Vegetarian confusion

A family member always tells me the same story about having a friend who is a vegetarian. He then adds that his friend does not eat any meat but fish.

My response, too, is always the same: "If she eats fish, she's not a vegetarian. Vegetarian means that you don't eat nonhuman animals. She's a pescatarian."

Some people indeed use the term vegetarian very generously.

Restaurant servers, for instance, sometimes suggest fish meals as vegetarian options. But with the many diets out there, it is admittedly difficult to keep track of their names. According to the International Vegetarian Union (IVU), vegetarians follow a plant-based diet that may or may not include eggs, dairy products, or honey. IVU itself promotes a plant-based diet free of eggs, dairy products, and honey, which is also called total vegetarianism or dietary veganism.

Now, how is dietary veganism different from veganism? Dietary veganism refers to food without nonhuman animal products.

Veganism goes beyond eating and embraces a lifestyle that completely avoids the use of nonhuman animal products, such as leather, wool, or silk, and the use of nonhuman animals in research, entertainment, or sports.

In addition to these terms, IVU's website* defines a variety of others. Ovo-lacto vegetarian, plant-eater, flexitarian, and fruitarian are just a few.

Can you, dear Reader, guess their meaning?

Ovo-lacto vegetarian: eats dairy products and eggs

Plant-eater: mainly consumes plants but might not be vegetarian

Flexitarian: eats both vegetarian and nonvegetarian meals

Fruitarian: avoids nonhuman animal products and only consumes foods that do not kill plants, such as picking up fallen pears

While it is easy to get confused with all these terms, they do help us organize the various diets. And who knows? Learning about them has hopefully aroused your curiosity to give one or the other diet a shot.

Dr. Daniela Ribitsch originally comes from Graz, Austria. She has lived in the United States since 2009 and teaches German at Lycoming College in Williamsport. She can be reached at