What’s the difference between plant based and vegan?

As a whole food, plant based food blogger, it’s a question I get from my readers all of the time. 

The truth is, plant based and veganism are two completely different ideologies. Let’s dig into the foundations of both to get started. 

What is a plant-based diet?

Simply speaking, a plant-based diet is one that is centred around whole or minimally processed plants.

So what falls under the category of a plant? Here’s an overview of some of the main foods we get to enjoy as part of this whole food, plant-based lifestyle. 

  • Vegetables: Spinach, kale, bell peppers, lettuce, bok choy, onion, etc. 
  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, raspberries, etc. 
  • Whole Grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, cereals, whole grain pasta, etc.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, chia seeds, etc.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, pulses, etc.

Meanwhile, the diet, for the most part, excludes meat, dairy products eggs as well as refined food such as sugar, white flour and most oil.

I hesitate to call it a plant-based “diet” because, in my opinion, it’s really more of a lifestyle. Most people who commit to going plant-based, and reap the many benefits, eat this way for the rest of their lives.

Instead of meat being the centre of your plate, it’s delicious comfort foods like baked sweet potatoes, wild rice, quinoa, and whole grain. For some recipe inspiration here are some of my favorite plant-based meals:

Our entire FREE recipe database can be found here.

As well, if you’re interested in diving into a plant-based diet, we have a full guide for how to get started here. You can also read more about the amazing health benefits of a whole food plant based lifestyle here

What does “vegan” actually mean?

Veganism is a life philosophy rooted in animal rights.

Not only do vegans avoid all animal products in their diet, but they seek to avoid any products or actions related to the exploitation of animals in their daily lives.

This could mean avoiding leather, fur, beauty products tested on animals and visiting zoos. Rather than a hyper focus on diet, it encompasses the deliberate effort to avoid anything related to animal exploitation in ones day to day life. 

What is the difference between plant based and vegan?

The truth is that the terms plant based and veganism are extremely different in their core ideologies. 

In veganism, the motivation is to avoid animal cruelty in every facet of one’s life. Following this train of thought, a person could still enjoy a diet made of most processed and fast foods, while still being vegan. It is not a descriptor of the healthiness of one’s diet.

Meanwhile, the term plant-based originated in the health community. It describes a healthy approach to eating with the majority of one’s diet made up of whole, un-processed plants. This way of eating is generally pursued to achieve greater health (whether it be warding off disease, weight-loss, or some of the other related benefits of a whole food, plant-based approach to eating).

Along the same vein, the term plant based has no ethical connotation. Someone who follows a plant based diet may still have animal products on a rare occasion or wear leather goods. There are no hard and fast parameters. 

Could you be both plant based and vegan?

You absolutely can be both plant based and vegan. In fact, the hashtag #plantbasedvegan is commonly used on Instagram to describe this approach to life and diet. 

In sum, this would mean that you are both ethically driven to avoid animal products in all facets of your life, while eating a plant predominant healthy vegan diet. 

Beyond both the animal and health proofing benefits of a “plant based vegan”, we explore some of the environmental reasons for choosing this lifestyle in 2020 in this blog post

How do I start eating a plant based vegan diet? 

We have hundreds of free recipes and resources to help get you started on your path to a plant based vegan lifestyle. 

If you are searching for some more guidance, we also have a whole food plant based meal plan subscription. This offers members a new plant based diet plan with seven new easy recipes each week. 

When members sign up, they also get access to our entire database of past meal plans, including over 350 whole food plant based recipes with the calorie, fat, protein and carbohydrate information. 

You can learn more about our meal plans and get signed up here