Brenda de Groot
Health & Food Vegan

Types of Vegans and Vegetarians

I am convinced that absolute borders don’t exist and therefore you cannot truly categorise anyone or anything. Oh the irony, as people find great satisfaction in labeling and classifying stuff and other people. Lists and categories, we love ’em. Including me. So after searching in vain for a complete list of different kinds of vegans, I had came to the conclusion such thing doesn’t exist yet. Therefore, I decided to make one myself.

I got this.

In this post I listed all types of vegans and vegetarians (together called ‘vega’s’) by diet style. From flexitarian to Raw Till 4-vegan – you fnd them all here. If any movement slipped my attention, please let me know.

Just one thing I want to say before you read on: with these types of vegans and vegetarians I do not state anything about the potential health benefits or -risks of their diet styles. I am not a dietitian, and there are very few scientific studies that examined the short- and long term effects of a the diets I listed. So reading and eating is at your own risk ;). Now, that being said, let’s move on to all types of vegans and vegetarians there are!

Omnivore

I’ll start with the one that acutally doesn’t fit in this list: the omnivore. Omnivores eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs and plant-based products on a regular basis, which makes them excluded from the vegan/vegetarian list. Still I’d like to mention this group, because to be fair, vegans and vegetarians are still in the stark minority compared to omnivores.

Vegetarian

Illustration monkey with an egg and milk - Vegan Monkey. Illustration by Brenda de GrootA modern vegetarian does not eat animal tissues but does eat products produced by animals, such as dairy and eggs. This group of vegetarians is also called Lacto-Ovo vegetarian, where ‘lacto’ stands for diary and ‘ovo’ for eggs. Some vegetarians do not buy leather, products with gelatin in it, or cheese with rennet, since these products are derived from the body of a dead animal. Most vegetarians however just stick to the diet rules and are more flexible when it comes to gelatin, rennet and leather.

There are different types of vegetarians out there. Like these:

 Lacto-vegetarian

Lacto vegetarian funny cartoon illustration vegan monkeyThis group of vegetarians does consume dairy, but not eggs. Their diet is therefore somewhat more restrictive than that of the lacto-ovo vegetarian, who consumes both eggs and dairy. Lacto-vegetarians also do not take products with eggs as an ingredient, such as mayonnaise, some cookies or cake.

Ovo vegetarian funny cartoon illustration vegan monkey Ovo-vegetarian

Ovo-vegetarians leave dairy out of their diet, but do choose to eat eggs. In addition, ovo-vegetarians do not consume products with milk protein or lactose, and you won’t find them buying goat- or sheep yogurt or cheese.

Semi-Vegetarian

Many vegetarians and vegans did not stop eating animal products overnight. Often there is a phase-out time, that could be called semi-vegetarianism. The group of semi-vegetarians is quite large, also because a lot of semi-vegetarians are unaware that they are semi-vegetarians.

I’m a semi whát?!

They are the ones who decide to eat less meat for sake of the planet, health-conscious people who vowed to never pollute their bodies with processed meat again, the ‘I’d-love-to’ vegetarians that never could say goodbye to sushi or chicken wings, and your little brother who declares to be a truly dedicated vegetarian while dipping another toast in his surimi salad.

Semi vegetarian cartoon illustration vegan monkey

No jokes: I am a fan of semi-vegetarians. Especially those that take semi-vegetarianism as a first step towards a vega life. That first step is often the hardest, because you got to say farwell to so many convenient foods you love, and you are still unaware of the vast extend of plant-based options. So to all vega’s out there: cheer at semi-vegetarians. Give them their well-deserved pat on the shoulder. And if you happen to be a semi-vega yourself, you get a pat from me. 🙂

 Flexitarian / Flexan

A flexitarian follows the rules of a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meat or fish. Most of the time, flexitarians refrain from eating meat for several days a week, which makes flexitarianism different from semi-vegetarianism. Though as with the former, flexitarianism is often the first conscious step towards a vegetarian or vegan diet. As with flexitarians, flexans eat mainly plant-based, but consume animal products now and then. Vegetarians and vegans who don’t buy animal products themselves but do eat it with other people or at a restaurant belong to this category.

