Plant Based Diets versus Vegan Diets

Note: this post has been updated in September 2019.

Plant Based Diets Versus Vegan Diets. A plant-based diet is no different than a vegan diet, right? Sorry, think again. Plant-based dieters may vary not only in their food preferences but also in their reasons for adhering to their preferred type of diet.

In this article I will provide a little insight in regards to the differences between a plant-based dieter and a vegan in what I called in this section Plant Based Diets Versus Vegan Diets.

Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet requires a person to eat primarily whole plant foods which may include seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. This kind of diet centers on eating mostly plant foods, but there is not just one “plant-based diet.”

Not all plant-based diets are restricted to plants, and many will eat meat or animal-derived food products occasionally. Some plant-based diets have a different emphasis or include some specific ‘rules’ regarding inclusions and exclusions.

In most cases, the switch to a plant-based diet is done for health reasons. As a plant-based diet emphasizes the consumption of whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, a person can more than likely expect an improvement in their overall health.

Philosophy of a Plant-based Dieter

Being a plant-based dieter is not only about eating plant foods.  It is also about adhering to a lifestyle that increases one’s chances of achieving optimal health. Diet is a big part of this approach, but it is not necessarily the only factor.

Because those who choose to switch to a plant-based diet tend to do so for reasons of improving their health, there will be a focus on abstaining from processed and junk foods, while avoiding or consuming minimal amounts of meat-based food products.

Someone who adheres to a plant-based diet may be eating mostly plant foods, but they still may use non-food products that are from animals products.

While specifics may differ, generally the following principles are followed when committing to a plant-based diet.

Plant-Based Diet – Foods to Eat

  • All vegetables and fruits.
  • Beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Healthy meat alternatives – tofu, edamame beans, seitan, and tempeh.
  • Minimize the consumption of meat, dairy products, and eggs. Always go for organic if possible.

Plant-Based Diet – Foods to Avoid

  • Overly processed foods, such as those that have the word “fortified” on their label.
  • Foods that contain additives and preservatives.
  • Refined foods, such as sugars, some flours, and oils.

Vegan Diet

Most people think of a vegan diet as being extremely healthy, and many vegans are very conscious of their dietary health. However, many vegans still can and do consume foods that are unhealthy. There is such a thing as a “junk food vegan.” These are people who don’t eat any meat products, but some of the foods they eat are quite often “fake,” unnatural or not necessarily healthy!

For example, if you decide to go vegan, you can still find yourself eating some processed foods or foods such as French fries (if cooked in vegetable oil), or drink carbonated beverages and eat tasty little Oreo biscuits.

Although these processed foods are animal-free, there is no doubt they can also be loaded with sugar and other artificial ingredients. So, while this technically adheres to vegan principles of abstaining from animal products, it means not all vegans strictly adhere to a healthy diet.

Due to the elimination of animal meat and other animal-derived food products in their diets, some people assume it is the same as a plant-based diet. However, being vegan does not only mean avoiding animal meat or derived animal products, such as dairy foods, honey, and eggs.

A strict vegan will also remove all animal-made products from their life, such as products made from wool, leather, silk, and fur. True vegans do not patronize toiletries or cosmetics that have been tested on animals. So, items such as lipsticks made with beeswax are a definite no-no.

Vegan philosophy stems from a person’s advocacy for animal rights and as such, it extends far beyond diet alone.

Vegan Diet – Examples of Foods to Eat

  • All vegetables and fruits.
  • Beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Healthy meat alternatives, such as tofu, edamame beans, seitan, and tempeh.

​Vegan Diet – Foods to Avoid

  • All animal meats.
  • All foods or additives that are derived from animal products, such as milk, cheese, eggs, and honey.

A vegan diet does not invoke the strict abstinence of junk or processed foods vegans can still eat items such as fake cheeses or faux meats.

I found a chart from Forks over Knifes that does a great job in depicting the differences in what can and cannot be consumed by each group.

What do you think? Can you see the differences in these approaches?

Time to Take Action

The Forks Over Knives Plan shows you how to put this life-saving, delicious diet into practice in your own life. This easy-to-follow, meal-by-meal makeover is the approach Doctors Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman (featured in the documentary) use every day in their nutritional health practice—a simple plan that focuses on hearty comfort foods and does not involve portion control or worrying about obtaining single nutrients like protein and calcium.

Start Your Journey to Health

Join the Physicians Committee’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart to receive meal plans, recipes, and advice from nutrition experts. This service is free and will help you take control of your health with a vegan diet

The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart is supported by decades of research showing that a plant-based diet can help you reach a healthy weight and lower your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Our low-fat plant-based recipes, developed by chefs, dietitians, and experts in vegan cuisine, provide nutritious meals that are both healthy and delicious. Within 21 days you will start to see results and won’t look back! via – 21-Day Vegan Kickstart

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