Vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian – what’s the difference?

Vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian – what’s the difference?

So you eat chicken, right? So just fish then? What’s wrong with milk? What is worse than hosting a lovely dinner party or braai, only to discover you’ve accidentally left a guest with nothing to eat?!  Let’s clear up the various definitions of diets that featureless or no meat and animal-derived products to improve our etiquette.

Today is World Vegetarian Day (1st October) and it’s been around since 1977 in North America, it became global the very next year in 1978. So, despite the roaring increase in people following a more plant basked diet, it has been around a very long time.

People decide to change their diets towards more plant-based eating for a variety of reasons, such as concern for animal welfare, concern for the environment, health or religion. The point of this article is not to convince anybody of a path to follow, but simply to inform you, so that you can better understand and cater to friends, family (especially grandkids!) and colleagues in your life.

Flexitarian:
A flexitarian has opted to eat less meat in their diet. The basis of the word is flexibility, they chose to eat meat only rarely, and mostly rely on plant-based nutrition.  It would be best to ask if they will be comfortable eating meat at your gathering.

Pescatarian:
A pescatarian, from Pesca- Italian for fish, eat no meat from animals like poultry, beef, pork, lamb, game etc, but opt to only eat seafood.  A pescatarian is not a vegetarian.

  • A Demi-Vegetarian – no red meat but eats fish & poultry, milk products, and eggs.

Plant-based diet:
People that elect to follow a plant-based diet are “vegan” only relating to their diet. They eat no meat or any product that is produced by an animal. This includes cow’s milk and all dairy products (including the less common goats or yak milk), eggs and honey. For the sake of catering, you can consider their dietary preference as a vegan. This will be clearer once you read the below definition for Veganism. Also known as a Vegan Diet.

Tip: Don’t forget to consider the butter or margarine when preparing foods, as well has honey.

Vegan:
Veganism extends beyond diet to include one’s entire lifestyle. In addition to the plant-based eating above, all things in their life ensure than no animal was used in the acquiring of the product at all. For example, no leather, suede, wool, silk, cosmetics tested on animals, or including any animal products and no gelatin.

Vegetarian:
A vegetarian eats no meat, fish or poultry. They consistency avoid any flesh foods. The most common definition implies that they eat dairy products, eggs, and honey – but it is best to ask personally. This vegetarian diet can be broken down further into the definitions below, but these are not used that widely in SA.

  • Lacto Ovo vegetarian – no meat, but eats dairy and eggs.
  • Lacto vegetarian – no meat, no eggs but eats dairy.
  • Ovo vegetarian – no meat, no dairy but eats eggs.
  • Palm Oil – Many people, vegans, vegetarian and omnivores but especially animal-lovers and vegans elect not to eat palm oil, although it is by ingredient – derived only from plants. This can be tricky as it is found as an unexpected ingredient in many foods.

South Africans love to braai, so one consideration to keep in mind: ask your vegan and vegetarian guests if they mind using the same grid/tongs that the meat was braaied on.

Each of the choices above requires dedication and commitment is varying degrees, but every step is commendable. We hope this article is easy enough to help you cater to everybody, especially as we get closer to the festive season – a time to entertain and enjoy each other’s company.

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