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Closeup of a variety of healthy foods including fruits and vegetables, nuts and hummus

Vegetarian vs. Vegan vs. Pescatarian vs. Flexitarian

If you’re like a lot of Ohioans, you were raised on meat and potatoes. But take a stroll through a grocery store or browse restaurants in Yelp, and you’ll discover there are a lot of different dietary lifestyles out there. You may find yourself hosting a dinner party for guests with particular food needs, or tasked with picking a place to eat that can serve your whole crew, but you’re unsure of who eats what. We broke down some of the more popular non-meat-centric diets for you. Maybe you’ll want to try out one for yourself!

Infographic that says vegetarian above food icons


According to the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom, a vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and some other non-animal-based foods (salt, for example) with, or without, dairy products, honey and eggs. A vegetarian 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, insects, byproducts of slaughter (gelatin, for example) or any food made with processing aids created from these.

In short, and in general, a vegetarian eats plants, eggs and dairy products, but not meat or other foods created from the body of an animal.


Infographic that says vegan above food icons


Dietarily, veganism goes beyond vegetarianism to exclude any foods derived from animals, but most people who identify as vegans apply this approach to their entire lives. Vegansociety.org describes veganism as a philosophy and way of living that 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.


Infographic that says pescatarian above food icons


Pesce is the Italian word for fish, so the portmanteau pescatarian means what you’d expect: People who follow a vegetarian diet with the addition of fish and seafood. This type of diet is routine in Mediterranean and Asian cultures.


Infographic that says flexitarian above food icons


(You’re probably getting the hang of this by now.) The term flexitarian, also called semi-vegetarian, includes people who occasionally eat meat as part of their diet. Flexitarians generally do not have a strong moral objection to eating meat, but may choose free-range, organic and other options that favor ethical treatment of animals.


Why eat this way?

People have many different reasons for choosing the diets they follow – some for ethical and moral reasons, others for religious beliefs, and still others for health conditions or environmental concerns. One thing all of these diets have in common is a reduction in the amount of land-based meat we’re eating. And there’s a lot of good reasons to eat less meat:

  • Reducing meat consumption can help lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Raising animals for food requires a lot of natural resources and is a significant source of pollution and greenhouse gasses.
  • Eating less red meat is linked to lower rates of cancer.

Try it on and see if it fits

It’s important to remember that trying out vegetarianism or its variations doesn’t require lifelong vows. You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy a vegan meal, and going vegetarian for two months and then eating a burger doesn’t make you a hypocrite. You can try out any options that work for you, like:

  • Not eating red meat like beef and pork, but sticking with fish, seafood and poultry.
  • Going vegetarian for the week and saving meat for the weekends.
  • Only eating meat during family gatherings.
  • Only eat one serving of meat a day.

Keep in mind that limiting meat doesn’t have to feel limiting. Try taking a break from meat for a while, or avoid meat on the menu the next time you’re dining out. It might lead you to some exciting culinary experiences!

Ready to take control of your nutrition? Contact us at the McConnell Heart Health Center, we’re ready to support you!