vegetarian and vegan options at your dining halls on campus. If you are a meat eater, you most likely never gave it a second thought; however, now that you’re considering the vegetarian diet, what is the difference between the two? In this post we will define the difference diet types, discover what diet is best suited for you and give you a preview of what to expect while transitioning.

Vegetarian versus Vegan graphic

Defining Vegetarianism 

In case you missed my first post, which defines the vegetarian diet and lifestyle in-depth, I’ll give you a brief definition on this post as well. Vegetarianism is defined as someone who does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or any food made with processing aids created from these.

When you are a vegetarian you can eat dairy products from animals, like eggs, milk and cheese. This makes things especially easy on college campuses when going to the dining hall. For example, you don’t have to worry about if your side dish of vegetables were cooked in butter, if the cereal you’re eating uses dairy milk or if you accidentally get cheese on that veggie burger. The vegetarian diet makes for a virtually quick and painless time when going through the breakfast, lunch and dinner lines on campus.

Defining Veganism

This diet is almost the same as vegetarianism, just with a little more restriction.  Veganism is defined by The Vegan Society as, “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” In short this means not consuming any animal products, whether it’s meat, dairy or animal by products.

Veganism more commonly has a lifestyle element attached as opposed to vegetarianism, this means not using products tested on animals and organic makeup and hygiene products. Today, we will just be comparing the diets.

Which Diet Do I Choose?

As a college student, it can be daunting to take on a new diet while adjusting to living away from home. Depending on if you are on campus or off campus, I have tips for both types of college living situations.

On Campus

As an on campus student, it’s worthwhile to survey your options before making a dietary switch. At my university, we have an A rating from PETA2 for our inclusive vegan options. At smaller schools, vegan options might be especially sparse if there isn’t a dedicated section in each dining hall to vegan options each meal. For on campus students, make sure to check your dining services website to make sure you can sustain a vegan lifestyle if you choose; however, for most students it might be easier to go vegetarian and still indulge in dairy products. As I said above, going vegetarian as a college students mostly involves omitting meat from your meal, going vegan is a more difficult dietary and lifestyle switch!

Vegan at BU
This is a vegetarian and vegan friendly dining hall spread at Boston University. Awesome selection! Source: BU Dining Services

Off Campus

When living in a house or apartment, you have much more freedom when it comes to grocery shopping and meal prep. As opposed to dining halls, you can make sure your meals are cooked exactly how you like them and you know every ingredient that goes into your dishes. For these types of students, it could be helpful to start as a vegetarian and try incorporating certain parts of a vegan lifestyle before making the full switch. Try trading dairy milk for almond milk, getting your morning protein through oatmeal with chia seeds instead of eggs and cutting down on your butter intake. Since you’re living on your own, feel free to experiment with parts of both diets to figure out what you like and don’t like!

As always, don’t be afraid to do your own research and figure out what diet works for you. Becoming a vegetarian isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and it can take months to become fully accustomed to the new diet. Be sure to check the dining services website on your college campus and be diligent about making sure you are choosing the right food when going through the dining hall line.

Subscribe to The University of Vegetarianism where next time I will be showing you how to shop and cook vegetarian while being on a college budget!

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