Plant Based vs. Vegan – Is There a Difference?

Are you vegan? Are you vegetarian?  These are questions that I get asked often.  I like to refer to them as the “v” words.  I prefer not to label myself with a “v” word because there is an important distinction to be made between someone who is vegan/vegetarian versus someone who is whole food, plant based (wfpb).  Sure, vegans don’t consume any animal products and vegetarians don’t eat meat.  Does that mean their diets are healthier than most?  It depends. Do they eat Fruity Pebbles for breakfast, a cheese (vegan cheese or otherwise) quesadilla for lunch and a microwave bean burrito for dinner?  Most would agree that those food items aren’t the healthiest, but they certainly are or can be vegan/vegetarian.

You see, it is important to eat a diet that is rich with whole, plant based foods.  It is important to eat fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and beans.  Vegans and vegetarians (or anyone!) can get into trouble when they consume processed food.  You know, all those isles in the center of the supermarket or most things that come out of a box.  (Side note: have you ever noticed that the bright, colorful boxes of sugar laden cereals are at eye level in the store while the unprocessed steel cut oats are on the bottom shelf??)  Sure, many of those items in the center isles are free from animal products, but they are laden with trans fat, oils, sugars, preservatives, and many other highly processed additives that our bodies just don’t need.

So whenever I get asked if I’m vegan or vegetarian, I say that I am plant based.  I may initially be met with a quizzical look, but I am happy to explain to anyone who is interested.

Eat more plants!


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