 Part-time Vegetarian / VeganFlexitariër, flexanist (EN: flexitarian) illustration cartoon

While flexitarians and flexans eat animal products on a regular basis, part-time vegetarians and vegans follow their respective diets for a longer time. After a few weeks or months eating vegetarian or vegan, they start to include (mostly little) animal products in their diet again, and eventually switch back to their old regime. This cycle continues.

 Pescetarian

Pescetarians do not eat meat but do eat fish. Crustacians and shellfish such as shrimps and mussels, are also included generally. The motivation for pescetarians to skip meat but not fish varies from health to preference, or both.

 Pollotarian

In the fridge of a pollotarian you will find chicken and other poultry, but no other sources of meat and fish. Pollo- and pescetarians differ from many semi-vegetarians in that they stick to their diet and are less likely to become a ‘true’ vegetarian or vegan.

Vegan

Vegans do not eat any animal products. This means no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey. Veganism entails more than just the stuff what you do or don’t put in your mouth. Most vegans refrain from buying leather, silk or whool, as well as visiting events in which animals are used for entertainment purposes. Sometimes a separation between vegans and people that eat a plant-based diet is in place. The latter group only consumes a vegan diet because of health-related reasons and is not involved in the non-dietary side of veganism, such as animal welfare and/or environmentalism.

While vegetarians are quite accepted nowadays in society, vegans are often still seen as an odd and malnourished species. A kind of Neanderthal, but without the biceps.

Vegan [Homo herbivorus]

Fairly unknown human species distantly related to Homo sapiens.

Homo herbivorus suffers from a chronic deficiency of protein. Species is likely to die within several years from now due to a lack of iron and vitamin B12.
Remarkably empathetic with and concerned about other living creatures and the planet as a whole.

– The Omnivore’s Dictionary

If you think that with vegans you reached an end point in the food funnel, then think again. Veganism knows many movements and new ones come and go. There are many types of vegans out there. Some vegans change their diet regime often, or hop over to another movement because of curiosity. Trends and hypes play a big role in here.

 Just Vegan (incl. Ethical and Environmental Vegans)

This is not an official name for this group, but I called it ‘just vegan’, since this will most likely be the response you get when you ask them what type of vegan they are. Many ethical and environmental vegans belong to this group, who became vegan for animal welfare and/or environmental motivations. While the ethical aspect of veganism plays a role in many vega movements, this is the main reason for ‘just vegans’, who care less about the health-related aspects of their diets. Oreo’s and vegan junk food are mostly welcomed with open arms. Because of this, ‘just vegans’ are sometimes referred to as junk food vegans, but I find that name suggestive, as if every ‘just vegan’ only eats junk food.

Whole Foods, Plant-based Vegan

The idea of whole foods, plant-based veganism is to consume as many ‘whole’ products and as little as possible from tins and packages with chemical additions to them. If I would have to jam myself into a vegan diet category, I would end up here I guess.

 Raw Vegan

Raw vegans only eat raw, plant-based foods which are not heated above 45 degrees Celcius. Soaking nuts and seeds, and sprouting grains, legumes and rice are popular ways of preparing food in the raw cuisine. Other raw movements such as raw vegetarianism and raw foodism also exists: here you find raw fish, meat, eggs or dairy included in the diet, but these movements are less common than raw veganism.

 Raw Till 4

Illustration monkey on raw till 4 - Vegan Monkey. Illustration by Brenda de Groot

Sounds exotic, but is rather straight forward, since it means exactly what it says: eating only raw food until 4 pm. People on the raw till 4 lifestyle mostly eat huge fruit meals for breakfast and lunch, and eat a lot of starch foods for dinner, along with a green salad.

 High Carb Low Fat Vegan

Stortened as HCLF, this vegan movement means eating loads of carbohydrates and very little fats. The diet is usually followed by raw vegans. HCLF veganism is also known under the term 80/10/10 (“eighty-ten-ten”), what refers to the ratio of carbohydrates to fat and protein in your daily calorie count. Dr. Atkins would get a heart attack (hehe) if he heard about this, since the HCLF philosophy is exactly opposite to his low carb high fat-diet.

