More and more of us are choosing to eliminate animal products from our diets. For some, it's because of the environment, others are looking to promote animal welfare, and others want to better their overall health.

It can be confusing to know the difference between a vegan and a plant-based diet, as many people use these terms interchangeably.

A short answer to the question above is that no, a vegan vs. a plant-based diet is not the same thing. There are several reasons why they are different, and we'll look at them here.

What a vegan diet is

Donald Watson, founder of The Vegan Society, created the term 'vegan' in 1944. A vegan avoids using animal products in all aspects of their lifestyle, whether for food, clothing, beauty products, household products, or for activities. Vegans are primarily motivated by ethics. They feel it's crucial to respect animal life in all its forms and everything they do.

A vegan diet does not include food from animals, like eggs, dairy, fish, meat, poultry, and honey. Vegans will choose meat substitutes such as tofu, Quorn, or tempeh, as well as other plant-based sources of protein. Tofu, in particular, is a popular meat substitute, given that it can be frozen, thawed, and then pressed to obtain a consistency similar to meat (find out how to press tofu at

The most significant difference between a vegan and a plant-based diet is that a vegan diet isn't necessarily a healthy way of eating. While many vegans eat a lot of healthy foods, there is a wide variety of unhealthy, processed foods suitable for vegans but not made from plants. They may contain meat or dairy substitutes, but many also have a high amount of sugar, salt, fat, and preservatives.

  • Examples of some of these foods are:
  • Candies such as fruit gummies and pastilles
  • Donuts, cookies, and other sugary baked goods
  • Fried foods such as deep-fried tempeh, no-meat nuggets
  • Vegan deli 'meats' such as mock ham, bacon, or turkey

There are healthier alternatives to some brands of these foods. It's essential to check the label for the first few ingredients that make up most of that particular food.


What a plant-based diet is

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study, introduced the term "plant-based diet" to the world in the 1980s. A plant-based diet is a diet that is low in fat, high in fiber, and vegetable-based.

People who eat a plant-based diet are focusing on the health aspects of avoiding animal products.

In the beginning, people referred to a 'plant-based diet' as one that has whole foods that come from plants. These days, many people eat a vegan diet but prefer to use the term 'plant-based', primarily because they refer to the way they eat rather than other lifestyle choices. So they may eat primarily plants but still wear leather shoes, for example.

In summary, many people see a plant-based diet as a healthy food choice rather than a lifestyle.

Why people get confused

The term 'plant-based' describes many vegan products, which leaves some people confused.

Also, some people say they eat a plant-based diet, but they still have small amounts of some animal-based foods that vegans wouldn't eat, such as eggs and honey.

Eating plant-based doesn't necessarily mean eating 100 percent plants - whereas eating vegan does.

A whole foods plant-based diet

Then there are people who say they eat a whole foods plant-based diet. This diet is usually plant-based with some small amounts of animal products but without unhealthy foods. People on a whole foods plant-based diet will seek out whole grains, legumes, tubers, fruits, and vegetables.

This diet favors as little processed food as possible and focuses on minimal salt, sugar, refined grains (white flour or white rice), and highly refined oils and foods.

Can you be both vegan and plant-based?

Absolutely. Many people are embracing the ethics of a plant-based diet and the health benefits to get the best of both worlds.

They focus on keeping healthy with whole foods while avoiding animal products to help the environment and alleviate animal suffering.

Some people start vegan and become more plant-based as they eliminate some of the unhealthy processed foods. They cut out vegan 'junk' food and look to enjoy more foods based on natural ingredients.

Other people start plant-based and decide to drop all animal products once they have experienced the health benefits. They may experiment with alternative clothing, beauty products, and other items to embrace a vegan lifestyle.

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