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Vegan vs. Dairy-Free: What is the Difference?

23 min read -

Although it may seem like the terms “vegan” and “dairy-free” are interchangeable, they’re definitely not. While all vegan things need to be dairy-free, all dairy-free things don’t need to be vegan. If you’re grocery shopping for foods or ingredients that fit a specific diet or dietary preference, it’s very important to understand the difference. 

What is a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet excludes any and all animal products and by-products. That means no beef, pork, poultry, fish, or shellfish. It also means no dairy or eggs. Most vegans will also avoid honey, as the bees that produce it are living creatures. 

Vegans are constantly on the lookout for animal-derived ingredients in foods, toiletries, home care products, and clothing. Glycerin, gelatin, carmine, lanolin, isinglass (fish bladder used in beer making), suede, wool, and leather are just a few things that don’t mesh with a vegan lifestyle. 

Vegans are generally very devoted to their ethics. Protecting animals and protecting the environment are usually of the utmost importance to vegans, and they work hard to ensure they eliminate any and all animal products from their lives.

Why Go Vegan?

There are a lot of reasons to go vegan. Most people go vegan because they have an ethical opposition to the exploitation of animals and a deep concern for the environment.

Going vegan is a very big commitment that some people feel overwhelmed by. A lot of people want to, but it requires relearning almost everything they’ve ever known about buying products and eating. If you’re interested in a vegan lifestyle, start by making small changes. Become a vegetarian or a “flexitarian” first. At the very least, you can reduce your dependence on animal-derived products. 

What is a Dairy Free Diet?

A dairy-free diet is a diet that eliminates all dairy products. Anything that comes from the milk of an animal, including things like cheese, whey, butter, yogurt, and ice cream, is off the menu. Unless, of course, you choose their dairy-free counterparts

Why Go Dairy Free?

Many people go dairy-free because they’re allergic to dairy. About 30 million people in America have some form of lactose intolerance, although the symptoms are usually mild. If eating dairy makes you feel bloated or gassy, talk to your doctor. You might have problems digesting lactose, and switching to a dairy-free diet will make your gut a lot happier. 

What is the Difference Between a Vegan Diet and a Dairy-Free Diet?

Someone on a dairy-free diet can have a big plate of steak and scrambled eggs for breakfast, a smoothie bowl topped with honey and bee pollen for lunch, and fish tacos with citrus aioli for dinner. No one on a vegan diet can have any of those things. 

While all vegan diets are dairy-free, a dairy-free diet isn’t vegan. People who can’t consume dairy can still consume every other animal product, provided they aren’t allergic or intolerant to that animal product. 

When you see something at the grocery store labeled “dairy-free,” it’s easy to assume that means it’s vegan. That’s especially the case when we look at things that we usually associate with being dairy foods, like ice cream. That dairy-free dessert probably doesn’t contain meat, but it could contain eggs or honey. It may get its color from carmine, a dye made from crushed insects. 

Unless a product’s label specifically states that it’s vegan, it’s best to assume it’s not. Reading the ingredients of everything you buy is important when your diet restricts certain foods. 

Even if you don’t have dietary restrictions, learning to understand food labels is still a good habit to adopt. If you want to power your body with the right foods, you should learn to spot artificial ingredients and unnecessary additives in your food. Start paying attention to protein, carbohydrates, added sugar, vitamins, and minerals on the label. Empower yourself to make healthier decisions by reading labels.

What Foods Are Both Vegan and Dairy-Free?

All foods that are vegan are dairy-free. When it comes to whole foods, most foods are both vegan and dairy-free. Every fruit, vegetable, grain, legume, pasta, and nut is both vegan and dairy-free. If you’re not sure what to eat, it never hurts to go wild in the produce section, stocking up on whole, fresh foods and turning them into a beautiful meal at home.

Cooking meals from scratch as often as possible is always a wise idea. You control your ingredients, you control your nutritional profile, and you’re easily able to avoid anything and everything artificial. Sure, it’s a little more work, but it’s worth it. Your body will thank you for it. 

What About Prepared Foods?

Prepared foods that are vegan will often state that they’re vegan on the label. Most of the time, these foods aren’t coincidentally vegan. Companies have formulated their products to accommodate a vegan diet, and they want vegans to be able to easily spot them. You’ll be able to tell when a brand is reaching out to you. 

There’s always the handy Google spot-check. Just run a quick search: “is ______ vegan?” and it should be easy to spot the answer. This is a great trick for new vegans who are still learning to spot lesser-known animal-derived ingredients on product packaging. 

Are You Seeking the Perfect Vegan, Dairy-Free Treat?

Snow Monkey vegan ice cream is dairy-free. It also happens to be paleo-friendly and free from all eight major allergens. It’s designed to be universally enjoyable and overwhelmingly delicious. Each pint of Snow Monkey packs 20 grams or more of plant protein and countless antioxidants into every pint. Sure, it’s technically a dessert. But with such an impressive nutritional profile, there’s no reason it couldn’t be a breakfast, a lunch, or even a dinner. 

Snow Monkey is sweetened with maple syrup, rather than honey or table sugar. The base is made of fruit and seeds, rather than dairy milk, nut milk, or soy milk. We’ve skipped mix-ins that may contain gluten, and our formula is creamy and rich enough that it doesn’t need eggs for a perfect texture. 

To top it all off, we also aim to be a sustainable brand. We care about the way we source our ingredients and our packaging. Snow Monkey is designed to intelligently power your body. You can eat it right from the pint without a twinge of guilt. We can’t wait to spoon with everyone! You know, in the most platonic way possible. 

The Takeaway

Food labeling isn’t always designed to be deceptive. It’s just easy to make assumptions when a product is labeled “dairy-free.” The company isn’t being dishonest - they’re simply reaching out to people who can’t have dairy, and it’s a simple mistake to assume that foods that are dairy-free must also be vegan. 

That’s why Snow Monkey labeled ourselves as everything we are. We’re dairy-free, vegan, and paleo in every single flavor. We’re allergen-free, sustainable, and mind-blowingly yummy. If you don’t believe us, try a pint. You’ll forget every other ice cream you’ve ever met. 



Animal Ingredients List: Non-Vegan Substances |

Lactose intolerance | Medline Plus

Foods Made of Beetles Now Must Say So | Live Science

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