• The Starch Solution Vegan

Is a kind of HCLF (80/10/10) veganism, where the carbohydrates mainly come from starches such as potatoes, rice and oatmeal instead of fruit.

 FruitarianIllustration monkey waiting for an apple to all from a tree - Vegan Monkey. Illustration by Brenda de Groot

Another open door: a fruitarian eats just fruits and other foods that spontaneously fell from a tree, such as nuts and seeds. Motives for this diet vary from ethical to cultural to health and back again.

Paleo Vegan / Pegan

The Paleo diet is a diet plan in which you eat like our ancestors from the Paleolithicum did, from 2,5 million to 10.000 years ago. The argument for the Paleo diet is, that we evolved on this food plan. For thousands of years, we ate like this, and our body adapted and specialised to it. At that time, the food was pure and unprocessed, and that is what you will eat if you follow the Paleo diet. Thing is: the original Paleo diet contains quite some meat, fish and eggs, and no legumes or grains (as they didn’t eat those back then either). So as a Paleo vegan (‘Pegan’), you got to do some homework before you start to make sure you get enough nutrients from your diet. In case Paleo veganism raised your interest, but you got scared back by the restrictions: no worries. Many Palego vegans do not strictly stick to the diet. They eat pure and without any refined or artificial additives, but do eat a bit of legumes and gluten fre grains like oats and rice.

Gluten free Vegan

Eating plant-based without gluten – it’s possible! Gluten are the protein you find in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, triticale, spelt, kamut, farro, durum, bulgur, semolina and couscous. Oats and oatmeal is naturally gluten free, but often ‘cross-polluted’ with gluten from other grains. Those who follow a strict gluten free diet should therefore buy oats that is explicitly labelled as ‘gluten free’. For vegans with Coeliac Disease, eating gluten free is a no-brainer, but gluten free vegan food is an upcoming trend as well! Fine by me, as gluten intolerance seems to be no real. Especially modern wheat contains a lot of gluten, and many people don’t do so well on this.

Gluten free substitutes: rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, corn, millet and (gluten free) oats.

One last thing: seitan is a no-go for gluten free vegans, as this is made from pure gluten!

 Low FODMAP Vegan

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are carbohydrates that your body doesn’t absorb so well. The carbs enter your small and large intestine, where bacteria fest on them, which produces gas. That gas can cause uncomfortable bloating and cramps. The FODMAP diet is made for people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and it is said to alleve the symtoms of 75% of the people who follow the diet. Here you find a list of the foods you can and cannot eat on a low FODMAP diet. Scrolling through the list, you’ll quickly arrive at the conclusion that it is pretty hard being a FODMAP vegan.

Freegan

Freegans are people that do not buy food but live off what is left and thrown away by individuals and companies such as supermarkets. Often this is a reaction agains the consumer society. Many Freegans are vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian.

Mono-islands

These are temporary vegan diet styles. If you follow a mono-island, then 7 to 21 days in a row you’ll eat only the food item that grows on your little ‘island’, often supplemented with a handfull of leafy greens. Common mono-islands are Banana Island and the Potato Cleanse. The idea behind mono-islands is that it soothes your digestive system because you only have to process one type of food.

What I think of Other Types of Vegans and Vegetarians

Many problems in this world arise and sustain because of some people judging other people that do not belong to their in-group. I do not really believe that the battle between vegetarians and pescetarians wil result in a nuclear war, but judgements, contempt and a lack of empathy do not make the lives of people and the world as a whole a better place. What if we stop judging each other as ‘weak’, ‘naieve’, ‘speciecist’ or ‘extreme’, but instead motivate each other to improve or just keep up the good work we already do? I think that in this way, we create happier people, a healthier Earth and less animal suffering than when we take each other down. And if I learned one thing from my Psychology study, it is that rewards are more effective then punishment.

