Vegetarians don't eat any food products made from meat, fish, shellfish, crustacea (such as prawns or crab) or animal by-products (such as gelatine or rennet).
Vegans don't eat any food products that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
What vegetarians and vegans eat
A vegetarian and vegan diet consists of:
- grains, beans and pulses
- carbohydrates - such as pasta, rice and potatoes
- nuts and seeds
- fruit and vegetables
Most vegetarians also eat:
- dairy products - such as milk and cheese
Vegetarians and vegan diets can be healthy and balanced but you need to ensure you are following the Eatwell Guide in order to get the essential nutrients you need. You can do this by:
- making sure you're having at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- basing meals around potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates - choosing wholegrain varieties where possible
- including some lower fat and lower sugar dairy alternatives in your diet if you don't eat dairy products
- eating beans, pulses and other proteins
- choosing unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts
- drinking 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day to stay hydrated
Who can eat a vegetarian or vegan diet?
A vegetarian or vegan diet can be suitable for everyone. However, you might need to consider specific needs at different life stages – for example, children or if you're pregnant.
Babies and children
If you've decided to raise your child on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you need to ensure they eat a wide variety of foods to give them the energy and vitamins they need to grow.
More about vegetarian and vegan diets for children
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet during your pregnancy and when breastfeeding, you need to ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals for your child to develop healthily.
More about healthy eating during pregnancy