As a dietitian who promotes plant-based eating, I often notice that some people use “vegan” and “plant-based” interchangeably when they are indeed different:
Vegan: No animal products in the diet whatsoever including meat, seafood, dairy, honey, and sometimes yeast.
Plant-Based: Emphasizes plants (fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes) and minimizes – not excludes – animal products (meat, seafood, dairy).
You might think it’s a bit nit-picky of me to make such a big deal out of the differences between these definitions and I won’t lie, I thought so myself when I sat down to write this. But, when people think that plant-based = vegan they automatically tune-out and say “this isn’t for me.”
They completely close themselves off to a way of eating that would otherwise significantly improve their health without having to give up cheese, eggs, yogurt and all the other animal foods/products that they enjoy. Plant-based eating simply means that the majority of each meal is made up of plant foods, leaving a little room for an animal-based something in there. And while some meals on a plant-based eaters menu can be vegan or vegetarian, it’s the diet as a whole that is considered. A vegan diet would never include meat, dairy or seafood whereas a plant-based diet would include small amounts.
Here’s an example of what one day of a plant-based diet might look like:
Not so bad, right? It actually looks pretty delicious, doesn’t it? 🙂 I love plant-based eating. We have access to so many awesome plant foods that meals never get boring. Plus, I find that I feel my best when I eat more plant foods on a regular basis.
In fact, based on the literature I’ve read and the clients I’ve worked with, I would argue that eating a plant-based diet is often times healthier than eating a vegan diet simply because there are some nutrients that are difficult to get adequate amounts of when eliminating animal products from the diet (Vitamin D, B12, iron, choline). A properly planned vegan diet that includes supplements can indeed be extremely healthy, but you gotta plan to make that happen. Most people aren’t willing to do the planning it takes to consume an adequately nourishing vegan diet and so that’s why I say plant-based eating is often times healthier.
Stay tuned for another post that discusses how to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet. Until then, happy eating!