The Many Different Types of Vegetarian Diets

Learn the difference between vegetarians, vegans, and more

Healthy Vegan Snack Board Pink Grapefruit

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“I’m a level 5 vegan—I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow,” said cartoon character Jesse Grasse on the television series "The Simpsons." It is not uncommon for people to wonder, “What can vegetarians eat?” The truth is people who follow a vegetarian dietary style can eat everything they want. The difference is that people who identify as vegetarians choose not to eat certain things. 

Vegetarians have their reasons for choosing their dietary lifestyle whether it is health reasons, a distaste for meats, or a love for animals. If you are deciding what type or kind of vegetarian you want to be, think about what types of food you want to include or avoid. You don’t need to fit into one of these standard vegetarian categories, but understanding them will help you think about your short-term and long-term goals if you choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. 


Watch Now: 6 Myths About a Vegetarian Diet

  • 01 of 07

    Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian

    Chickpea and spinach curry
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    You don’t have to be vegetarian to love vegetarian food. The term “flexitarian” was coined to describe semi-vegetarians or those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat.

  • 02 of 07


    Plate of salmon with asparagus and sauce

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    The word “pescatarian” (also pescetarian) is used to describe those who abstain from eating all animal flesh with the exception of fish. More and more people are adopting this kind of diet, usually for health reasons or as a stepping stone to a fully vegetarian diet.

  • 03 of 07


    pepper corn black bean quinoa burritos
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    When most people think of vegetarians, they think of lacto-ovo-vegetarians. These are people who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products. The word “lacto” comes from the Latin for milk and “ovo” means egg. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are the most common kind of vegetarian.

    You can be just one or the other. A lacto-vegetarian is used to describe a type of vegetarian who does not eat eggs but does eat dairy products. Ovo-vegetarian refers to people who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs. 

  • 04 of 07


    Grain Bowl with Peanut Sauce
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    Vegans do not eat meat products of any kind including eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin, which comes from animal collagen.

    Many vegans also refrain from eating foods that are made using animal products even if there are no animal products in the finished food. For example, some sugars are made with bone char in the bleaching and filtering process. And, some wines have "fining agents"–like milk protein, gelatin, and egg whites–that are used in the processing of wine​ but are not actual ingredients. There is some debate as to whether certain foods like honey fit into a vegan diet.

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  • 05 of 07

    Raw Vegan or Raw Food Diet

    Red pepper wrap and salad

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    A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 F / 46 C. A person who follows a raw vegan diet is also called a “raw foodist.” This food trend is based on the belief that foods cooked above this temperature lose a significant amount of their nutritional value and become harmful to the body.

  • 06 of 07


    Close-Up Of Millet In Spoon On Wooden Table
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    The macrobiotic diet, revered by some for its healthy and healing qualities, includes unprocessed vegan foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and allows the occasional consumption of fish. Sugar and refined oils are avoided. Perhaps the most unique qualifier of the macrobiotic diet is its emphasis on the consumption of Asian vegetables, such as daikon radish, and sea vegetables, such as wakame and other seaweeds.

  • 07 of 07

    How to Go Vegetarian

    Grilled tofu
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    If you're interested in exploring a healthy vegetarian diet but haven't yet made the leap, check out some tips on how to make the transition to a vegetarian diet.