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Vegetarian or plant-based diet: Which one labels you?

It seems these days that we have more and more labels to identify how people choose to eat. Let’s take a look at some of them and what they mean:

Vegan: Avoid all animal foods (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey as well as products like leather and any products tested on animals. (Vegan Society). Often those who follow a vegan diet have ethical, moral or religious reasons for following a vegan diet.

Seagan/peagan: Someone who follows a vegan diet but includes seafood/fish.

Vegetarian: Someone who consumes a meat-free diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and may or may not consume dairy products, honey and/or eggs.

Pescetarian/pescatarian: Someone who follows a vegetarian diet but also eats seafood/fish.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Someone who follows a vegetarian diet but also consumes dairy and eggs.

Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian: Primarily vegetarian with the occasional inclusion of meat or fish.

Plant-based/plant-forward/plant-focused: A diet that consists primarily of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and may or may not include animal products (meat, fish, eggs, or dairy). (Source: and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute)

Bottom Line: What do you notice about the definitions of vegetarian and “plant-based”? Do the definitions look pretty similar? It seems as though many vegans and vegetarians could refer to themselves as following a “plant-based” diet.

Here’s another thing to think about. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends, “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” and if you view the My Plate icon, it encourages half our grains to be whole grains which should occupy about 1/3 of our plate, with the remaining portion protein which may or may not come from animal/fish sources, sounds pretty “plant-based” to me!


Talk to Leah: Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at, 800-334-4936 or at