So give a thumbs up for the hideous vegan creation your sister posted on Instagram, inform your flexitarian colleague about the vegan bargains at the supermarket, and compliment your omnivorous table companion for the vegetarian dish he ordered. Embrace all types of vegans and vegetarians and let us now eat hummus. Amen.Illustration of a monkey in lotus position (yoga)

Sources:

De Groot, B. (2016). The Omnivore’s Dictionary: Fictional descriptions of people adopting a plant-based lifestyle as believed by a significant number of members of the meat-consuming society. Breda, The Netherlands: The Leaf-green Press.

Photo credits: Puck Kroon

This post is also available in NL

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Paula Rosas
    19 December 2017 at 23:47

    I’ve been a vegetarians for about 6 years now, I am now ready to take the next step but I don’t want to be fully vegan all the time so I came up with a system where I eat vegan on a daily basis and when I go out on special occasions , if I desire a vegetarian option I will allow myself to eat it . So I was wondering if there was a name for that, because I really do not want to have and explain this to people Hahahah.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      30 December 2017 at 09:34

      Hi Paula!
      That sounds like a great start to veganism! Luckily there are vegan options popping up everywhere, and if you find yourself having intense cravings for non-vegan food, please have some and then continue with your vegan lifestyle again. 🙂 I promise you, the cravings will get weaker by time. Everything on your own pace, that’s the way to go in my humble opinion.
      Alright, down to your question. I haven’t heard of a name for a vegan-but-not-when-eating-out, but I’d say.. flexivegan? Just vegan would do. I think if you feel comfortable with that term and you are putting in an effort to be fully vegan in the future, you can call yourself a vegan. 🙂 If that’s what gets you motivated to eat like that!
      Good luck with all your good efforts!

      • Reply
        Ash
        16 March 2018 at 15:00

        I love your outlook of veganism and not judging people on whether they are a “true vegan” or are allowed to call themselves vegan! I wish this was the major attitude among vegans. You catch more flies with honey or however that saying goes!

        • Reply
          Brenda
          17 March 2018 at 11:49

          Hi Ash!
          Ah thanks, that is indeed very much the strategy I choose! Very few people are born vegan, and I think you have to have a bit of sympathy for your fellow humans who are not yet there where you are (as being morally enlightened by veganism 😉 ). And then, like you say, indeed catch them with honey. Or ehm, let’s do maple syrup. Save the bees right? 😉

    • Reply
      Mary
      12 June 2018 at 16:44

      I know you left this a while ago but I have friends in similar circumstances and the label that’s evolved is “vegan at home.” Hope that helps you describe yourself to others!

  • Reply
    Austen
    14 March 2018 at 21:33

    I want to be a vegetarian , please someone to guide me

    • Reply
      Brenda
      17 March 2018 at 11:51

      Awesome Austen! Well, it’s quite something you ask from me. 😉 I would say, start by typing in ‘How to become vegetarian’ or ‘how to be come vegan (even better!)’ in Google. There are people who made a big effort in making guides for guiding people into vegetarianism. 🙂 Good luck and I wish you lots of fun!

  • Reply
    Hannah
    31 May 2018 at 19:21

    I’ve been vegetarian for a few months now and really want to go vegan. My problem is I live in an area where finding vegan-friendly foods are very uncommon. Do you have any tips for a girl that wants to do better for the environment but doesn’t always have readily available resources?

    • Reply
      Brenda
      31 May 2018 at 22:27

      Hi Hannah,
      Great that you are going vegan! Though a bummer that your environment doesn’t really support it that much. Or does it..? Actually, there are more vegan than non-vegan foods available in almost every place on Earth (the arctic is an exception). Vegetables, fruit, pulses and legumes, grains (oats!), nuts, seeds and soy products are the staple foods of every vegan. If you search for some vegan recipes on the internet and just replace things like tempeh for other high-protein sources such as beans, seeds, and leafy vegetables, and ignore the ‘superfoods’, then you are well on your way. Just think about the possibilities instead of the limitations (like not having eggs or dairy). Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply
    Luna
    12 June 2018 at 15:18

    I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for a few weeks now, but I don’t eat gelatin unless it’s agar-agar. So far I’m very happy with this diet. I choose to become a vegetarian because of my body craving it not necessarily to protect animals (even though I do love them ;).I’m sorry but being french I can’t refuse cheese –‘. I know it’s so cliché XD but I love it.

  • Reply
    Nancy G
    13 June 2018 at 03:50

    Hi Brenda! I really enjoyed reading your article-very informative. I started at the end of April of this year to follow a WFPB diet and I’ve been doing good so far and really am enjoying this new way of eating. However, I will eat seafood on occasion and I will use oil, vegan butter, vegan mayo to cook with. But I do not eat any meat, poultry, dairy, eggs or processed foods. Is there a word for my way of eating? To me, I’m a crops between a vegan, vegetarian and WFPB diet.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      25 June 2018 at 09:49

      Hi Nancy! Great to hear you are such a concious eater and adding to a better planet. Thank you for that. 🙂 If you are doing an effort of replacing seafood with plant-based options, I guess you could call yourself a vegan-in-transition or something. 🙂 People are not defined by their labels of course, but if it helps you with defining your way of living and especially where you want to go to, then pick the label you feel most comfortable with and work towards your goal. In the end, it’s your actions that count. 😉

  • Reply
    Richard Swatman
    13 August 2018 at 23:03

    You’re assessment of ‘semi-vegetarianism’ as some sort of stepping stone to a ‘vega’ lifestyle for those without the moral fortitude or will power to commit sufficiently is misguided. There are plenty of people who are morally comfortable eating animals and their products but who recognize the personal and world health benefits of low meat high vegetable diet.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      14 August 2018 at 09:06

      Hi Richard, good point you make here. I’ll have a second look at it and edit those parts to fit the definition better. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Ashley Barnes
    16 August 2018 at 00:58

    Thanks for this great article. I’ve been thinking about going to flexitarian mostly bc I need lots of protein but my body seems to be changing and I’ve noticed what it doesn’t seem to like. Also, my daughter feel falls into the fodmap flexitarian category. Mostly dur to health reasons. She has Hirschprung disease and so there’s foods she can’t have while wearing a colostomy bag plus the fodmap has helped her out so much. Before her surgery I also had her be gluten free bc I noticed she’d bloat. Even though she didnt test positive for celiac. It was something I noticed. As for me, my body has seemed to change. So since I’ve always veen a “eat my salad first” kind of person since child hood, i dont mind adding more to my diet. While I need protein due to health reasons, meat isn’t always my friend. I have more trouble explaining my daughters diet than anything since it is so complex. Shes allergic to eggs and dairy, she’s on fodmap, then there’s foods not good for colostomy. I have family and friends that are vegan. So they understand. Thanks for the article.

  • Reply
    Cherry
    22 November 2018 at 20:10

    Great page! What about a category for someone like myself, since age 10 – 11 I exclude all red meat and any by-products derived from slaughter of an animal. I do eat seafood and chicken (on occasion) eggs, dairy. I basically don’t eat “mammals”. Been like this for almost 40 years now. Ethical reasons, you don’t need to kill animals to eat. Yes I know fish & chicken are animals too. But different to mammals.

  • Reply
    Vegan101
    24 January 2019 at 13:34

    What’s the difference between whole food veganism and paleo veganism?

    • Reply
      Brenda
      24 January 2019 at 14:07

      Hi there! Good question. 🙂 The philosophy behind the paleo diet is that we eat food that was available to us at the time we lived as hunter-gatherers. This includes veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds (and for the non-vegan paleo diets also eggs, meat and fish) but not grains and legumes. While on a whole foods, plant-based diet, whole grains and legumes are included. Hope that makes it clear! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sam
    6 March 2019 at 17:39

    Love this article. The vegans don’t want me in their camp as my diet is more for health than ethical, and the plant-based crew shun me as I bake with things like sugar.. it’s exhausting

    • Reply
      Brenda
      6 March 2019 at 20:37

      You know what? I don’t think anyone fits a category perfectly. Because if you zoom in, the borders are fuzzy. It’s all about what you feel comfortable with. 🙂

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